Hannah Lobelson: Wardrobe Manager

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Hannah, 33, is wardrobe manager at Shakespeare's Globe theatre and lives with her husband Simon, an opera singer, in Maida Vale, London.

Some of my earliest memories are making dresses for my Barbie from scraps of fabric. I still love clothes and I think it’s important for someone in my profession to dress in a way that shows I know about cut, shape and colour, so after waking up at 6.30am, I make a cup of green tea, shower and take my time getting dressed. I love vintage clothes – I’m inspired by different eras. My favourite item is a Fifties dress which reminds me of Sydney, where I’m from. It’s my happy dress! For breakfast I have porridge or a boiled egg, then catch the Tube to London Bridge. I get to the Globe at 8.30am, before the other nine members of my team, so I can read my emails and plan my day.

I work at the Globe from March to October, so we have just started up again. During the season, the Globe does 13 shows a week and as wardrobe manager I’m in charge of overseeing all the costumes for the current performances – a typical, production has 80 to 100 costumes, as usually each of the 15 actors has more than one change. The five musicians and three theatre managers wear costumes too. During the morning my team wash, dry, iron and hang the clothes from the previous night’s performance – including the stockings, socks and shirts that are worn period costumes. We have two big commercial washing machines, tumble dryers and sinks, so the room gets very humid. We put ‘the beginners’ – the costumes worn first – in the dressing rooms and keep the rest around the building, as storing so many is a logistical nightmare. under the heavy

I have lunch at 1pm – I’m going through a burrito phase at the moment, but I also snack on fruit or nuts to keep my energy levels up. In the afternoons I’ll meet designers. Part of my role is to discuss with them how the actors will use the costumes. Sometimes they fly downstage from the balcony, so we have to consider where their harness will go. Or if the designer wants lots of fake blood on a white shirt, we suggest using cotton rather than silk for easier cleaning.

The stage at the Globe has a roof, but the auditorium is open so actors entering from the audience often get wet – their hems get muddy and tear. The wardrobe assistants log the details of any damage and I oversee the repairs. Because there is a big distance between the actors and audience, we are able to use invisible tricks for quick costume changes, such as poppers instead of buttons or sewing a shirt into a doublet [men’s jacket].

From April, we’re so excited to be helping with the wardrobes on Globe to Globe, where 37 international companies will present every one of Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe in a different language over six weeks. We’re also doing two ‘original practice shows’ – Richard III and Twelfth Night – where costumes are made in the same way as they were in Shakespeare’s time. Everything is made and repaired by hand, using hand-woven fabric, traditional thread and old-fashioned dye. We use rice starch on shirt collars instead of ironing. These costumes are really valuable, worth about £10,000 each.

On a premiere night, I often buy Pizza Express for the department because we’re so busy with the dress rehearsal and the first performance. I have a drink with my team then catch a taxi home and collapse into bed. On a normal night, I finish around 6pm, leaving two wardrobe assistants to help with the show. We’ll have a stir-fry for dinner or Simon and I will go and see one of his opera friends perform. We don’t get to see much of each other as Simon often works nights but that’s what it takes in this industry.

Plan B: fashion designer

If I wasn’t a wardrobe manager, I would have remained in fashion design. I trained in it and loved working as a designer, but became disillusioned as I felt that the clothes’ worth was only monetary – they didn’t have a value apart from whether they sold or not. I’ve always liked history and literature and my designs had a historical edge, so I shifted more into costume. When I moved from Australia to London my first job was on Steven Spielberg’s film Munich, and the following year I got a job at the Globe. It would be amazing to dress stars for the red carpet – I’d love to design for someone with elegance and lasting style such as Helen Mirren.


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