Top 5 Tips for Solo Quick Changes

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  • Holly Lucas

Quick costume changes are the adrenaline rush that every performer needs to experience at some point in their time on stage, but what’s the best way to make sure it happens smoothly, seamlessly and with as few expletives as possible? Take a look below at our 5 top tips for quick costume changes.

1.    Stay Calm

This is the cardinal rule that many, in the heat of the moment, completely forget. In the panic of rushing off stage and to wherever your costume may be waiting for you, if you don’t stay calm that’s when you end up with costume mishaps galore. Zippers break, buckles won’t do up, sometimes you even end up in someone else’s costumes by mistake (hilarious afterwards but in the moment not so funny.) Most likely you’ll just be late for the next scene and feel utterly annoyed for the rest of the show. If you plan well in advance exactly what you need and in what order, you have no reason not to stay calm during the change. If you have people helping you, trust that they know exactly what to do and that they’ll be ready for you when you run round the corner. Just breathe and don’t overthink it.

2.    Don’t rush

This is an odd tip considering we’re discussing quick costume changes, but what happens when you start rushing? You start panicking. And what was rule number one? Stay calm.

When you get in your head that you need to rush because you don’t have long to be ready, you’ll suddenly find yourself unable to grip zips properly or do up your shoes, you’ll put things on backwards or get tangled up in microphone wires. Get out of your head the thoughts of ‘I’ve only got half a page of dialogue to be ready’ and plan in advance. Again, I revert back to tip number 1.

3.    Layer up

This is the easiest way to handle a quick change; layer up your costumes. Now obviously there will be times when you can’t because of what you need to wear, but if there’s any chance you can roll up trouser legs or wear three dresses on top of each other, even just have half of the next costume already on underneath your current one, then all you need to do is remove a layer at a time and add any accessories you might need. You might be warm but it certainly saves time. You just need to think ahead and plan in advance.

4.    Lay out your clothes neatly

Find somewhere close by where you’re allowed to change, especially if you don’t have time to run back to your dressing room, and lay your costume out in the order that you need to put it on and in a way where you can simply step into the clothes. This could be side by side or lain on top of each other. For example, if I needed to get a dress on first, followed by a different pair of shoes, then a necklace and a hat last, I would set my costume with accessories on the bottom, shoes on top of that, and the dress led on top so I could get to that first. If you just dump your costume in a pile it could get mixed up with someone else’s or you could end up struggling to find which way round your costume goes. It’s really about eliminating as many potential problems as possible.

5.    Ask for help

If you’re really struggling to complete your costume change on time, ask for help. Your fellow cast members will certainly be happy to lend a hand if there aren’t any dressers available. If it means you have more than one person helping that’s ok. Assign them a different bit of costume each, maybe one undoes the zip on your current costume whilst the other gets the next one on over your head. If you end up just stood there whilst they work together to dress you, trust that they will do it and get it done quickly. Plan exactly what you’re going to do in advance so that you can stay calm when the time comes.

Essentially these top tips simply revolve around making a plan, sticking to it and keeping calm.

Follow that and those costume changes will be done in no time at all.