Our costumes are made by our team of skilled costume makers in our restored and redeveloped workshops in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Our costumes can be on stage for well over 100 performances, so they need to be made to withstand the wear and tear of the stage. the skills we have inhouse include tailoring and costume-making as well as dyeing, printing, leatherwork, beading, corsetry, millinery, mask-making and jewellery-making.
We are one of the few theatres to have our own in-house armoury, producing breastplates, belts, swords and shields, as well as weaponry made from specially moulded plastic, leather, and unusual materials.
Our 30-strong team of costume makers moved back into the new workshop with some of the best facilities for costume-making, in summer 2021. The restored Grade II listed buildings now sit alongside newly created spaces with more space and daylight.
Once the production is up and running all the costumes have to be maintained on a daily basis by the Running Wardrobe team in the theatre. There's a constant list of running repairs and all shirts, tights, socks and other linens have to be washed after each performance.
Special knowledge is needed to care for delicate fabrics and elaborate costumes are dry cleaned as necessary. Most costumes aren't washable so we often use inner layers that can be removed and washed.
After the show
When a show comes to an end the costumes go into our Costume Store, where they may be reused by the Costume Workshop as well as made available to hire to amateur and professional customers.
Costumes from previous RSC productions have been hired out from the Company’s Costume Store, appearing in films and television programmes including Shakespeare in Love, Gladiator, Braveheart, Merlin, Dr Who, Don’t Tell The Bride and many more.
A career in costume
There are many routes into a profession within the Costume Department. All staff are trained to a high standard. Although some learn these skills on the job, most have a relevant degree-level qualification in addition to specialist professional training.
Alistair McArthur, Head of Costume, originally trained as a stage manager. He worked his way up in the costume field with positions at the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Opera House, in addition to employment as a freelance costume supervisor. "Once you leave any costume-making course, the best thing to do is to find a freelance maker who is willing to take you on as an assistant. You can only learn so much in a college and you learn much more actually doing the job."