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A Day in the Life of a Wardrobe Volunteer

Wardrobe at SLT

Our Wardrobe business is flourishing, so we’re seeking more helping hands!

If you like variety, could this be the volunteer role for you? Not only will you be assisting on SLT shows, you’ll be helping to generate income for our wonderful theatre.

Every week (usually a Monday/Tuesday evening) we welcome visitors to the costume collection. Freelance designers, teachers, fellow amateur dramaturgs, fashion and photography students, musicians, actors and of course SLT members, looking for costumes for shows. So, if you enjoy meeting new people, this may be the volunteer role for you.

Each week, the demands of the hirers will be different. Some repeat visitors know our collection well. Others may need more support – either in finding a specific item, or more commonly, in realising their brief, and finding the right costume for each character. I really love those conversations, teasing out who or what the character is and what would be the right costume for them. Status, age, location, season, period, action? What are the other characters wearing, so it all looks good on stage? Is the design brief authentic or stylised? So, if you like thinking creatively and laterally, this could be a role for you.

We store our huge collection according to period and genre, which requires an organised and creative approach to storage solutions. When you visit us you will see tall rails, crates on shelves and some heavy costumes, so there is a physical element to the job. However, we have aids, and work as a team so we’re all safe, so please don’t be put off by that. So, if you like creating order out of chaos, this could be the role for you!

We have a really good reputation amongst designers and theatres, not just for the range of costumes, but our can-do attitude and affordable rates. Visitors usually have a very tight budget, and there’s usually some negotiation to be done – so if you’re good at negotiating, this could be a role for you.

period cosume

Interested? You may have a few further questions…

Do I need to know how to sew? No. If you can stitch a button or fix a hem, that’s great but it really isn’t essential. We have a soon-to-be reinstated Sewing Bee group who help maintain and repair costumes.

Do I need to be an expert on fashion or theatre? No. We have lots of books which are a great resource for learning more about the history of fashion. We are also very happy to share the knowledge we have accumulated over time. What you do need is a curiosity and willingness to learn. And to have the sorts of conversations outlined above so you can help source the right outfit for a character. If you enjoy history or costume dramas then that helps.

Do I need to be available every week? No, but ideally a regular commitment would be helpful, not least for you to get to know the collection and for us to be able to meet the demand from hirers. We can create a rota and look at availability on different days of the week, not just Mondays/Tuesdays. As an incentive, the Wardrobe Team receives a complimentary SLT show ticket each month.

We’re a small but perfectly-formed team, but we would love to welcome more people. We’re incredibly happy to share our knowledge of the collection with you. (Indeed, a former volunteer credits their current professional costume job to the valuable experience they gained with us!) We gain a huge sense of satisfaction from volunteering. We help customers, help the theatre keep costs down by sourcing costumes in-house and of course, bring in income. Last year, during just nine months of being open, we raised over £6500.

Please email wardrobe@southlondontheatre.co.uk if you’d like to find out more.

Jenny Bennett & Jess Osorio