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Body image thoughts and performers go together like peanut butter and jelly. In an image-driven profession, where not only are you being seen, but also dressed, it can be hard to feel comfortable being in your healthy body. While I do see the industry starting to change in accepting more people in their natural body size (still a long way to go, but there is movement!), we do still have to be fit for costumes. That can bring up a lot of anxiety for performers with body image concerns. 


I had a conversation with a local costume designer to make sure my thoughts on this were correct, and she gave me even more ideas! So let’s talk about how you can work with your costumer to protect your mental health, and look amazing on stage!

This Dietitian’s top tips for costuming:

My number one thing would be having a conversation with your costumer, and director, up-front, at the beginning of the rehearsal process. You can explain in whatever way feels comfortable to you, that you don’t want to be body-shamed, or hear the numbers of your sizing, and how it will affect your mental health. 




If your costumes don’t fit, or you are so anxious you can’t perform well, no one will be happy. So have those conversations early so you can be supported. This can look like asking the costumer to not say your measurements out-loud, and not let you see them written. Be up-front about any potential weight/size changes. We are all human – they want you to be comfortable, and they know that sizes can change. They won’t care as long as you are honest – they WILL care if you don’t disclose and they have to make major alterations later! 


Don’t be afraid of your size changing if that is what your body needs. If you are in recovery from an eating disorder (or other conditions) and finally fueling your body appropriately (yay!) you may be gaining weight to get to a healthier state. This is good! Don’t compromise your recovery to fit a too-small costume. Clothes can be altered, it’s your health that matters. My friend said that costumes can be made with stretchier fabric or made to let in/out if they have advance notice. There is a lot of great technology in fabrics now that can really work in your favor. 


A story she did tell me was about an actress who always came to fittings starved for a few days because she was so scared to be in a larger size. But she would eat before performances, and then the costumes were uncomfortably tight. This made both of them frustrated.

talk to your costume designers please

No one knows your size besides the costume crew, and they don’t care. They don’t go home at night ruminating on your size. Seriously. Let yourself be comfortable and avoid wardrobe malfunctions.


Another thing that is hard when you don’t want to know numbers is size cards. While I don’t have a great way to avoid this (if anyone does, please leave a comment!), I can say that the numbers are just there so that you have comfortable costumes. That’s it. For many projects they need to start finding costumes before you arrive, so having honest sizing/measurements is important so you are not squeezing into/drowning in the clothes they have on-set.


Numbers are just numbers. They are not a measure of your worth, your talent, your amazing-ness. You deserve to have an amazing bespoke wardrobe on set/stage. Focus on your craft, and let the costumers focus on theirs. The results are so worth it.


Comment below if you’ve experienced talking to the costume crew in a way that helped, so that others can have encouragement to do the same. 


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talk to your costume designers please
costumers want you to look great and do well
How to handle costume fittings when struggling with body image