It’s happened us Costume-All. Standing at wrap in the costume office with miles of racks of clothing (most made of non-recyclable fibres that will never decompose), exploding piles of department store shopping bags, tangles of hangers and mountains of out of date paperwork. As well as being beat by the shooting schedule, you’re now responsible for this pregnant avalanche of garbage. You try and have a wardrobe sale but more often than not people don’t want any more clothes and the costume houses are overflowing. Then you decide to donate but the backs of the major thrift stores are minefields of dirty textiles and the front offices filled with dirty politics.
What can we do?
Sheila Pruden, Costume Supervisor
There are checklists that the major studios require Costume Supervisors to fill out to list what environmentally responsible things the department has done on a show. They include things like recycling paper, printing your financial records double sided, limiting printing (using online services), recycle ink cartridges, using cloth garment bags, WetCleaning rather than Drycleaning, washing in cold or cooler water, hanging to dry when possible. Reusable glass or metal containers in the dye room. Using the the least toxic products possible for breakdown.
Nicole Manek, Stylist and Costume Designer, Owner of Life of Manek
I second hand as much as possible, research big box stores and try to buy from those who are the most ethical. Reuse as much as you can. On Baroness Von Sketch, I took to dying garments a different colour and using them again, also turned a lot of dresses into tops, again to reuse.
Getting rid of the re-usable in the Greater Toronto Area (that isn't a major thrift chain)
The Clothes Off Our Racks takes donations of clothing, shoes and accessories directly from costume departments and re-distributes them to homeless charities and non-profits. These are some of their recipients.
www.readysetrecycle.com gives a few great options to uphold their mandate of diverting 1000’s of pounds of film costume, props and scenery from landfill. They can arrange your wrap sale, give you a commission on your items sold from their warehouse or post your items on their website.
New Circles , 161 Bartley Drive 416 422-2591
New Circles runs a clothing bank that has a client list of 12,000 people who receive free clothing. There are special events for teens, Halloween, Christmas and Prom and back to school. They also operate a mobile mall for seniors who cannot get to New Circles to access the clothing bank.
There are specific items they do not accept, please check the web site.
What about Textile recycling?
I found a company called Textile Waste Diversion who though enthusiastic about diverting textiles from landfills in Ontario, admits that what they collect still gets sent overseas. You'd have to reach out to them directly as their list of donation bins page is broken.
The Footprint of Show Shopping
I admire the costume departments that have their shopping bags from Aritzia to Zara alphabetized for easy returns. (For those of you who aren’t aware, we buy many options for costume fittings- whether size, colour or style because usually you get limited time to have the actors try on their possible costumes so invariably there are always returns of the un-worn garments to the stores, (hence the term ‘returns’). But I can’t stand being responsible for all those shopping bags at the end of a show. I have to ask for no bag at the cash, remind them again not to bag my items, and then fight them from adding tissue. The plastic tags that hold the 4 so necessary tags that come with each garment, as well as the shoulder ribbons/loops that just creep their way out to one’s décolleté during in-opportune moments (that we tear out) are just enough garbage to handle. I always ask my team to use large reusable bags- our favourite are the large blue ikea ones as they can hold the world and I don’t care how classy they make me look. I have one less disposable plastic bag on my conscience.
Brenda says it all, but with more class.
Gold Shopping Tips from Brenda Broer,
Costume Designer and Costume Buyer
We all joke about the mountain of bags at the end of a show but it’s surprisingly easy to avoid. I try to have my own reusable shopping bags with me when I’m shopping. My favourites are from Winners and Michaels, as they have comfortable handles which are long enough to sling over your shoulder, and fit a surprisingly large amount of clothes. Others have told me the MEC large totes are their favourite. And don't forget about IKEA!
I accept tissue when formal presentation is an important part of the experience at a store or I’m buying something delicate. When it is undesirable to fold the garments even for a short time I accept garment bags which I reuse more than once. Retail staff will often be curiously persistent in trying to convince you to take their bag when purchasing, but they are all infinitely happier when they don’t fill their garbage bin with your large clunky bags.
I organize returns in clear shoe bags and they stay neat, folded and it's easy at a glance to see which store they are from. This system also improves the speed of the return process by taking up much less space, which requires less trips to the car.
Your hands will be liberated for opening doors, texting, paying for parking, and, it’s easy to step aside after a transaction because all of your things are neatly over your shoulder already.
Yes, yes, plastic bags are recyclable according to www.toronto.ca including dry cleaning bags and Ziplocs - if they get to the blue bin. But why not limit them? They likely have to be sent overseas and melted and remade into another plastic item and then shipped back for our very important consumption.
Of note is Wotever Inc, in Toronto that provides extremely useful items such as hangers, kit supplies, garment care, and water and warm up gear. Every in store purchase is always packed up in a re-used shop bag donated by productions.
Yes! You can recycle that!
All those scripts and shooting schedules (un-shredded- it gums up the recycling machines otherwise), manilla tags, dry cleaning bags, Ziplocs, safety pins (only the broken or bent ones or else how will the department function?), laundry detergent bottles, wet one containers, completely empty aerosol cans and their lids- separated, lint brush holders without the sticky rolls, plastic thread spools, shoe boxes,
Boxes that contained expensive gifted chocolate (but not any of the fancy foil or glitter wrapping).
No, that’s just garbage
Thermal paper receipts (!),Top stick, double sided tape, markers, pens, sticky lint brush sheets, dryer sheets, rubber bands, hot shots, insoles, sticker backings, tissue paper (I know it makes you feel like a princess by unwrapping those froths but say no to that shit- well, sigh, unless it’s Alexander McQueen sequins), take away coffee cups, bubble wrap, binders, used wet ones (don’t flush them either! They don’t disintegrate) hangers both metal and plastic (it's cheaper to landfill them then recycle), printer ink cartridges, photo paper, batteries, notions, clothing, shoes, shoe laces, broken jewelry, broken buttons.
But it's still really, really hard.
Many offices and shows don't recycle other than paper. But there are blue bins and composting in the kitchen, and sprinkled around all the trucks in base camp you say. It's unfortunately just optics, Location Manager Jonathan Matthews tells me. We as responsible individuals have to follow the rules of what garbage to throw where because most often everyday the recycling bin has food matter in it, and the landfill bin full of soda pop cans. There isn't sorting time of a film set's garbage factored into the budget and if it isn't sorted, it's all going into landfill.
Knowing this, my department and I take turns taking the departments recycling home to add to our residential pick up. I've cringed more than once to see what going on in the recycling bin placed next to the wardrobe truck. But my hands are full of Armani with a cell phone attached to my head and my truck girl calling my name- how can I start sorting everyone's garbage?
What else can we do?
Saving the unclaimed water bottles that litter every set and use the water for the iron or washing on the truck. Or even taking them home to water your plants (and then recycle)- true story of Rachel Ford.
Using online systems like Sync OnSet to share information, fitting and continuity photos, therefore not printing continuity photos or throwing away printer cartridges.
Costume Crew bringing their own re-usable plates, cups, cutlery to limit the disposable ones for the set or office.
And yet there's SO much more to be addressed, including the dye and breakdown room, those materials and their disposal. Here's the link to the Household Hazardous Waste Site in Toronto. They'll do a 'Toxic Taxi' pick up of between 10-50 litres or kilograms- maybe team up with the paint department and see what they're off loading. There are also drop off locations.
But what about cardboard hangers? Likely they could fit in our existing hanger stands and you could get the show logo printed across them as promotional pieces as well. What actor doesn't want to see their face on their costume hangers each morning when getting dressed?
The Smart Hanger and Green Hanger are two options online. From the Smart Hanger website:
"The Smart Hanger is completely recyclable through the City's (Toronto) blue bin recycling program, whereas plastic and other paperboard hangers do not meet recycling standards, and along with more than 90% of wire hangers about 300 million a year end up in landfills across Canada."
It seems that both productions and individuals need to take extra care and time with the acquisition and disposal of all our materials- which we all know is difficult in the race to the next shot. But what else can we do?
I'd love to hear your suggestions for creating a sustainable costume department in the comments section below, so that my next show can add one less thing to the landfill.
With generous input from Nicole Manek, Karynah Zeh, Rachel Ford, Sue Daly, Anna Dal Farra, Sheila Pruden, Anya Taraboulsy, Adriana Fulop, Beverley Law, Peter Webster, Chris Letman Roberts, Jonathan Matthews and Kimberley Stanley.
The day before Halloween and we knew what the rest of our 2017 was going to look like. My team and I were going to camera on an action film in Toronto and many multiples of leather jackets, jeans and boots you could run-away-from-bad-guys-from were purchased. It wasn't a very creative costume design but a really terrific group of people, and I was worried about being bored as we were going to establish all the major looks in the first week of camera. Our costume department looked like a clothing store with dozens of pairs of the same jeans- though to the audience it would look like the lead would wear the same pair throughout the picture. And then the word came down that we had to return the entire clothing store. The movie had been CANCELLED.
We spent the next few days returning everything and apologizing to our vendors and costume crew. Kisses goodbye and then back home to stare at my kit strewn cross the living room floor. It wasn't likely a new project was going to come before the holiday season and I resigned myself to pajamas and the second draft of my novel. I did a closet purge, tucked the kit away into it's crevices all the while unaware of the un-suspecting plot twist the Fates were weaving for me.
Then the phone rang.
"Hey Jo. Can you get here tomorrow?" And here was Winnipeg, Manitoba- known for it's neo-classical architecture, frigid temperatures, and warm hearted crew- I was to discover. Over-stuffing suitcases with winter gear and running shoes, I arrived early Monday morning to a Victorian period piece set on Blackwell Island and a terrific director (Karen Moncreiff) and producing team (Juliette Hagopian, Howard Braunstein and Justin Kelly). Sitting in a large, empty costume room they asked me, "Can you really do this?" (Like can you really costume design a film set in 1887 with uniforms, exteriors, breakdown and no period costume house in Manitoba with a challenging budget and oh, 3 weeks to camera?) I answered with the calm smile of naivety, "Of course I can. What choice do we have?"
Geoffrey Rush's belief's in Shakespeare in Love (above), kept us vaguely sane.
My loyal assistant designer Charlene Seniuk combed Toronto rentals which were limited due to two other projects of a close time period having already pulled everything of interest and I was flown to Vancouver for a day to discover the gem of Costumes Period- a rental house specializing in Victorian costume where I thanked the costume goddesses for the available bounty and Beverley Wowchuk who owned it.
Back in Winnipeg, we worked and sewed and laughed and cursed and froze and quickly went to camera where we JUST had enough of what we needed (not that there was ever any time to acquire more) and made it work and people were happy (if not a little cold sometimes) and we didn't hold camera (too much, it WAS a Victorian film with corsets and detachable collars and lace up boots and bum pads and petticoats and shit).
Lifetime has given the green light to Nellie Bly (working title), a psychological thriller inspired by the groundbreaking 19th century journalist, with Christina Ricci (Monster), Judith Light (Transparent) and Josh Bowman (Revenge) attached to star. The film is in production for 2018 premiere on Lifetime.
Ricci plays investigative reporter Nellie Bly, who’s on a mission to expose the deplorable conditions and mistreatment of patients at the notorious Women’s Lunatic Asylum, and feigns mental illness in order to be institutionalized to report from the inside. The movie is an account of actual events surrounding Nellie’s stay beginning after she has undergone treatment, leaving her with no recollection of how she came to the asylum or her real identity.
Below is a quick compilation of some snaps from that whirlwind. Thanks Winnipeg! See you in a few hours as I'm about to return to you to wrap...
A half hour Halloween Special I got to design with my favourite people at Fresh TV and DHX for Family Channel.
Really fun to come up with a new character look for the lovely Julia Tomasone from Backstage.
A couple months late and I clue in that ROPEd won Best Historical Drama at the Atlanta Film Festival. This short film is based on Margaret Atwood's haunting poem 'Half Hung Mary'. I'm terrifically proud of the whole team and Riel Stone and Jordana Aarons for creating a project in which I could add to the historical element of the story through costume design.
20 years ago I started in the film business on a film called Breakout starring James Hong. I was fresh out of Theatre School and the astrologer I hung out with at a used bookstore introduced me to an art director who heard her film was looking for costume peeps. And somehow, though to this day I have no idea how, I got the job. I was paid $300 for a six day week and I thought I was rolling in it! The department had no knowledge of continuity, multiples or why we would have to be responsible for umbrellas, I mean, I'm a grown up and I brought an umbrella to work...
16 hour days, running my butt off chasing after actors (there were lots of kids in that pic), Macguyvering hems and I realized I LOVED it. There was no where else I wanted to be than in a parking lot beside a film set. And funny enough, even with my inexperience, they offered me to be the designer of their next film, but that's a horror story for another time.
Gearing up for TIFF 2017, which really means trying to decide what to wear to my favourite annual events such as CAFTCAD, William F. White's, DGC, The Black Ball.. Perfect time to be between contracts to see what everyone is wearing.
Really looking forward to my costume display of ROPEd to appear at the Windsor Arms for CAFTCAD Celebrates Costume Event.
Haven't decided on my ensembles yet, but with the fall weather we're experiencing already, perhaps I'll be able to wear sleeves for the first TIFF ever.
Here's the trailer for the romantic comedy I got to travel to Cape Town with last year. I rarely watch the monitor on set because after we establish the costumes I'm off preparing tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow), so it's a real joy to see the performances of the actors when it comes to the screen.
I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this fun film.
Mercury goes direct on my sun conjunct transiting Uranus- AKA An Astrological Costume Story.
My friends who know me often come to me to see when mercury is retrograde, often with a groan. Mercury rules communication and when it goes retrograde, (3 times a year for 3 weeks at a time) it is seemingly going backwards in the sky. According to astrologers, and my 20 plus years of observing it, (it was my friendship with an astrologer that really started my film career btw) it means that matters having to do with communication get muddled, twisted and lost- requiring back tracking and redos which is always supposed to bring you closer to the real truth of a situation. This last retrograde period was especially painful and culminated in the story of the perfect/imperfect sweater.
I have a character in my latest show who is described as wearing ‘tacky sweaters’ which turned into entertaining research that lead to quilting, appliqués, bedazzlement kits and genuine sunglass-needing awe. Strangely enough, the costume houses had barely any such stock as one owner said ‘You can get that stuff at Value Village’, but that in fact was not the case. They’re considered vintage now (I know, I know) and therefore off to Etsy I go.
I find one. A light pink cardigan with lace inserts circa 1989 I’d say. It speaks to me of the whole character. I can see the blouses and necklaces and pleated white trousers... Of course I order it right away. The moment I hit ‘purchase’ I realize my old production office address for shipping is listed. I email the shop owner in BC to tell her with my new address. She replies I need to update it in my profile-which I do and tell her I have done so. Great. Sweater purchased and so many other costumes to tackle until it arrives in time for my fitting.
A week later I’m in the Eaton Centre in the midst of an email-through-Kiiji bidding war over a belt (while trying to shop a character we can’t find anything for) when an email from my Mom pops up. A woman named Janet has left an urgent message on her antiquated answering machine- I think it still has the cassette tape- saying she has a package of mine and there’s a phone number that keeps disconnecting. It’s true. The number keeps disconnecting and since my number isn’t in the book (the book, haha) my Mom gets the message. I can’t seem to access my Etsy account to ask shop owner in BC where the package was sent, again, still in the horrible, noisy, snotty Eaton Centre. Totally frustrated I pay my $24 parking fee and depart with very light bags (not a good thing when actors are arriving in a week) and sit in traffic for 1.5 hours to get to the office.
Finally get on the computer machine and find out that BC Shop owner never checked the address and that the sweater did in fact go to my old office, which is not really a production office. Have to call old production coordinator and he knows a Janet there! So much closer to pefect sweater AKA Centre Piece of Entire Character Design. Janet answers, yes she has the sweater. Yes the number was wrong by one digit, but she’s going away tomorrow morning for 3 days and there’s alarms on the office and yes I could pick it up from her house which she will leave between the doors, but oh! She’s got another call and will call me back! An hour later I ring Janet again- oh she’ll still have to call me back. I text her around 8 pm of my enthusiasm for her address, and again at 6:15 am the day she’s to depart at 7.
Nothing. Sweater has now been taken hostage.
Alright. I’ll do as suggested and go off to Value Village. No fancy sweaters there or at Talize. I even try Sears. The sweater racks are actually pretty empty. But I do find lots of animal and tropical print polyester tops. I start to re-invision the character and fill my cart with the strawberry-scented-cleaning-product-they-use blouses and tops. A day later at the fitting all thoughts of summer floral appliqué sweaters are thrown out and I have a stronger costume design than previously planned for this fun character that both the actor and director really respond to. Thanks mercury retrograde. Hate you. Love you.
And here’s the missing sweater. If you see it, don’t send it my way. I don’t need it anymore.
PICS UPDATED AND MORE ADDED- See below
My good friend and costume designer Nina Okens hooked me up with the Teatro Proscenium's production of Sousatzka (opens March 23rd, 2017 in Toronto at the Elgin Theatre) to sell off some of their costume overstock. I was BOWLED away by the vintage goodies and treasures I got to spend the day with.
In generous sizes from size 6 to 16, there are so many unique pieces that have been gathered from vintage boutiques and thrift stores in Toronto and New York. Prices will be starting at half the price tag (if there is one), but bulk deals will also be made.
Labels from Ungaro, Thierry Mugler to Top Shop. Leather pants, leather pantaloons (!), kilts, African Tunics, 80's secretary blouses and their corresponding tweed skirts, sad argyle sweaters (some shows seriously need that sh*t), beaded gowns, slutty party dresses, gaudy belts, cropped leather jackets, silk jumpsuits.... I don't know how much I'm going to not be able to buy for my own collection.
THESE PHOTOS ARE ONLY A SELECTION.
There a 7 rolling racks of treasures to be worn.
There are also Men's Capezio dance sneakers with one white and one black, in sizes 12 and 13 (That's two full pairs of sneakers), White Doc Martens Men's size 6 or Women's 7, and all sorts of other unworn footwear.
There were Judy's for sale but they've been bought already.
PARKING is extremely limited!
And please bring your own BAGS. Like, we really have no bags but I'll check and see what I can pull from under my kitchen sink.
CASH ONLY unless we know you and your company cheque is recognized.
Monday March 20th, 12-4 pm, Tuesday March 21, 10-4 pm only.
158 Victoria St. Stage Door Entrance. 4th floor. You will have to sign in.
EVERYTHING MUST GO.
Please Email me with any questions.
Check out this gallery for a few more pics.
PLEASE NOTE: I have updated these and added a few more since last Thursday's post.
And my favourite part will be seeing you all there, trying on all this awesome stuff.
Since I receive dozens of such queries a year, I thought I'd write the following for everyone who ever wanted me to tell them how.
If you’re wanting to break into the costume-film industry, first look in your heart to see if there is something else you can possibly do. Hours are very long, tiring and can be quite boring, damp or even freezing if you’re on set or the truck. Shopping lines are also long, bags and bags of clothes and shoes are quite heavy, receipts and dealing with someone else’s money boggling, and parking, mind bending.
Egos and insecurities abound in complicated ways only exasperated by actresses starving themselves and producers being smashed down by network executives over budgets. Bad taste is everywhere with peculiar reasoning’s for choices that can shift from moment to moment.
Also being a purveyor of garbage- the purchasing of cheap clothes (as there’s always a budget crunch), the plastic bags and hideous tissue paper the store clerks push upon you- and knowing it’s all a major world polluter, between the waste and fabric fibres getting into our waterways and food- all this can weigh upon your environmentally friendly soul.
Of course there can be huge rewards- why else do thousands of people enter and remain in the film business? It’s the second highest employer in Toronto (or so I’ve been told). The cash is sweet, just fill your pantry when you can (when I first started I literally would take my first pay cheque and buy canned and packaged goods to sock away for the hungry times and there were many of those at first), and contribute to your RRSP’s or other investments. You might get to travel or at least see many a church basement for lunch.
If you ever wanted to join the circus and be surrounded by creative yet odd people, also a perfect lifestyle for you. Those who adored summer camp or after school drama classes where you would create new families and creative projects wherever you went, also up your alley. Getting all the elements together, seeing it well lit, and well acted by beautiful people is extremely rewarding. Telling a story and giving an audience a reason to feel or think or laugh- adding to the general consciousness of behaviour and entertainment, really quite priceless. And the clothes left over and the wardrobe sales...
Ok Jo. Nice preamble. So how do I break into the Hollywood North Biz?
Have skills. Make sure they’re visible on your resume. Can you sew, photo shop, weave pussy willows into gold, DRIVE?!
(Please tell me you can drive). How can you make yourself useful or even invaluable to a costume department? I met one assistant who volunteered at an event and helped me sweep a 10,000 foot studio with a huge smile. I remembered her later and the cute business card helped too. She also had incredible shopping bag folding and organizing skills as well as other huge talents and she’ll take over my job one day, but that’s a few decades away (maybe). Do you have an instagram page or website that shows your painting, pattern drafting, quirky adventures? Share that. Also triple check your spelling of everyone's names. The time I received an updated resume with my own name spelt wrong...
CAFTCAD is an incredible resource for costume professionals in Toronto. Through volunteering on initiatives like the Bespoke Newsletter, the Movie Wardrobe Sales or the Film Festival Party is the best way to meet other costume types who will remember you and hire you when in a crunch. Also by being a CAFTCAD member, other members post job opportunities whether it be a costume for Miss Universe Canada (true story, that awesome and much tweeted Hockey Dress? Through CAFTCAD and designed by Alex Kavanagh), or volunteer on a short film or design a low budget web series- these chances do happen. I have seen many careers expand, grow and jump due to their involvement in CAFTCAD. For reals. Other avenues would be mandy.com or craigslist- I got a period docudrama from craigslist once. Contact the Canadian Film Centre and see if you can volunteer on any of their projects- you’ll meet your future paying employers there. Sending your resume to working designers is also not a bad idea, again make sure you don’t send your costume design resume to a costume designer when you want to work for them. They just won’t hire you. And please tell me you can drive.
As for shadowing- I think it’s a tremendous idea but comes with a lot of issues on most film and tv sets. Firstly, the union wants to make sure that all positions of the department are filled by working professionals from the union (those who pay their dues and stuff) and that the ‘Shadower’ is not taking any one else’s job. And secondly and most importantly is insurance. A Production is insuring its employees, not guests or visitors. I once tried to arrange a shadowing opportunity for my employee on another show and though the wardrobe department was all for it, I would’ve had to have permission from the company. It’s also high stress on a film set and being distracted by well meaning questions can throw some people’s (me) concentration off. Perhaps non union films, commercials, print jobs would allow it but again, permission from upon high needs to be obtained. And a non disclosure agreement signed too.
And if you want to keep working and someone recommends you for a job, send them a thank you call, text, email or batch of balloons. They didn’t have to recommend their competition. Also if someone asks you to work for them but you are not available- respond and tell them thank you, but I am not available. The not returned phone calls make me not want to call them ever again.
Any more questions? Please ask in the comments below. I'm available to answer as I am also looking for a job in the film business...that is until I get a call.
Just love dressing up, dressing other people up and talking about it. A lot. And laughing too.