From a studio owner perspective nothing seems more daunting than costume time. Sure it’s exciting to see the new season’s selections but sizing, collecting money, ordering, handling customer service encounters, dealing with backorders, receiving and distributing them can be a nightmare! As much of a hassel as it can be, it’s important to stay organized and positive. And let me add this, if you don’t utilize a customer management software that offers costume management as part of the package I would look into one. It can save all sorts of headaches.
Costumes can make or break the experience your families have with you. No matter how cute their choreography, how fun their music, if they aren’t excited to wear the costume, all is lost.
Ok, you’ve received your boxes upon boxes of costumes and you’re ready to pop them open. The anticipation of what you’ve received is almost too much to bear. Every box comes with a packing slip and packing slips are gold! You should be able to cross reference each packing slip with your order history via the company’s website to assure you have everything you ordered or are on track to receive anything that is still on it’s way. You can also call customer service to keep tabs on your order history. Most costume companies have excellent customer service if you are a calm, patient and pleasant customer. I’ve had many a problem solved with a simple “hi, how are you?” at the beginning of a call than I ever did when I call frustrated. It’s one of those “more bees with honey” scenarios people talk about.
The next few pieces of information and experiences are things we’ve done at our studio to make the process easier for us. Everyone handles their costumes different and there is no one way to do it perfectly. I can only hope what we do will help you create the perfect game plan for your studio.
We hang each and ever costume on a plastic hanger. You can get cheap hangers at your local Target or Walmart for literally nothing. I’m also sure there is some “hanger surplus” website you can get all the hangers your heart desires. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but because most costumes come stuffed into a little plastic bag it’s totally worth it. First of all it gives the costumes a chance to breath and fall back to normal. Second we wouldn’t want our families receiving this mushed bag of fabric as their first experience with their costume. And third it gives us a chance to see the costumes in person. We’d only seen them in books previously and it helps get us excited for handing them out and for recital to come!
On each hanger we adhere a white mailing label with the dancer’s name and the costume size. This helps with distribution of the costume during the always hectic costume week. It also gives us the opportunity to visit each costume individually assuring we have everything and everything is the correct size. It’s just another cross-check we’re able to add to help avoid any headaches down the road.
Costumes are a mystery to our dancers until they are revealed during costume week. We set aside a special week to invite the parents into the classroom and reveal the costumes. A model is selected and walks through the room showing off the costume while our studio director explains any alterations that might need to be done or any accessories that the costume came with. Our families also receive a packet of information that includes our recital week schedule, the show order, makeup/hair instructions, shoe/tight requirements, summer dance opportunities and fall registration dates. It’s a very exciting week for everyone. We make it a big deal and the dancers have a lot of fun with it. We get lots of requests to be models for costume week and it’s a great and rare opportunity to have the parents’ undivided attention to throw in some shameless promotion for summer classes and fall registration.
During a costume showing, all costumes for that class are being loaded on to a rack and wheeled down the hall to the office to be picked up once the showing is complete. This is my favorite part of the experience. Wheeling that rack of costumes down the hallway always solicits “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from those waiting for their turn to see their costumes! Once the parents are done with their showing they are able to pick up their dancer’s costume at the office window. This offers the perfect opportunity to visit with them one-on-one to answer any questions they have about the information they just received or visit with them about their account and what might be outstanding.
Following costume week we prepare to have any answer for any issue that may arise. Costume doesn’t fit? Here are the most common sizing issues we’ve found and our recommendations to fix them. Need a seamstress to make alterations? Here are a few moms/local tailors who can help you out, etc. After taking measurements in the fall we post a sizing chart of every dancer and ask that the parents initial that they agree with the size that associates with their child’s measurements. If there are any sizing issues when costumes are handed out it helps to have that initialed chart when talking with a disgruntled parent. A solution can usually be found after talking through the options with the parent. If a costume just plain doesn’t fit, it is possible to order a replacement. Often times by this time of year, the costume companies have surplus stock or are able to turn one out rather quickly.
In the end your sanity will be defined by the level of organization you give your costume process. It can be a very exciting and rewarding experience for both you and your dancers and parents. Make it special and give everyone something to buzz about!
What do you do that makes your costume process special? We would love to hear your tips and tricks, comment below!