Dressing can be nerve-wracking – especially at first when you’re not sure what to expect or what you’re going to be faced with. So we have compiled our top tips for being an amazing dresser, helping you keep your cool when the pressure is on.
Perhaps this is your first dressing role and you don’t know what to expect, or perhaps you’ve been away for a while and want a refresher. Either way, we’ve used our expert knowledge to help you nail the job.
Even if you’ve been in and out of dressing rooms and know the backstage area like the back of your hand, nerves can still strike when that curtain goes up.
But don’t you worry, we’ve got your back, just follow these fail-safe tips and you’ll feel much more prepared:
1.) Always wear black
This is always a requirement when working backstage, whether that’s in the theatre, a gig, or live event. If you’re dressing on any type of show unless otherwise specified, you must wear black.
This is not because the Stage Manager is trying to ruin your day but because they don’t want you to be seen, and black helps you camouflage nicely into the wings. Trust us, it’s not good to be caught hovering for your quick change in a green top, only to be spotted by half the audience. Don’t go ruining the magic of theatre!
2.) Have a headtorch handy
We can’t stress this enough. Always have your headtorch on you. You can wear it around your neck when you’re not using it, but it can be a real lifesaver when you’re changing someone’s shoes in the dark!
Petzl has a fantastic selection in all sorts of colours, offering a variety of features and functions. Make sure you’re well equipped – Psst! it’s always a good idea to carry a back-up.
3.) Don’t lose the plot
This is vital if you’re at curtain up or you’re in the middle of a show. Your ‘plot’ is your life-line and you will absolutely need it, certainly for the first few days in order to keep track of your cues.
Your ‘plot’ is your ‘Dresser’s bible’ and you will want to guard it with your life- we’ve seen people stuff them in bras and safety pin them to themselves so that they don’t lose them.
The ‘plot’ contains stage directions, telling you where you need to be at what point in the show. It tells you what you need to pre-set or bring with you, and what costumes are needed when. If you haven’t got a photographic memory or do not have the ability to learn something within a few minutes (which would be quite an impressive trait!) then it’s best to make sure you always have your plot on you. Of course, after a few days, you’ll know most of it by heart anyway (even if you think you don’t) and you’ll be able to get by most of the time without it.
4.) Pin it up
We can’t recommend you carry a handful of pins enough. You don’t need to cover yourself in them, but putting a few in your pocket, pouch, or somewhere you have quick and easy access to could really help you out in an urgent situation!
Believe us, you do not want to be caught backstage without them when an actor’s zip breaks seconds before they are due to go on!
Pin some on your pouch to make sure you’re not caught-short in a costume crisis!
5.) Carry an emergency kit
This is always a good idea, and comes in the form of a dresser’s belt/pouch/bumbag- whatever you want to call it! The Costumier do a great one designed especially for wardrobe staff.
Best worn around the waist. You don’t have the space for a backpack or the time to get root through one in an urgent situation – you’ll need to access your kit quickly.
As for what to put in it, check out our article on the dresser’s kit bag to make sure yours is stocked with all the essentials you might need to tackle a wardrobe emergency with ease.
Last but not least…
And finally, although this is not officially part of the top five – don’t panic! Easier said than done when the pressure’s on and you’re trying to remember your plot whilst waiting for a quick change.
But take a deep breath and remember, as long as you’ve got the basics above covered, then it’s in the bag.
Trust yourself, enjoy it, and the show will always go on!
If you have any other tips or techniques for new and established dressers- get in touch and let us know.