7 Ways to Gear Up for the New Normal of Costume and Wardrobe

It's time to take precautions, and get creative

Fashion, art and costume fans were devastated when the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inevitably) announced that its annual Costume Institute gala would be canceled because of Covid-19. But as the DIY #MetGalaChallenge quickly taught us, there are still plenty of ways that costume and wardrobing can, and must, move forward with a new normal that accommodates WFH and social distancing. 

As productions slowly get back up and rolling, costume designers, wardrobe professionals and stylists need to be ready to adapt to new constraints across theater, television, film and even commercial advertising. Whether it's drawing on new technologies, relying on the resources we have on hand, or simply getting more creative, here are seven tips for post-Covid costuming.

Be more budget conscious.

With the inability to share costumes among different productions and tighter budgets across the board, costumes will need to be produced more cost efficiently. That means fewer people, simpler designs, faster creation and more cost-effective fabrics. 

Work in teams.

People will need to work in dedicated teams to minimize and control contact. The sharing of stitchers, tailors and cutters among different teams should be kept to a minimum.

Provide a single point of contact.

Actors should have a single dedicated wardrobe person during shoots or backstage, as opposed to a small support team. This will minimize contact and the likelihood of transmission.

Embrace PPE.

Personal protective equipment will need to become a staple in fitting rooms, just like safety pins, alteration chalk and all other fitting supplies.

Get ready for fittings to change.

The days of packed fittings or actors running around town to different fitting venues is over, at least for now. Expect more fittings on set or in production offices, allowing productions to implement consistent safety protocols on set. This may also mean more virtual fittings; be prepared to work closely with assistants, associates and first hands to give instructions and coordinate alternation notes over Zoom or FaceTime. 

Minimize human touch.

We're going to have to minimize physical touch between wardrobe and actors. This means costume designers will need to focus on ease of dressing and undressing; think magnets, Velcro and industrial zippers. 

Allow extra time.

Costumes will likely need to be steamed and ready prior to delivery and left to sit for 24 hours to limit the transmission of any possible contamination. 

The bottom line.

Recreating iconic Met Gala looks like Cardi B's Thom Browne gown or Gigi Hadid's Tommy Hilfiger dress/blazer ensemble out of construction paper, glue guns, duvet wadding, sleeping bags and pantyhose, the #MetGalaChallenge was a welcomed reminder that we can create amazing costumes in any environment. 

While the return to work and set can feel overwhelming after months at home, the costume designers and wardrobe professionals who plan ahead, take the necessary precautions and apply a bit more creativity and resourcefulness will be ready to hit the ground running with this new normal. 

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Eric Winterling
Eric Winterling is founder of Eric Winterling, Inc.

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