WHAT’S IN A COSTUME DESIGNER’S KIT? 10 Tools To Fix ANY Wardrobe Disaster

I am a handmaiden to assholes. I fix "wardrobe malfunctions" for a living. You can fix your own clothing catastrophes with these 10 items from my kit. BONUS: All but one are under $20!

Aug 8, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

You may not realize it, but all those TV actors I dress don’t just look good in their clothes without a lot of help. There are some heavy duty power tools at work behind the scenes. You name the wardrobe malfunction, I’ve got a solution for it. 

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I had to brush this bear’s hair with a special boar's hair bristle brush I keep in my kit. Kinda kinky.

When we are filming, time is money, and nobody wants to wait for me to repair a garment that's been damaged. The people I work for are a high-strung bunch, and I am really just a handmaiden to assholes.

I've yet to meet a wardrobe problem I didn't have a quick fix for. I therefore live in complete terror of the day that I don't have the answer, because you know of course it's coming.

I have a storage unit the size of a studio apartment full of wardrobe supplies that I drag with me from show to show. It’s a literal albatross, but I absolutely could not do my job without every last bit of my gear.

I own 24 rolling racks, 3 clothes steamers, 2 sewing machines, 5,000 buttons, an extreme amount of feathers and ribbons, 6 bins of spray paint, 3 gallons of fake blood, tons of aging supplies and every color of dye you can imagine.

My wardrobe kit is easily worth $10,000, and I rent it out to every show I design. I could write 15 paragraphs about just how much junk it takes to maintain the clothes on a sitcom. Instead, I'm going to tell you how to solve almost any personal clothing catastrophe with these 10 items I cherry-picked for you from my kit.

1) Leather punch:

This is the single most useful tool you can own. It lets you easily punch extra holes in belts, shoes and purse straps. I've even opened a beer with mine. Those of you who are DIY-ing your belt holes with a hammer and nail or a BBQ skewer are just asking to be grievously maimed. 

2) Top Stick: 

This is the ORIGINAL double stick tape. Accept no imitations! Top Stick is what successfully kept J. Lo’s Versace dress rated PG 13 at the Grammys way back in 2000.

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Top Stick's official intended use is to hold toupees on bald men's heads! It's made with medical grade adhesive, so you can stick it to your tits without ripping off your skin. I use it to keep bra straps in place, prevent belts from flopping loose, repair ripped hems on the fly, or fix the lining of my handbag. Anything that won't stay in place can be tamed with a piece of Top Stick.

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Top Stick toupee tape, $5.88, 50 pcs.

I don't think I've properly hemmed a pair of pants at work in at least 5 years. I just fold and stick hems into place. (It's just a dumb television show, nobody is looking all that closely anyway.)

3) Pre-threaded needles:

Every girl needs to teach herself how to sew on a button. But threading a needle is a total waste of time. I use pre-threaded needles as often as possible, because what I don't need in my life is the tedious agony of trying to thread a needle in an emergency situation.

It's always when you are already late to an event that your dude pops a button off of his shirt and stands there looking at you like a Neanderthal. A pre-threaded needle is total emancipation from squinting into the eye of a needle like a cross-eyed wombat.

If you don't mind a little needle threading, then buy yourself a rainbow braid! You'll always have the right color of thread in the perfect length, hot and ready to go.

4) Wrinkle Free: 

What if someone made an iron in a can? They have, and it's called Wrinkle Free.

It works best on silky polyester type fabrics. You simply spray it on at close range and wipe the wrinkles away with your fingertips. It works.

5) Static Guard: 

This is one of the most used items in my kit. Clingy clothes are about as fun as clingy people.

I use Static Guard when wearing layered clothes that love to stick to each other. I also spray my tights before putting a skirt on over them. The hair department on my last show taught me to spray a little Static Guard on my hairbrush to fight flyaways. In the winter, I spray the inside of my hat before putting it on to avoid static-y hat head later.

In a pinch, you can also use with a big squirt of regular old hairspray to fight static cling.

6) A black Sharpie:

This is another of the most useful items in my kit. I use it to touch up scuffs on black bags and shoes. It's also great for covering up bleach stains on clothes, but you may not have this problem. I'm always spontaneously deciding to clean the bathroom in my good going-out clothes.

Recently, I colored in all the grommets on a dress that were way too bright with a Sharpie. I keep 48 colors of Sharpies in my kit to match any garment. You could probably make do with 12:

The link to buy these helpfully points out that Sharpies are gluten free, and do not contain dairy, egg, peanuts or soy! 

7) Dryel:

I once got a soul-crushing amount of bright red lipstick out of a white Gucci blouse in front of a live studio audience with the brilliant Dryel-on-the-go stain remover. 

What network exec in their right mind hugs an actor in the middle of a taping and smears lipstick all over their costume? It costs about $1,000 per minute while camera is held and everyone waits for me to fix it.

The trick to really making it work (that they don't tell you on the package) is to pad the back of the garment behind the stain with a handful of paper towels as you apply. This thing is straight dry cleaning fluid in a pen. I have a dozen of them all over my house. 

8) Handy steamer:

I don't own an iron. I steam everything. This Jiffy E-Steam is the baby version of their full-size stand up steamer, and it is all the steam you could ever need. Any time I travel for a wedding of a close friend or family member, I shove mine into my suitcase. Nobody ever thinks about how wrinkled their clothes get while packed!

The one time I forgot to bring it, my dude pulled his horrifically crumpled suit out of his bag an hour before my cousin's wedding. I spent the next 40 minutes painfully coaxing it back to life with the hotel room iron, and ended up having to leave for the ceremony with wet hair.

To extend the life of any steamer you own, make sure to use only distilled water in it. This helps avoid mineral deposits from crusting up the steamer and then spitting themselves out onto your clothes.

9) Safety pins:

If you took the time to dump a handful of safety pins in the bottom of every purse you own right now, you'd pretty much be saving your own life.

At almost every fancy party I've ever been to (including my own prom) someone's dress strap has broken, necessitating a safety pin.

I use them as fasteners for everything. I turn my paperwork in held together with safety pins. I've pinned up lost dog flyers using safety pins. I use them as decoration on various garments and to groovily repair torn shirts. My favorite look is to pin a swanky charm that long ago lost its chain onto a jean jacket with a lowly safety pin.

Since I wear a ton of black clothes, I have a pretty big crush on these fancy black safety pins:

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Blk 2" safety pins, 50/$8.50.

The #3 size pins shown above are my go to ones, but the slightly smaller #1 size pins are equally as useful. 

10) Moleskin:

If your new shoes are rubbing your feet raw, invest in a roll of Moleskin.

You can cut it to fit any area that needs padding. I use it to cushion the heels of my ballet flats where they dig into my ankles and to line rings that are too big for my fingers to make them stay on.

All of these items are also available at my favorite store on earth, Manhattan Wardrobe Supply. It's a wormhole of costume and clothing supplies you never knew you needed. Peruse at your own peril.

Tell me your clothing disaster stories here, I love them. They make me sweaty and sick to my guts with anxiety, but I love them. You can also ask me about any problems I didn't cover! I'll always answer. I love you guys, you make my life better.

(I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison