With an insurgence of modern musicals with insane quick changes, costumers are having to quick rig costumes to be changed at the speed of sound. How are these impossible changes made easier by those creating the costumes? Here is a list of five quick change costuming tricks I have picked up while working in shops.
(Warning: this may ruin some stage magic for non-costumers. Read at your own risk)
1. False Layers
Some quick changes need to happen at the speed of light, but the costume design requires layers and layers of clothing. How do we remedy this? The answer is false layering. Creating a "shirt" that contains a man's tuxedo shirt, waistcoat, and bow tie is one of the easier layers to visualize. I have made countless of these getups for shows including my most recent project Young Frankenstein. It can be a little tricky to understand this concept so take a gander at this beautiful example from the 68th Tony Awards.
Each year inventive costumers find a new use for something. In the recent past costumers have made a sewable magnet tape that can be sewn into costumes to make them easier to change quickly. This technique can be seen in the number "Oh My God" from Legally Blonde: The Musical. In more recent years costumers and wig technicians have created magnetic wigs and other items for these lightning fast changes. Just make sure your actors do not have pacemakers and/or the set is not completely made out of magnetic metals. This could cause disaster!
An example of a magnetic wig (again from the 68th Tonys) can be seen in many of the wigs designed for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. (Read the full article from the NY Times here)
3. "Quick Change" dresses
These are more of a stage gimmick than a time saver as the dress has to be rigged each night with invisible thread. That being said, it is beautiful and magical when done well. The concept is pretty straight forward; a dress pieced together in such a way with invisible threat that when broken changes into a different costume. These can be as elaborate as seven changes in a quick change artist performance, or as simple as one change as in Cinderella's ballgown reveal.
4. Under Dressing
A trick as old as time. Simply wear one costume under the other. This works best if the first costume is bigger and more bulky than the second. For example a suit and tie under a priest's garb or a mini skirt and tank top under a nightgown. It can be done with other items (ie: pants under pants) but takes some tweaking and coordination.
5. Velcro and Snaps
These are very similar to the above mentioned magnets. They replace the buttons or zippers found in shirts and pants to make the dressing and undressing of an actor easier. The only draw back is unlike magnets they take more force to close. Velcro can also make a racket if quick changing in an intimate theatre like a black box.