How-To: Master the Quick Costume Change

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We Rockettes know a thing or two about changing costumes quickly in between numbers (after all, we have eight costume changes during the Christmas Spectacular, with 78 seconds being the shortest time period!). While keeping track of your character and tap shoes, headpieces, tights and costumes can be a bit overwhelming, a single second is more time than you think—all you need for a quick costume change is an extra pair of hands, backstage choreography, focus and this go-to guide that’ll keep you organized and in control:

Be organized:

  • Scope out a spot in your dressing room or other nearby location to make your lightning-fast costume change. Choose an area that’s not too close to others, that way you don’t have to worry about grabbing each other’s costumes by mistake.
  • Plan where you’ll meet up with your helping hands when exiting from your first number.
  • Tell fellow performers or other important individuals where you’ll be changing so they know how to stay out of your way or where to find you.
  • Decide which parts of the change you can or should do yourself and which can be done for you. Only use others when you don’t have the hands to do something yourself. Too much help can potentially slow you down.
  • If you can, practice the costume switch and look for ways to save seconds.
  • Make sure all your stuff is laid out the way you need it before the hustle and bustle begins.

Stay in control:

  • Be careful and aware as you fly backstage to your changing area. It’s a dangerous place to be out of control and moving at top speed.
  • Take whatever you can off while you’re walking.
  • Have a basket handy so that discarded costume pieces don’t get lost. (In the Christmas Spectacular, 180 laundry baskets are used per show to hold and carry the cast’s shoes, laundry and costumes!)
  • Whatever happens, keep your cool. Focus. Remind yourself you’ve got time. Breathe.
  • Sometimes extra hands don’t need to be on the clothes but on you. Have a helper stand behind you with their hands on your waist or hips to steady you as you rush to put on tights or pull on a leotard.
  • Shake your head to be sure your hair is secured and do a quick check that all is as it should be before going on stage.
  • Be kind to your dressers. Say please and thank you.

Save time:

  • Plan to layer costume pieces if you can.
  • Wear a nude bodysuit or body tights under everything if you prefer modesty.
  • Use slip-on shoes instead of tied styles if possible.
  • Start with everything untied, unclipped, unbuttoned or unzipped.
  • For multiple quick changes, number your costume or garment bags in order of appearance.
  • For closures, use hooks, snaps or zippers … anything but safety pins or buttons.
  • Remember that hair or makeup changes can happen while you’re putting on shoes.