Very Superstitious, Writing’s on the Wall!

Stevie Wonder

project-superstitions-all-three-postersI thought I would continue my thoughts on working with actors… this time with some good old fashioned wives’ tales involved!

Am I superstitious, sure, aren’t we all in a little way.  I always follow the rules of:

Don’t open an umbrella in the house (or the costume truck)! (by the way this isn’t a superstition in Korea!).

superstition_party_decor_09Of course, for us today, this could be that umbrellas are big and could knock over a lamp if we open them!

I also read on the internet that it may go back to the ancient beliefs regarding sun worship. The magical powers of an umbrella shade us from the sun, so opening an umbrella inside while out of the suns rays is considered offensive to the sun god.


Don’t put a hat on the bed.

The story on-line is that some people used to believe that evil spirits live in your hair.  It is thought that this was from the static electricity that came when a hat was removed.  So if you put your hat on the bed, the evil spirits would spill out where you sleep.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.45.02 AM 

The other reason I found was that when Priests would pay the last rights to the dying, they would often sit beside the bed and remove their hat before dressing in their vestments.  The nearest flat surface for their hat would be the bed.  So placing a hat on the bed is a sign of imminent death.


A hat on the bed is bad luck!

Always remember to never put a hat on a counter brim side down, the luck will run out.  And heaven forbid, never put an actor’s hat on your bare head. (Over another hat is acceptable, it does not bring bad luck… or cootie transfer!)

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.47.46 AM Never put shoes on a table.

This also has a few different reasons listed on the internet.

It can bring the risk of a bad performance, or even death, for a theater actor.

And according to British superstitions, a miner’s family was usually informed of a loved one’s death by placing the dead miner’s shoes on the table.

This superstition could also come from the tradition of dressing a corpse in new clothes and shoes, and then laying them out on a bed or table so that everyone can give their respects.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 9.42.21 AM

“Do not place shoes upon a table, for this will bring bad luck for the day, cause trouble with your mate and you might even lose your job as a result.”

Some actors… well truly all of us… are a little superstitious each in our own way.  One of the actors that I just finished working with is very superstitious.  On his last day while we were shooting a scene, I was helping him back into his footwear and he told me that he always puts on his right shoe first because it’s good luck.  I stopped him from lacing that one up until the other shoe was on.  I had heard that to lace up a shoe before both shoes were on was bad luck.

I still can’t find a reason for this one.  It is probably connected with the old wives’ tale;

It is bad luck to walk around in one shoe!

He was surprised and pleased that I knew about the superstition and we chatted a little about a few other old wives’ tales like, it is bad luck to put your dirty socks in your shoes overnight!  We had a laugh over that one wondering how it came about.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.54.47 AM

I love the world of superstition.  I think my love affair probably started while working in theater. Of course as a seamstress we learned the little diddy:

Baste in black–it will always come back
Baste in green–it will never be seen
Baste in red–the costume will be dead
Baste in white–it will always be rightScreen Shot 2013-09-08 at 11.24.23 AM

I think it really has something to do with the color fastness in dyed thread that can sometimes rub off on the fabrics ruining the costumes in process, but I think the diddy is fabulous.

For all you Shakespeare lovers (hint, hint)…

I have only ever heard this related to actors, but I never met a theater costumer that would utter the name of  ‘The Scottish Play’ while working in the theater.

But if an actor says the name out loud, they are required to leave the theater building, spin around three times, spit, curse, and then knock to be allowed back in.  It made me laugh (to myself of course) when I saw this done while I was dressing Romeo and Juliet years ago.

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 7.44.06 PM

Beyond the continuity of the costume, it is the everyday things that we do with the costume pieces that can cause ‘bad karma’ with our cast if we are unaware of how they feel about superstitions.  Where and how costumes are placed, or how we handle the pieces when we are on set holding them, can be very important in the eyes of the cast we deal with.

There are so many old wives’ tales about clothing that I don’t think it is even possible to know all of them.  I spent a little time and searched up some more fun ones for us to look at.


Mended Veil
Bad Luck Charm Bracelet
All the worst luck in one place. Open umbrella, broken mirror, a ladder (and you just walked under it), black cat, snake eyes, and the number 13.

Some of these are useful to know some are just are just worth a laugh.

Tying a knot in a handkerchief is a charm against evil.

Putting an apron on inside out is good luck.

(Good luck Mr. Parsons you lucky devil, my cast member from last week!)

Putting clothing on wrong-side out or backwards is lucky if you wear it all day and then take it off at night.

(I left our camera trainee running around with his shirt on inside out the other day after I read this one!  Good luck to him!)

When putting on your shoes put your right shoe on first for luck.  When removing your shoes remove your left shoe first for luck.

At night place your shoes with the inner sides facing each other for luck.

An old shoe is a sign of good luck. Great blog on the history of shoes!

It is unlucky to pick up and old glove in the street.

It is unlucky to put your purse on the floor.


Don’t clean your work boots, you’ll take off the luck, but do oil them.

Never let some one else wear your hat … the continuation of this one is… unless you plan on taking them home!!!

For us costumers,

You will have good luck if you find a safety pin.

Old wives’ tale from a Russian internet site: many people like to wear safety pins somewhere on their person, usually somewhere hidden.  Why?  Because wearing an old safety pin will protect you from that terrible evil eye of course.  Take a look at this blog for others.

The safety pin was patented in 1849 by Inventor Walter Hunt, thanks for the luck Walter!

The safety pin was patented in 1849 by Inventor Walter Hunt, thanks for the luck Walter!

It is unlucky if you find a safety pin in water.

Do not let anyone take a ring off your finger, bad luck.

If you take a ring off of someone else’s finger you will have bad luck.

If you find a button, carry it in your pocket for good luck.

To sew a button onto a garment that you are currently wearing is bad luck.

A Costumer I am working with right now has a little book called “Guide for the Unlucky” and one page is on buttons.  Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 11.38.54 AM

She sent this one to me:

Don’t ever leave on a piece of clothing that you’ve buttoned up incorrectly or you’ll shroud yourself in bad luck. Instead, remove the garment quickly and completely, then put it back on again and button it up correctly. 

Always do up an odd number of buttons on your garment to secure safe travels though out the day.

If a funeral procession passes by you, touch a button right away to ward off your own death and remain connected to life.

Should you find a button on your path, expect to receive a letter with as many pages as there are holes in the button; but avoid picking up any black ones. They might have been lost by someone sickened by magic and will pass ill health along to you.

These are fun to read, fabulous to know and great to share.

Be aware of the little superstitions that your actors take heed of.  They may seem silly, but if a few little details can help make their day better, what’s the problem with being a little superstitious as well!

Have fun finding all the crazy and marvelous superstitions, and please share them with me when you do!

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