If your school or community theatre program are like the one in which I assist with, you probably find yourself renting your costumes for the majority of your productions. As it goes, you spend thousands of dollars renting beautiful costumes for your young cast members to wear to help bring their characters to life and provide the students a better theatre experience.
But, what happens when the dress rehearsal or the performance is over and you instruct your cast to get out of costume and “be sure to hang it up the way they found it” (provided you or your costume supervisor hung it for them in just the right way before the student was given possession of the costume)? Again, if your students are like the ones I work with, these instructions go in one ear and out the other. (If your students are not like this, congratulations! You have super-human pre-teens and teenagers who know how to properly hang a dress or fold their pants seam-to-seam.)
As a previous Director of Musical Theatre in a public school system and now theatre assistant for several area musicals throughout the year, I continue to see this problem over and over again. Dressing rooms are either left with costumes, hats, and other accessories scattered about the floor or the costumes are hung in such a way that a gentle breeze would blow off the shirt, pants, and vest hanging on the hanger for dear life by mere static cling.
Why does this continue to be a problem despite our please hang it up the way you found it mantra? I think it stems from students not properly being taught how to fold and hang clothes in their personal lives. Our lives have become so involved with rehearsals, sports practices, family events, (the list goes on and on), that many of us have gone past the “turn the dryer on to knock the wrinkles out for the fifth time” to “I think the pile on this side of the room is the clean one.”
I’m not pointing fingers at anyone and I’m certainly not attempting to critique anyone’s laundry-doing methods, but I would like to encourage all school/community theatre personnel to use this time when handing out a costume to teach their young performers how to hang up a costume properly.
Teach the young ladies how to properly hang a blouse and skirt. Teach the young men how to fold their pants seam-to-seam and why we button the top button of a shirt when we hang it. I can only hope that taking the time to demonstrate these important skills will transfer into the students’ personal lives and encourage them to take better care of their own wardrobe, as well as the beautiful (and expensive) rentals we provide them. Plus, wouldn’t it be great if just once our mantra please hang it up the way you found it really did work?!