Dressing Scrooge: An Interview with Costume Director Jessie Amoroso Part Two

By Elspeth Sweatman

Ever wondered how A.C.T.’s costume and wardrobe departments maintain over 200 costumes during the course of A Christmas Carol? We met up with Costume Director Jessie Amoroso for an inside look into the life of a Carol costume.

A rack of A Christmas Carol costumes. Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.
What is the path of a costume like during the run of the show?
Everything is labeled, down to the nth degree: every sock, shoe, glove, and bonnet. Everything is also listed on a dressing list, that shows where every costume should be at any given moment, whether it’s preset, put in a dressing room, taken off onstage, taken off stage right or stage left, or put in a basket to go back to a dressing room or down to be cleaned. It also lists the costumes that are taken off stage right but need to be carried over to stage left so that the actor can put it back on later in the show. The actors who wear the big 1860s hoop skirts change out of them and become a miner or gang member, then change into a pall bearer or poor wife for the Ghost of Christmas Future sequence, and then quick-change back into the party dress. And there are also some wig changes too. So some people have four costume changes in the last twenty minutes of the show.

There are over 200 costumes in this production of A Christmas Carol. How do you clean all of those pieces?
Anything that is considered “skin layer”—socks, tights, dance pants, camisoles, bras, and t-shirts—gets washed every performance. A lot of the dresses have pit pads that are also washed on a nightly basis. Most of the costumes are dry-cleaned on a rotating schedule. If it’s only worn briefly at the top of the show, it might not get laundered until the end of the run. It just depends on how often a costume is worn.

"Bonnet Row." Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.
How do you deal with the ultimate Scrooge of the holiday season: illness?
Because winter is the time for colds and the flu, we use a lot of sanitizing spray and wipes, especially for costumes that are worn by multiple people or understudies. We want to minimize the exposure. You don’t want to put someone who is healthy in a sick person’s costume, so we try and clean them as much as possible.

What happens when a costume gets damaged?
If it’s during previews, we take care of everything because wardrobe is just getting their hands into the show. Once the show is up and running, wardrobe takes care of small things like a button or a snap coming off. If it’s something really major, Mary Montijo—our wardrobe master—will consult with us about how best to repair it. Most things can be repaired at the theater.

A.C.T.'s production of A Christmas Carol runs through December 24 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website

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