Wednesday, April 18, 2012


My house is so full of costumes that it’s been years since it reached critical mass!

Someone asked me recently how I find everything when it comes time to do a gig, and many others have commented on my neat and well-organized gig bags. Please believe me when I tell you that one of my greatest talents is making a mess.... over the years, I have developed a system that keeps my costume chaos at I thought I’d share a few tips with you.

I store my costumes each in their own plastic separate bag, complete with all the accessories for the costume, and a couple of CDs burned with the music I like to use with that costume. The CDs have full show sets on them, in varying lengths- so no matter what, there will always be something that I can dance to. Though some of my costumes have specific jewelry that goes along with them, I keep my jewelry separate from my costumes… so I am always trolling Forever 21 or swap meets for cheap, flashy “disposable” earrings and bracelets, which I can tuck into the costume bag itself, on the off chance that I forget to raid my jewelry box for “real” bling while packing for a gig. And, call me crazy, but I always throw in a few tampons into every costume bag!

Each gig bag I use (and there are many, believe me!) is a rolly- I absolutely hate trudging along on my way to a gig carrying a bag, so all of mine are wheelie bags. Every gig bag is stocked with a small, baby train-case or cosmetic bag bag full of bobby pins, safety pins, a brush and comb, band-aids, baby wipes, feminine protection, a toothbrush and tiny sample-sized toothpaste, finger cymbals, a pair of fishnets, a lipstick and an eyeliner ( just in case I forget my make up bag, but I swear, I never do!) and a small sewing kit. On my way out the door, I throw in a small bottle of water, and a power bar both of which I always keep on hand, specifically for gigging!

This way, I can decide what I am wearing, grab the plastic costume bag, and go…. But I always do a “dummy check” just to make double sure I have everything!

For costume storage, I categorize my costumes, not by color, but by the way I wear them... and what I wear them for. I have simplified this over the years so that it takes the guess work out of what I need for my shows.

For example, I have a whole area devoted “standard” cabaret belly dance costumes, which I wear for frequent gigs. There is also a shelf of cabaret costumes that I wear – but not quite as frequently. I also have a separate place for my specialty belly dance fusion costumes.

My class wear also has it’s own area, and I keep a fully stocked teaching/class bag complete with ballet slippers, CD’s, hip scarves, leg warmers, finger cymbals, plus a couple of extra sets for students to use, a reusable water bottle, a light sweater and a veil. My class bag is used quite a few times a week, so every time I go to the store, I throw in a few packages of trail mix or a couple of nutrition bars, packed up in a baggie into one of the outside pockets…. in case I happen to accidentally leave my class bag sitting in the car for a while, this will contain the mess!

But back to storage-- there are also shelves devoted to my burlesque costumes that, again, are packed in plastic bags, with every accessory I like to wear, and music for the specific act. In this case, I also throw in a pair of fishnets into the costume bag as well. On these shelves, I have a small plastic box with four levels of trays, and I set my pasties in these trays, side by side, so they won’t stick together with any adhesives used on them. I store my gloves sorted by length, and these go into shoeboxes near the pasties.

Extra veils, skirts, wings, fans and other garments or small props that can be used for a multitude of gigs also have their own area, and the shoes I wear for gigs are stored nearby.

Wigs and hairpieces are an integral part of many dancers’ wardrobe as well and I count mine as costume pieces! If you own some faux hair, take care of it by purchasing- and using- a wig brush and some wig spray- both available at beauty supply shops. Don’t use regular hair spray on a synthetic hairpiece, it will make it gummy and, well, yucky. Keep your hairpieces in a hairnet to prevent tangling, and store the netted wig in a small box or plastic bag, so it won’t tangle or snarl. If you have fall or wig that isn’t set in a specific style (such as dreadlocks, or a Marie Antoinette extravaganza) make sure to use a spritz of wig spray and brush the hairpiece well before putting it way, as well as when you take it out to use.

When storing my floral hair accessories or larger crowns and headpieces I usually keep them in plastic boxes that lock tightly and stack up on top of each other. I wrap my metal tiaras in acid-free tissue paper to prevent them from tarnishing, and nest as many as I can fit safely (without denting them or damaging their shape) into one of these stackable boxes too, but a sturdy shoebox would work just as well.

For the hair flowers, I clip them to postcards that I have recycled from gigs, and stick the postcards into the boxes vertically, the same way you’d put books in a bookshelf. If I have a specific flower that goes with a certain costume, I will put it in a cardboard box or old aluminum tea container, then pop it into the costume bag, so it will always be there and I won’t have to search for it.

My storage system may not work perfectly for you, but I heartily encourage you to develop your own—it makes things so much easier on hectic gig days!


  1. this post is great, taking notes!! and omg your costume closet is the magic kingdom.

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