The amazing Edith Head!

Let’s talk cast and background fittings.

As a Set Supervisor/Key On-Set Costumer I normally help the Designer with fittings on the main cast before we go to camera. This allows the actors and myself to meet before shooting starts. I get to hear some of their concerns and desires to do with the costumes, and figure out how to best work with them on set.

I was talking with our Designer and Coordinator/Supervisor the other day and we came up with a few things that would be very helpful for everyone to know when given the opportunity to help out in a fitting.

These are some little tips that will make the fittings go easier and help with figuring out all the pieces… sorting, labeling and such… when the fitting is over.

DSC01379Before the fitting starts, get a table to use as a work surface set up near by. On the table have:


Safety pins

Tape measure

Large manila hang tags/cards

Small colored hang tags/cards

Clipboard with paper or scribbler

Pens, pencils and markers

Tailoring chalk



Panty hose



Singlets/tanks tops

Performers work reports/time cards


This is one look, these sheet vary depending on the show and the pay role company. Ask the AD’s or accounting to make sure you have some for the fittings.

This is just a short list and some things may vary depending on the style of show, or at your Designer’s request.

Also before the fitting starts, set up 2 – 3 rolling racks; one will have all the costume options, the 2nd is for discards/rejects and the last is for liked or fit costume pieces.

Prep the clothing before the fitting:

Unbutton all the shirts except for one of the buttons near the top to keep them from falling off the hangers, this will help the actor slip easily into the costume.IMG_2912

Open the pants at the waist. If the pants have a belt or suspenders, attach a belt or pair of suspenders to each size of pants the actor will try on (if available) so you won’t need to transfer from one pair of pants to the next during the fitting.IMG_2944

Properly lace shoes (sometimes they arrive with ‘in store’ display lacing) and loosen the laces.IMG_2945

Lay out all accessories.

Put up Designer’s display boards, tear sheets and research photos if requested.


Yep, this is a little low rent for display boards! Forgive us we are in the middle of now where in the deep wild west world and we had to make do on an early Sunday Morning!

Okay… in comes the actor.


Yes, I did work with Jamie and he is fabulous, lovely and always has a smile for everyone!

Listen, this is important… be a professional. You’re about to see highly paid heartthrobs in their skivvies. If you can’t be professional and respectful in this situation… this is not the job for you. If you are a professional, you will help everyone feel at ease… if you freak out, well, let’s just not go there.

Once the actor is in the costume, stand by with a hand full of pins and a tape measure for the Designer to pin the alterations. Some Designers may prefer you to do the pinning so they can be free to talk through the costume concepts with the actors. Steady, now, steady.Costumes1Take photos of looks that are approved and write down on your clipboard or scribbler all the alterations, any washing or breakdown instructions, if multiples need to be purchased, and any requests from the cast members; such as preferred colors, allergies, ideas that they have about their characters.

If the actor is removing pieces… jackets, hats, scarves, etc… step in to take the pieces from them or the Designer and re-hang on the appropriate rack. This will help keep things organized and at hand to try on again if needed.

If the actor uses a separate room for changing, try to step in to the change room when they come out in the next outfit. That way you can pick up the previous costume pieces and get them back on the racks without being in the way.

All this organization and hustle will help when you are trying to sort all costumes into approved outfits at the end of the fitting.

Chris Hargadon, the Designer I am working with currently, told me the most important thing for him… the thing he appreciated the most when people help him with fittings… is the ‘clean up’. He says that often the costumers helping him just walk away from the fitting leaving costume pieces hanging everywhere. When he comes back to work on the costumes he has to find them, sort them and hang them all before he can do his work.

Which brings us to… the end of the fitting! The end of the fitting is not really the end. The actor may walk out the door, but there is tons of important work still to be done.

4cd7892a85198.imageStart grouping the clothing into the costume changes. Organize them on the appropriate rack to make sure the changes are clear and easy to locate later.

Now the next and most important thing to do is to start tagging… this is where your hang tags come in!

Write up a manila tag with the cast name and #, the date the costume piece is needed by (if you know it), and what work needs to be done to the piece: EG: multiples need to be purchased, wash several times and hang to dry, dye/tech (or can be spelled tek) warm or cool, breakdown.IMG_2943

Now the costume pieces need to be directed to the right department so they can be processed for the start of shooting. Usually there will be a sewing department for alterations, and a dying/breakdown department.

This is where your colored hang tags come in! They come in many colors so before the fitting talk to the Designer or the Coordinator/Supervisor and see if they have a color preference for which color tag is being used for each department.7818529_orig

Choose a color for the sewing department, and a color for the dye/breakdown department and label each costume piece using a colored tag with the same information as the manila tag; character name and #, what date it will be needed for and what work is required on the costume piece.

The manila tag will stay with the costume piece, the colored tag will be crossed off once the designated work has been done on the piece then it has been returned to the Coordinator/Supervisor.

Remember: very important information for all tags is the date that the costumes are needed (until you get a one liner this is a challenge!). In prep this could be for another fitting, a camera test or the first day it is needed on set. By adding the dated needed, this helps the sewing room or dye room to prioritize the jobs that need to be done… and there can be a lot!

Last but not least!!! When pinning a tag to a costume never… yep, in my opinion… never pin a tag through the arm or the body of an outfit unless it is for an alteration. Pins can get caught while moving costumes around and I have seen a large amount of damage from a badly place tag. hang 6

Pin hang tags through buttonholes, on seams or in an area that if damaged occurs it can be repaired or hidden from camera.

hang 5Helping out during fittings is a great way to get to know the costumes on the movie, the actors that will wear them and the Designer’s vision of how they would like them seen on camera. Opportunities not to be taken for granted!

And remember, smooth fittings can make for great costumes…

… but knowing how to prepare for a fitting, organize in the thick of it, clean up after, delegate the finishing of a costume, and care for that costume during shooting…

… takes a great costumer!

And that’s you! Have fun and watch where you stick those pins!

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  1. It is amazing that many people do not know how to do a fitting! It is part of your job to know your job!

    • That is true. All though I have met many people that have fallen into this industry and managed to move up through the system with out really understanding what is required of them. This is not all their own fault though. Many people will not include someone if they need to teach them what needs to be done. We as costumer need to be understanding and try to share our knowledge with others, even when we find it difficult in a tight moment. I am always happy to help and new or not so new costumer understand what I am doing and how it is that I doing it!

  2. I really appreciate all these tips as an owner of a vintage clothing costume rental house ( for the past 35 years that has a dressing room that is often rented by productions for fittings.
    I would especially stress the one about having respect for the garments (and in our case, often garments that are 100+ years old!) and NOT putting pins through the fabric of the garment, especially vintage garments! It might save you loss and damage in the future!
    The only other idea I would recommend is, if you are going to have rental items from different companies at the fitting, find a way to tag each item to differentiate it from other companies. We welcome designers bringing in outside clothes for fittings, and all our garments have tags on them, but it makes it that much easier to pack up at the end of the fitting and determine what goes back where. I speak from experience!

  3. Dawn!!! Great, informative post – I would have learned so much from this starting out! I can’t believe your poor designer experienced, “costumers helping him just walk away from the fitting leaving costume pieces hanging everywhere”! That would be instant , very harsh scolding in Los Angeles! And THANK YOU for pointing out that tags SHOULD NOT be pinned on the arms – I’ve seen that A LOT up here in Canada + it makes me literally freak out!!!! Also, good to point out the emphasis on professionalism in a fitting. I know of an assistant designer in Los Angeles who was fired from a show for making an inappropriate comment to a male actor during a fitting. NONONO!!!!

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  5. This was super helpful! It seems that there’s always something new to learn when it comes to the fitting process. I’ve noticed that much of it, as well as being common sense, is about learning your designers or seamstresses. If you work with someone often enough, you begin to learn their preferences and loathed practices. In school my costume instructor absolutely had to have safety pins opened for her (even in storage!), a detail which drives my current boss twelve feet up the wall. Cleaning up the area after a fitting is just good sense, though. On an unrelated note: have you created (or would you be willing to create) a post referencing an on-set costumer kit? Your lists are amazingly thorough, like this one for fittings, so I would love to see what you use for emergency situations between takes! Thanks again – Jess.

    • Hello,
      Open safety pins Yikes! That is a big no no in most places, I get so frustrated when the box has open ones in it!
      Take a look a the blog named Chew Tobacco Spit…. It has a list of what a costumer day call kit should have. This is a small kit that you would take with you everywhere. My kit as a set supervisor is the larger version of that and also changes depending on the show that I am doing!

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