Theatre sits at the heart of British culture. In 2019 alone, 15.3 million people from all around the globe came to London to enjoy the breathtaking performances on offer. These productions are designed and choreographed to immerse their audience fully, therefore, those watching rarely see what goes on behind the scenes.
Once cast members take their final bow, the curtains close, and the applause subsides, production members must begin carefully storing away all the marvellous props and theatrical costumes which graced the stage just moments before.
To help keep your costumes clean, organised and damage-free, we have collated five top theatre storage solutions so your pieces can be reused time and time again.
Keep an Inventory
First and foremost, it’s essential to create and maintain an accurate inventory by listing all your costume items. Once you have completed this list, be sure to keep it up to date by recording alterations and any pieces that are added or removed from storage. We also recommend keeping note of the date and location when a costume piece is used. In doing so, you’ll know exactly how frequently each piece appears in productions and where to look if anything goes missing.
Choose a Suitable Storage Location
To establish the necessary size of your storage space, check your inventory to determine how many pieces need to be stored.
Next, decide whether you will hang your costumes or lay them flat; this will help determine the layout of your theatre storage solutions. We recommend hanging costumes, so when choosing a storage location, check whether it has space for hanging rails. If you are to lay your costumes flat, avoid stacking them to reduce the risk of damage.
Finally, ensure your chosen storage space is completely dry. Avoid anywhere that may experience humidity, extreme temperature changes or dampness. Storage with temperature-controlled systems will help regulate your space and keep your costumes damage-free.
Opt for a self-storage facility if you’re looking for more affordable theatre storage solutions. These units usually have 24-hour surveillance and limited access to the general public. In addition, those that rent the units are often granted drive-up access allowing for quick and easy transport of costume pieces. This is particularly useful when moving large or bulk items.
Label Your Theatre Storage Solutions
To remain organised, we recommend labelling all of your theatre storage solutions. If you’re using acid-free boxes to store costumes long-term, label each box with its exact contents as well as the performance that requires each piece.
Store pieces that are used regularly in transparent plastic containers for easy access. When labelling these boxes, note down the different item categories. Less detail is needed here as the contents are more visible compared to other theatre storage solutions.
To organise footwear, use hanging shoe racks and label each hole with the size of the shoe and the performance they often appear in.
Prepare and Pack Costumes Effectively
No matter how big or small, old or new your costume piece may be, it must be cleaned before storage. If not, there is the risk of fabric rotting.
Inspect your costumes for any residues or stains that may cause long-term damage. Contact a dry cleaner to help reverse the damage and prepare your items for future storage if you spot something.
To prevent fold lines, pad the sleeves and other rounded areas of your costumes using quilting, muslin or netting.
Avoid storing costumes in plastic dry-cleaner bags as they are full of chemicals that can eventually destroy your beloved fabrics.