Costume making

Head of Men's Costume, Emma Harrup cutting out panels for a costume. Photo by Ellie Kurttz © RSC

Extract from the Rehearsal Scrapbook in the 2008 production programme:

In this production of Hamlet, the designer and costume supervisor involved the actors as much as possible in the design process.

For the newly-made period costumes, fabrics were sampled from both national and international suppliers.

The RSC Cutters draft all patterns themselves according to the specifics of each design. Once the fabric pieces have been cut, they are handed on to a team of makers who begin construction ready for the first costume fittings. At the same time, the supervisor shops for hundreds of individual items of clothing: everything from suits to socks.

Every article of costume is fitted on the actor to determine the visual look of the garment as well as to check technical aspects. Sometimes designs can change considerably through the rehearsals.

Before any costume or footwear goes on stage it may need breaking down: the process of distressing a costume to give it a worn and authentic look. The dye department also regularly cover footwear with specially made 'mud'.

The technical rehearsal is the first time that the actor gets to wear the complete costume and the designer sees it under stage lighting. This is a very busy time as some costumes may need alterations in terms of design or fit, some need extra breaking down and sometimes unforeseen difficulties arise as part of the technical process.

Written by Alistair McArthur, Head of Costume
Photograph by Ellie Kurttz shows Emma Harrup (Head of Men's Costume) cutting out panels for a costume © RSC

Buy DVD: Hamlet 2008

Hamlet 2008: DVD front cover

Download the Rehearsal Scrapbook

Hamlet 2008 - Rehearsal Scrapbook

Contact us & FAQs

Ticket Hotline

0844 800 1110
Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm

Email newsletter

Sign up to email updates for the latest RSC news:

RSC Members

Already an RSC Member or Supporter? Sign in here.

Teaching Shakespeare