Dresser

Dresser article illustration

Description

Dressers assist and support artists before, during and after the performance to ensure the performers costumes are in line with the artistic vision of the director and the artistic team. They ensure the costume quality, maintain, check and repair costumes and assist with quick costume changes.

Dressers typically do the following duties:

  • Collaborate with costume designers, wardrobe supervisors, and performers to understand the specific requirements and artistic vision for each production.
  • Assist with the organization, preparation, and maintenance of costumes, including sorting, cataloging, and tracking inventory.
  • Help performers with costume fittings, ensuring proper sizing, comfort, and functionality.
  • Help performers with quick costume changes during rehearsals and performances, ensuring smooth transitions and timely assistance.
  • Assist performers with dressing and undressing, paying attention to details and adhering to specific costume instructions.
  • Ensure the cleanliness and proper upkeep of costumes, including spot cleaning, ironing, and steaming as needed.
  • Assist with the laundering and care of costumes, following proper washing and drying techniques to maintain fabric integrity.
  • Collaborate with the wardrobe team to organize and maintain costume storage areas, ensuring efficient access and inventory management.
  • Assist with the coordination and distribution of costumes and accessories for each performer.
  • Stay attentive during performances to anticipate costume needs and provide assistance when required.
  • Make minor repairs and adjustments to costumes, such as sewing buttons, fixing hems, or replacing fasteners.
  • Assist with backstage operations, including costume tracking, pre-show preparations, and post-show organization.
  • Maintain clear and accurate records of costume changes, repairs, and any other relevant information.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to dresser:

principal dresser
backstage dresser
wardrobe master
wardrobe mistress

Working conditions

Dressers typically work in theater venues, production studios, or other performance spaces. They may work long hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays, to accommodate rehearsal and performance schedules. The work environment can be fast-paced and demanding, requiring quick thinking and the ability to work under pressure. Dressers often work backstage and must be prepared to handle multiple costume changes in a limited amount of time. They may be exposed to various costume materials, such as fabrics, accessories, and cosmetics. Dressers must have good communication skills and the ability to work well as part of a team.

Minimum qualifications

There are no specific educational requirements to become a dresser, although a high school diploma or equivalent is typically expected. Practical experience in theatrical productions, costume departments, or related fields is highly valued. Familiarity with costume handling, costume repairs, and basic sewing techniques is beneficial. Strong attention to detail, organizational skills, and the ability to work efficiently in a fast-paced environment are crucial. Dressers should have good communication skills and the ability to work well with performers and other members of the wardrobe team. Knowledge of different types of fabrics, costume care techniques, and stage etiquette is advantageous.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Dresser is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Dresser career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to dresser.

followspot operator
video technician
scenic painter
scenery technician
audio production technician

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of dresser. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of dresser with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

mask maker
puppet designer
video designer
technical director
clothing development manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of dresser.

  • Standard sizing systems for clothing: Standard sizing systems for clothing developed by different countries. Differences among the systems and standards of different countries, the development of the systems according to the evolution of the shape of the human body and their usage in the clothing industry.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of dresser.

  • Work ergonomically: Apply ergonomy principles in the organisation of the workplace while manually handling equipment and materials.
  • Understand artistic concepts: Interpret an artist’s explanation or demonstration of their artistic concepts, inceptions and processes and strive to share their vision.
  • Safeguard artistic quality of performance: Observe the show, anticipate and react to possible technical problems, ensuring optimal artistic quality.
  • Work safely with machines: Check and safely operate machines and equipment required for your work according to manuals and instructions.
  • Use personal protection equipment: Make use of protection equipment according to training, instruction and manuals. Inspect the equipment and use it consistently.
  • Adapt to artists’ creative demands: Work with artists, striving to understand the creative vision and adapting to it. Make full use of your talents and skills to reach the best possible result.
  • Prepare personal work environment: Correct settings or positions for your working instruments and adjust them before starting operations.
  • Translate artistic concepts to technical designs: Cooperate with the artistic team in order to facilitate the transition from the creative vision and its artistic concepts to a technical design.
  • Perform costume changeovers: Perform quick costume changeovers during rehearsals and live performances.
  • Manage personal professional development: Take responsibility for lifelong learning and continuous professional development. Engage in learning to support and update professional competence. Identify priority areas for professional development based on reflection about own practice and through contact with peers and stakeholders.
  • Work with respect for own safety: Apply the safety rules according to training and instruction and based on a solid understanding of the prevention measures and risks to your own personal health and safety.
  • Dress actors: Dress performing artists.
  • Preset costumes: Make sure the costumes are set in place for the performers before the performance.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of dresser. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of dresser. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Manage consumables stock: Manage and monitor consumables stock to ensure that the production demands and deadlines can be met at all times.
  • Prevent fire in a performance environment: Take steps to prevent fire in a performance environment. Make sure the space complies with fire safety rules, with sprinklers and fire extinguishers installed where necessary. Make sure staff are aware of fire prevention measures.
  • Wash costumes: Make sure that costumes are clean and ready for use when required. Take care to preserve the costumes in good condition as long as possible.
  • Advise client on technical possibilities: Recommend technical solutions, including systems, to the client within the framework of a project.
  • Work safely with chemicals: Take the necessary precautions for storing, using and disposing chemical products.
  • Keep personal administration: File and organise personal administration documents comprehensively.
  • Promote yourself: Market one’s own strengths in terms of skills and knowledge.
  • Work safely with mobile electrical systems under supervision: Take the necessary precautions while providing temporary power distribution for performance and art facility purposes under supervision.
  • Develop professional network: Reach out to and meet up with people in a professional context. Find common ground and use your contacts for mutual benefit. Keep track of the people in your personal professional network and stay up to date on their activities.
  • Document your own practice: Documenting your own work practice for different purposes like assessment, time management, job application etc.
  • Maintain costumes: Collect, check, maintain and repair costumes.

ISCO group and title

3435 – Other artistic and cultural associate professionals


References
  1. Dresser – ESCO
  2. A Job Description of a Dresser – Career Trend
  3. Featured image: Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash
Last updated on July 10, 2023

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