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Topic: Costume Cupboard - Ahrrggghhh!!!!  (Read 929 times)
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IrishMolly
« on: March 11, 2009 12:12:00 PM »

I have some how ended up with the ginormous task of organizing and inventorying my schools costume cupboards. I think i volunteered to do it in a moment of weakness and had greatly under-estimated the enormity of the task... I started yesterday. There are 5 large cupboards and 5 smaller ones. If you open any of them stuff falls on your head. The cupboards have been in the same place since the 40's and some of the stuff inside is even older. There are plently of gorgeous costume peices but there is also a lot of crap. Alot of the costumes have been made by students over the years and so hold great sentimental value to the drama department but very poor workmanship. There are also huge numbers of chorus costumes ie. 50 homemade sailor costumes from South Pacific and 30 Indian costumes form Annie get your Gun.  I have also found some amazing things such as a bodice that I would guess could be up to 200 years old! There are also hundreds of accessories, especially hats. Also the head of drama is very reluctant to throw stuff out. Even stuff that hasn't been used in 20 years!
I have been given the task of sorting out this mess and inventorying this messy treasure trove. 

I was wondering if anyone has any tips on arranging costumes. Do you arrange by size, type, period or show. How do you best store hats and other accessories when you can't afford (or have space for) individual hat boxes. What should I do with the more precious pieces? (the very old, very fine or very rare) How should I carry out the Inventory?

I would love answers to these questions and any other tips you might have!
Thanks a million
Molly
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SpottedFrog
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2009 01:12:23 PM »

I worked in a costume shop Smiley

The shop I worked in is a local company that does rentals and sales for both theater and fun & holidays as well as manufacturing mascot type costumes for schools and businesses. They are at least twenty years old. They grew and added on over the years, moved, bought outside storage sheds, etc. They move & shuffle things according to trends from year to year. This is more or less how things were organized when I was there. All of it was terribly crowded, which is the normal state for most costume closets/ rooms/ buildings. Last count they had over 40,000 costumes.

Within each section hats were on shelves above the clothes they went with. Shoes, belts & jewelry were on a corresponding wall.

Main Room:
Mens & womens  'every day' clothing chronologically by era. Eras where there were lots of costumes representing different class levels (Renaissance, medieval) we put peasants first & then ranked up within the gender group to fanciest/ royalty. The vast majority of this was used primarily by theater groups, with the exception of Renn fair goers who wanted something special to wear.

Main room, second section:
Military costumes from around the world, also in order of era. One of my favorite sections as most were real.

Main room, third section:
Uniforms & professional clothing, all eras, by profession. (so our antique fireman jackets hung next to the new modern firemen jackets, then police uniforms of all types, etc)

Main room, last section: Ethnic costumes (mostly stuff used for dance & ceremony- lots of rentals to schools doing cultural events & study) sorted by nation/ ethnic group.

Furry Room: Cheesy
Section 1: all fur suit costumes: animals, TV characters, whatever.

Section 2: Fantasy costumes: both classic fantasy stuff like Halloween witches (lots of trashy & sexy Elvira type dresses) as well as specific not-a-real-person costumes (Mother Goose, Pan, Cinderella, Star Wars characters, yadda yadda)

Section 3: Childrens costumes: Mostly period & fantasy as there isn't as much call for childrens rentals.

Dance Room: 20th century fashions & all chorus girl type stuff (which tends to be small sparkly leotards which fit nicely in boxes instead of on hangars)

What lived out in the sheds: materials for making costumes (foam, fabrics, etc), very large bulky things like the plant for Little Shop of Horrors, currently out of trend fur suit kiddie characters, recently past popular formals & other regular clothing purchases to be used in the future.

Hope that helps! It sounds like more than anything you need more space for it all.
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IrishMolly
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2009 05:20:20 PM »

Thanks for taking the time to explain your costume sorting system to me. It sounds like you had a wonderful job for a while! I will definitely bear everything you have said in mind while I continue sorting! Thanks again!! 
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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2009 01:31:30 PM »

Clear Rubbermaid type storage boxes work well for smaller items like hats, gloves, fans, etc.  You can see what is inside (for the most part) while it is on the shelf and they are very ease to label. 

The very old stuff that you want to preserve it is best to use acid free tissue paper stuffed inside the garment and then store it in an acid free box.  You could check with a good dry cleaner who does wedding dresses for a supplier. 
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Don't call it trash...I can make something with it!!!
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