Before you can fully design a project, you must know how many things and what types to design.

Sample piece lists are at the bottom of this page.

Some kinds of contracts pay by the costume number, so getting a count early is not only helpful to the design, but will result in more accurate negotiations.  Budget conscious projects may ask for numbers as their very first question.  “How many costumes do you see in this production?”  It is rarely self evident as every script is open to interpretation.  You may want each character to wear the same garment in three different colors so you can change the color palette to create shifting moods.

The costume shop will want numbers and a summary early in the process.  To organize your needs and the needs of others, make a preliminary Costume Plot indicating each item each character will wear.  From this plot you may quickly summarize costume types, such as 6 corsets, 4 matching security guard uniforms, 2 waiters in tail coats, 3 waiters in tuxedos.

Some items may be vague at first. It is acceptable to use descriptive fillers.  If you know a character will wear formal wear or business attire, you can include generic items before you know exactly what they will look like, for example:  2 piece business suit, business shirt, dark lace up shoes, dark socks, 4-in –hand tie, tie clip, watch, attaché case, sun glasses, short hairstyle.

Some of your design decisions will come directly from studying the costume plot and scene chart.  How will you handle multiple fast changes, dance ensembles, crowd scenes or extras?  Will they all be dressed alike, perhaps as policemen?  Will they be dressed individually, as various street vendors each hawking a different product?  How will you handle the play of unity and variation in these costumes– will each medical worker wear the same trousers, but have an individualistic smock and stethoscope decorations?

The costume plot is an excellent tool to jump- start your design or to generate questions for director meetings.   Sometimes its easier not to think about all the visual decisions you have to make.  But as you work on a list of words, your brain may whir into action to think of good ideas as you progress down the list.  Record any such ideas as they happen, and go with it!

It may be useful to create the initial piece list as an Excel file so that you may use it as a budgeting document later, and convert it to a dressing list later.  The fewer times you handle information, the faster these steps will be.

In contemporary practice, it is easy to take digital fitting photos and incorporate those into wardrobe paperwork and dressing sheets.  All people involved in the show can see what the costume is supposed to look like.  Please get in the habit of including either your rendering or your fitting photos into your paperwork.

Click to download a sample preliminary piece list. Sample Piece List Budget
I used this form to calculate source and cost of each item.

Click to download a final piece list with digital costume renderings added. Overdone Piece List I used this form for dressing sheets when fitting photos were not available.

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