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.
Large manila hang tags/cards
Small colored hang tags/cards
Clipboard with paper or scribbler
Pens, pencils and markers
Performers work reports/time cards
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:
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.
Lay out all accessories.
Put up Designer’s display boards, tear sheets and research photos if requested.
Okay… in comes the actor.
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.Take 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.
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.
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.
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.
Pin hang tags through buttonholes, on seams or in an area that if damaged occurs it can be repaired or hidden from camera.
Helping 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!