Costumes for Beauty and the Beast on a Budget
Costuming Beauty and the Beast Doesn't Have to Cost a Fortune
I worked for almost 10 years at a costume shop that helped high schools and community theatres afford costumes for their show. I've seen lots of productions of Beauty and the Beast--some that have a costume budget of $200, some with a costume budget of $20,000. It doesn't need to cost a fortune.
Please know, more dollars in your budget will mean a more dazzling show, in most cases. This is one show that costumes can really make a difference. Well made Beauty and the Beast costumes are well worth the high price tag they come with. The reality is though, not everyone has those dollars. Does that mean you can't produce this show? No! Even rural high schools and community theatres can creatively come up with ideas that will help them produce the show on even the strictest budgets.
In this article, I"ll outline some information that will help you decide where and how to trim that costume budget.
photo by a magill
Should you buy, rent or build costumes for your production of Beauty and the Beast?
Buying: Buying costumes instead of renting can make sense. You may think that would be a lot more expensive than renting, but that may not be the case. Beauty and the Beast is difficult for places to rent. The risk of damage, organizing the show dates and cleaning and shipping times--they build a lot of costs in to cover mishaps and I don't blame them. However, most have to rent by the week, and they have to ensure that you rent at least a minimum amount. So if you have a run over a week, you could be spending $75 for the first week for chorus characters--not counting additional weeks. So if you have a long run, really consider buying what you can. If you have to combine buying with renting the main characters, be sure to call around and find out the minimum order requirements first.
Renting: Renting makes sense if you have a huge show and not a lot of volunteer help and enough money to pay for the convenience. Is it easy to rent--not necessarily, but the responsibility for a LOT of headache inducing issues is on the shoulders of your rental company. It also can be nice to work with a staff who's done the show over and over. You won't have as much control over the design process, there will only be so many choices, and little to no choice at all for the specialty characters. The main characters are hard to build for amateur seamstresses, so it's hard to get something workable if you only have inexperienced help. DO have a wardrobe supervisor to manage all of the rental issues if possible. DO read your contract carefully. Damage to these costumes could cost you a small fortune.
If you have experienced seamstresses, experienced costume volunteers, and a lot of them, or a lot of time, building could work for you. When we did our production at our own theatre we began building what was possible early. About a year and a half before the show. It took lots of time, lots of research in the script. The characters morph from hybrid objects into more object-y hybrids back to humans through the course of the show. Be careful about thinking you can rent them out again after your show if your organization doesn't have experience with this endeavor. You could easilly find out that this is a complicated, time-consuming project with a lot of variables to manage. It could work to sell some of the pieces off after you're done with them if you don't plan to do the show again.
Women's Chorus Costume Pieces
Specialty costumes aside, much money can be saved in the chorus costume category. If you look through photos of Beauty and the Beast cast pictures, you'll see that the women generally need a variety of pieces such as: peasant blouses, lace-up belts, lace-up bodices, long skirts, scarves for their waists or shoulders, and mob caps (round hats with ruffles). For the mob scene you can simply add a cape. The best thing to do is scour used clothing stores for 70's inspired hippie peasant blouses in solid colors or white or cream. Long skirts can be bought, brought in by the cast, or sewn very simply with broadcloth. You can usually find broadcloth for $2/yard at a local fabric store. Scarves can also easilly be made from 1 yard scraps. Fringe can be added as well (try Theatre House for inexpensive trim). Find other items here.
Short Sleeved full blouse for women.
Full costume for woman. Includes all pieces necessary.
Wide tall cummerbund. I'd recommend using this style sparingly and only for smaller sizes. Maybe 2-4 in the show would look balanced.
Inexpensive Fabric on eBay for Women's Skirts and Scarves
When looking to make skirts, check with your director. If they approve of ankle-length skirts for your women, you could try using 60" wide fabric instead of 45", and get two skirts for your yardage. Or, you can flip your fabric the other direction and use the length as the per-yard measurement. This beats cutting 10" or so off from the length of each piece. If you have a large chorus, those scraps add up! If you do need to trim, consider making mob caps from the leftover pieces.
Printable Costume Plots for Beauty and the Beast
- DC Theatricks
printable costume plot for beauty and the beast
- Delaware Music
created for each cast member to find their own costume, interesting point of view.
- Costume World Theatrical
- Western Nevada
includes photos and rental prices
- The Chapel Net
Also includes info for a local community production, detailed but has a lot of extra information.
Beauty and the Beast Costumes for the Men's Chorus
Saving money can be easy with your men's chorus pieces as well. Most of your men will need a peasant shirt, knickers and hat OR an ascot, vest and knickers. Adding a fluffy ascot (ruffly tie) to a regular white shirt can work well with a high stance vest (the top buttons come up high on the chest, near the collar). Basically, you should combine a "renaissance man" look with a few "colonial men" and you'll have the standard look that you see with this show--try and keep it balanced. A few fluffy floppy hats, a few tricorn hats. Again, capes can be added for the mob scene, no full change necessary.
Knickers can be easilly sewn, inexpensively purchased, or made by cutting off some old pants. Some schools have had luck asking for pants the kids have outgrown (lengthwise) or going to goodwill and finding a passle of pants for $3 each and cutting the bottoms off and inserting some elastic just below the knee.
A lot of these items could be re-used if you choose to purchase them. They'd work for a variety of either colonial shows (Amedeus, Sleepy Hollow, 1776) or medieval shows (fairy tales, Into the Woods, Robin Hood, Cinderella). I've always been really happy with the quality of the costumes from Alexanders--and I'd recommend them. The cotton knickers are incredible, but I'd steer away from anything made from silky material--it's harder to keep together through many washings.
How many people are in your production?
Footwear Options for Beauty and the Beast
Footwear can really make a difference with your show! Some shops will include some shoe items with their rentals, some won't. If you're renting, read your costume plot carefully.
Some women won't need special footwear if their skirts are long and the choreography doesn't require anything special. Regular character shoes should work fine. These are also an investment, I usually would purchase 2-4 pairs each show to build and keep up a regular stock of them at the theatre. You could also just offer to give your actors a link and suggest where they purchase them if they'd like a pair to keep.
Men can wear plain black shoes with plain black soles and use colonial shoe buckles to dress them up. Please note: The tongue of the shoe buckle faces UP towards the ankle. This is commonly mistaken. Men who require boots, like Gaston, can wear boot spats, which are much less expensive, more comfortable, and will fit ANYONE so they're also a great investment for the future.
Questions for your Rental Shop
If you choose to rent, or want to research that option, here is a list of questions you may want to ask your potential rental shop.
- Is the show available for the dates I need it? Sometimes this show rents up to two years out, so check the availability first.
- Do you rent by the week? What is the cost for additional weeks? Some charge full price, some reduce the price each subsequent week.
- Do you have a minimum order? Some places will require that you order a minimum of 50 costumes, or a minimum of a particular dollar figure.
- What is the arrival date of the costumes to our theatre? How quickly do we have to turn around the costumes? Late fees for this show could be astronomical. They're high to ensure a quick turnaround for the next production, and an error of even one day could mean hundreds of dollars.
- How many costumes do you have available for specialty chorus characters like the "Be Our Guest" scene? You'll need to know this for casting, or to alert a director who likes to make cast changes well into the production.
- What deposit do you need to hold the dates for our show? Due to high demand, most rental places will require a deposit for this show. Ask about refunds on the deposit. Some say no refunds, some offer a tiered refund based on how early the notice is you give them prior to the opening date.
- Do you offer the specialty props as well? Like the mirror and the rose? Some do, and this can save you time. Be careful though about the prices--if you have a multi week run it may end up being less expensive to build those.
- If it's a budget shop or another theatre or school that doesn't normally rent, get a DETAILED list of what they're offering. Some just offer their show as a whole, and if your characters aren't the same size as yours you'll be in a pickle. I would also strongly recommend you find a rental contract off the internet and rework it to solidify your rental arrangement. This isn't the type of property to borrow without a proper agreement signed.
- How do you calculate your damage fees, and what rules do you suggest we give our cast to avoid damages? DO NOT allow your cast to eat in these costumes. DO NOT allow students or volunteers to take them home (they will inevitably get lost or a well-meaning parent will re-do the professionally-done alterations by cutting out the excess fabric or some other horrific no-no). An industry standard is a 4x damage fee, or an "amount equal to replacement cost" fee. This could mean $200-2000+ per costume, depending on which one is ruined.
Ask a question or let me know if I missed something important.