Ten Lessons Learned from Costuming Cats, the Musical (Part Two)

Lesson Two: It Takes Time to Save Money

So the director said, "unitards and legwarmers," right? First step, unitards. Easy. I decided to order the unitards from Discount Dance (http://www.discountdance.com). Luckily, we have a retail outlet for Discount Dance here in San Diego. I called them up, introduced myself, and began talking with the manager about the order...34 unitards, long-sleeved, turtleneck. She noted that we would probably have to special order more than half of them because she, nor the central warehouse, would not have them in stock. Not a problem. We would have had to special order several anyway because I was looking for colors that Discount Dance didn't normally carry (copper, pumpkin, silver, and one fluorescent orange). She took down my information, directed me to the website to get prices and colors, and said that she would check on how long a special order unitard order would take. Cool.

Over the next several days, I spent hours upon hours on the Internet searching for alternate sources for unitards. You see, I discovered the price for the style I needed was $35-40 per unitard. Even with the seven unitards that I had found in our costume stock, that still left over $1100 worth of unitards to buy. That was well out of our budgeted funds for this part of the costuming process. What I found was that Discount Dance was by far the best source for dancewear on the Internet. Nothing cheaper out there. Especially not in custom colors

San Diego Junior Theatre's Cats, the Musical: Bombalurina & Demeter rock out to "Macavity"
San Diego Junior Theatre's Cats, the Musical: Bombalurina & Demeter rock out to "Macavity"

Then, to add insult to injury, so to speak, the manager of the local retail store called back to tell me that if we custom ordered unitards, they would not be in until one week before the show-that is, the day of our costume parade. I wouldn't have time to airbrush the details onto the unitards by my deadline, and I might not even have time to airbrush them before opening night! Yikes. So, what to do? I thanked the manager for her hard work because she had worked VERY hard in helping me over the past several days; and I explained to her that I was sad that I would not be able to order the unitards. I would have to build them in our loft.

Next step...purchase fabric. Luckily, I already had planned to go to the L.A. garment district to shop for fur and some of the specialty fabrics necessary for the show. My shopping partner and I were lucky enough to find Saman-Tex, Inc., a small storefront right off of Wall and 9th in downtown Los Angeles. They helped us pick out spandex, gave us an excellent deal, and sent us on our way. As a side note, let me just say that their selection of spandex was amazing. Amazing!

When we got back to our shop in San Diego, the next step was to dig through our pattern drawers to find a unitard pattern. Done. Then, we had to make a couple of sample unitards to check the fit of this pattern on the kids. This step took so much longer than expected. Each kid ha d a little bit different torso length or groin measurement. The spandex fit each one a little differently and we had to make adjustments to the pattern. Six samples and 27 kids later, I was finally ready to cut the remaining unitards. (Luckily, I was able to use the six samples that we had made on some of the kids.)

San Diego Junior Theatre's Cats the Musical: Mungojerrie & Rumpleteaser pose for the camera.
San Diego Junior Theatre's Cats the Musical: Mungojerrie & Rumpleteaser pose for the camera.

If you think this article is long, think about it, I spent approximately one week learning that I couldn't order my unitards, one weekend shopping, and the next week sample-sizing the cast. That's two full weeks so far. The cutting and stitching process for the rest of the unitards took at least another week and a half. I'm the only full-time employee in our costume shop. The rest of our help comes from parent and community volunteers. So a job as big as this one takes time. Lots of time. Then after we had all of the unitards built, we needed to fit the to the kids one more time before I felt comfortable airbrushing them. Because of the schedule, that ended up taking another half-week.

So, all in all, you know when the unitards were completed and ready for airbrushing? The day of costume parade...the same day they would have been in from the custom order from Discount Dance. Argh! But, that said, do you know how much the unitards cost us? Less that ΒΌ of the original cost. So, we saved a LOT of money, but no time. Actually, we would have saved a little time had I decided to build the unitards from the beginning. Lesson learned. Moving on... (Oh, and by the way, I pulled three 14-hour shifts in a row and was able to get the airbrushing done in time for our first dress rehearsal! Yeah, me!)

Be sure to check out my other hubs on Costuming Cats:

And coming soon...Lesson Five: Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

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