What’s the job?
Who would I be working for?
In this role you could be hired for one specific show, or be part of the in-house team in one of the thousand theatres we have in the UK.
What do they do?
The wardrobe department’s day starts much earlier than everyone else’s, arriving hours before the show starts so that they can prepare and do the daily maintenance for the wigs and costumes. This is to make sure they all look their best for the shows!
What sort of work is involved?
- Helping to design costumes and oversee them being made.
- Managing the other staff in the wardrobe department.
- Mending and altering costumes.
- Cleaning, steaming and ironing.
- Fitting costumes onto performers.
- Storing the costumes carefully when they’re not being used.
- Overseeing costume and wig changes during the performance.
What skills do I need?
Working in the wardrobe department is a very practical job, so you need to be confident with textile making and repairing, and not afraid to do a bit of cleaning! Once the live show has started, you need to be prepared for anything, so if something goes wrong while the show is happening, you need to remain calm and solve the problem as quickly as possible.
What qualifications do I need?
A degree in art, fashion or costume construction is very helpful, but if you don’t have a degree, don’t panic. There are lots of short courses you can complete that specialise in things like wigs and make-up for stage, TV and film. Many people also start from the bottom and learn from the experienced people above them.
What hours would I work?
As your role is very practical, you will need to be at the theatre before the show to prep the costumes and wigs. You will still be at the theatre to help get the cast dressed and changed throughout the show, so that means long days and late nights.
Where would I work?
There are theatres all over the country (and the world!), so you could be based anywhere! Or if you join a touring show, you may end up visiting lots of different places!
How much would I get paid?
When you start out in wardrobe with little experience as a trainee, you can earn around £13,000 per year, but once you are qualified, you can expect to earn up to £28,000 per year. Highly experienced wardrobe masters can earn anything up to £35,000 per year.
Can I do work experience?
Every theatre works differently, so the best thing to do is get in touch with your local theatres and ask. Some do offer work experience placements, but some only take people on if they’re over 18. But if you want to work in the theatre, showing a passion for the arts is very important, so helping out with school or other amateur productions will help you a lot.
Anything like that will help you to gain an understanding of how a costume department is run.
How might the job change in the future?
Even though many jobs are changing at the moment because of technology, the huge range of different costumes, wigs, materials and accessories that wardrobe departments deal with is surely something that will always need the human touch.