itsjusttheatre: musings from a community theater costume shop organizer


My Introduction to Myself (and what I want to do with this blog)

I absolutely never thought I would blog. Ever. However, I have taken over a big volunteer job with my local theater. The job is organizing and cleaning out the costume shop.

I should say immediately that I am NOT a costumer. I am a librarian. I pride myself that I am good at organization, good at recordkeeping, and good at assessing the worth of an item compared to the space it occupies. When it comes to costume organization, I am clueless.

We have been collecting a lot of years. Our theatre got started in 1977 and bits and pieces of things date from about that time. For a while we had a professional costumer, a sorceress who could create the most amazing things out of repurposed garage sale finds and a bit of clearance fabric. She is not with us anymore (can anyone say burnout?) That doesn’t stop us from adding stuff, taking donated clothing, and generally making a mess.

I have done costumes for different shows, but that means I have pulled stuff from the racks. I can sew, but I haven’t made anything since 7th grade home economics. The shift I made for that class was awful. But I digress.

I took on the job of organizing the costume shop because it was a mess. Too many show costumers had finished out a show by just rolling the costume rack back into the shop and leaving. Donations began to pile up, the fabrics were a mess from people pilfering through them to find fabric for curtains or whatever. The shoes were not organized by color, size or sex (in other words, not organized at all).

I am starting this blog for myself to record the bits and pieces of information that I have been able to glean from a ton of net searching about costume organization. It also seemed like a good idea to document my journey so that others that stumble over this blog might benefit from my confusion. Lastly, if this blog does reach other organizers and they want to chime in, I hope they do. Many heads are certainly better than one.

The picture with this post is my first experience with painting shoes for a costume. We are doing The Marvelous Wonderettes. The 4 characters of the show wear 1958-styled prom dresses in sherbet colors of blue, green, pink, and orange. We decided that we wanted the shoes to match their dresses. We have a bunch of dyable satin pumps, but the dancing actresses rebelled at that and requested strap shoes. So we fell back on character shoes. Black ones – we didn’t have taupe.

Reading up on the ‘net, I discovered that there is such a thing as leather paint. There is a great entry at instructables. But, it used acetone and a paint (Angelus Leather Paint) that I cannot get here in my small city. Instead I turned to some great stuff on painting leather with acrylic paint. Check out the instructions at “DIY Colorblock Bag A.K.A. How to Paint Leather with Acrylic Paint” This required only isoprobyl alcohol and acrylic paints (picked up at the local Hobby Lobby). Our scenic guy mixed the colors for my team. We wiped the shoes clean with the alcohol, then painted a coat of white acrylic to act as a base coat, then covered with two coats of our mixed color.

The actresses have been dancing in them for a week. There are scuffs and a few nicks, but the leather is still plyable and the paint is not cracked. We will clean and touch them up before opening. They look fabulous on stage – like Sweetarts candy. Bristle brushes work better than sponges brushes, by the way. (Boy, did I get off topic 🙂