How To Create AMAZING Costumes on the Fly Part 1

Robert Z. Grant creating different looks with a pair of yoga pants.

Robert Z. Grant creating different looks with a pair of yoga pants.

Costuming for an improv show can be challenging. What do you bring? How can it all fit in one suitcase that’s less than 50 lbs? 
Sure, you could always do a minimalist black pants and colored shirt kind of a look. But for Broadway’s Next Hit Musical our goal is to give you a Broadway-like show and we know costumes are a big part of that.

No one puts together a better costume than Robert Z. Grant. Robert is a ridiculously talented performer, but his ability to put together a costume that nails the essence of the time period or the setting is unparalleled. He began bringing his own costume pieces because he couldn't find anything in the gig bag that would fit his atypical size (at 6’7” pants especially wouldn’t work for him).

So we've taken his ideas and split them up into two posts.

Part 1: What to Pack in Your Bag is what you should bring yourself. These will be easily packable in a rolling bag with the rest of the stuff you would need for an overnight. 

Part 2: What to Pack in the Gig Bag will be more into using more communal items that - for Broadway's Next Hit Musical anyway - we stock in our gig bag and bring with us for every show.

Part 1 What to Pack in Your Bag

In a previous blog post Co-artistic director Deb Rabbai mentioned why workshops are important in making the show stronger. And Robert was tapped to lead one specifically on costuming.

These ideas will be helpful to any improv group or theatre company looking to create many different looks on minimal budgets.

Here are some of the secrets that we use, thanks to his tips. 

Tip 1: avoid wearing black clothes onstage.

Many stages have black curtains or black walls and you become a floating head.

Tip 2: Bring stuff with you. 

There are communal clothes in our gig bag, but many of the actors also bring their own supplies. You can refer to the cheat sheets below for helpful hints.

How to create a costume on the fly:

  1. What is the world of the play? (Colonial times? Outer space? 1930s France?)
  2. What is the one thing that defines that world stylistically? (silver for space, etc)
  3. What can you use in your bag of tricks to create that shape and movement? (it doesn’t have to be that exact thing, but what can give that impression or feeling)
  4. Start with a foundation (leggings, undershirts)
  5. Move up from there. (skirts, blazers)
  6. Add fun adornments (scarves, wigs, hats)