Wardrobe Essentials Background Actors Should Know

MAY 25, 2020
Costumer measuring a woman for wardrobe essentials

At Central Casting, Background Actors are cast based on their look and their ability to portray a certain role. Having a variety of wardrobe options may increase your chances of getting booked and can help you become a professional Background Actor. Knowing these wardrobe essentials will set you up for success when production resumes.

Why is wardrobe important?

Think of two TV shows that take place during the same time and in the same location. It’s likely they have a distinguishable aesthetic that sets them apart from each other. For example, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are two police shows that take place in modern day New York, but each has its own unique look and feel. One of the ways films and TV shows achieve this is through wardrobe.

A production’s costumes department has a lot to think about when they’re designing and compiling clothing. Each character’s outfit needs to match their personality, fit within the look of the show, and be realistic for the setting. As a Background Actor, your wardrobe choices are a key factor in helping costumers realize their vision. The wrong outfit choice can ruin the credibility of the look production is trying to create.

How you should arrive to set

When you’re hired by Central Casting, your details will have all the information you need for your booking, including wardrobe, make-up, and hair notes. Some productions will have very specific looks for you to emulate, others may leave room for you to inject your own style, and some may provide wardrobe for you. Whatever the case, it’s important to read your details carefully to understand your role. It should go without saying, but you should arrive to set with your wardrobe clean and unwrinkled (unless otherwise stated in your details.) When instructed to bring your clothes instead of arriving camera ready, make sure they make it to set in good condition. If you have wardrobe that has holes or needs patching, now is a great time to learn basic mending skills to bring life back to some of your well-worn options.

Even when wardrobe is provided, there will likely be base items you need to bring, like specific color socks or a certain kind of shoe, and you should always wear clean and sufficient undergarments.

When working as a Stand-In, production may have wardrobe for you or ask you to bring color cover. Color cover means clothing that is similar in color and pattern to what the principal actor is wearing. This helps the crew light the scene correctly.

Knowing your sizes

Having your correct sizes is important for Casting Directors, especially when booking doubles, Stand-Ins, and when dressed by production. Let’s say you’re booked as a featured Background Actor on a period show and get to set to find out you don’t fit the costume. To avoid situations like these that can cost a show time and affect your bookability, it’s a good idea to stay up-to-date with your sizes.

Need help figuring out your measurements? We have easy to follow video tutorials on our Measurements page to get you started.

Now that you know the wardrobe essentials, you can start crafting specific looks. If you’re looking for inspiration on period styles, check out our decade guides on 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s fashion.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

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