I’m not exactly talking about the infamous Janet Jackson moment at the Super Bowl 2004, but I sort of am…Wardrobe malfunctions happen all the time, they are not always a spectacle, but they can cause hold ups with a productions, continuity problems and and even health hazards. Over the past decade and dozens of productions I have seen many wardrobe problems so I felt this was a subject worth touching on.
In THEATRE production, have the cast leave their costumes at the theatre (if there is a safe and designated are for it). Sometimes when performers provided their own costumes they like to take them home at night, this seems reasonable until they forget their black dance pants at home or wear the wrong shoes to the theatre. I’ve seen actors back stage minutes before the curtain scrambling for something appropriate to wear. When doing a run, designate someone to be in charge of wardrobe, to collect them and organize them by role after each performance, to wash and mend them when required (depending on the size of a production, this may be the stage manager or it may require it’s own position such as a dresser/laundry person).
For a FILM production make sure performers change out of wardrobe for meals. If you are shooting multiple scenes in the same garment it is a good idea to have 2 or 3 of them in case…of spills, talent leaning against wet paint, wardrobe getting caught on a piece of equipment and ripping, etc. Also, don’t let performers walk off set wearing their wardrobe, the may forget to bring it back the next day. As producer your job is to anticipate these problems before they happen so you are prepared for anything, wardrobe included.
Wardrobe Fittings are important. Sizes vary in different brands so having the performers send their size isn’t enough. It is always a good idea to have talent try on their wardrobe for each scene prior to the shooting day in the event things don’t fit, look right, or feel ok. If there is movement, choreography, chase or fight scenes make sure wardrobe allows the actor to move, run, dance, kick etc during the fitting. These are not problems to be discovered on set.
A few weeks ago I was wearing a wetsuit in a scene. We began shooting at one location and continued shooting in the van as we drove. The wetsuit was tight and extremely restrictive, my chest was compressed in the suit and I couldn’t breath, I had a panic attack. I struggled to tear off the suit while in the car, cameras rolling. I had never worn a wetsuit before and I didn’t try this one on before we began shooting. I borrowed the wetsuit from my fried and I took for granted that it would fit. It did not. I was able to pull the suit on and off to get through the scene, but it was difficult and after the feeling of panic came over me it was a challenge to feel safe/comfortable in that costume. I was lucky, I only had 2 short scenes in that outfit and the production could handle a 10min set back for my panic attack but not all productions are so forgiving.
Make sure all wardrobe fits properly, keep close tabs on all wardrobe items for all roles and have backups for continuity in case items get dirty, torn and misplaced.
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