Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the elaborate Broadway costumes once a show is over? Some of them actually end up in Astoria, Queens where they are collected and rented out to other performances to give them a second life. We spoke with the director of the TDF Costume Collection, Stephen Cabral, to find out how it all works and take a peek at some of their famous pieces. Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: Broadway shows don’t last forever. But some of the costumes used on stage can get a second act, thanks to a not-for-profit organisation called the TDF Costume Collection.
Cabral: We have a dress from Wicked, worn by Elphaba, as well as one of the “Mamma Mia!” jumpsuits.
Narrator: That’s Stephen Cabral, the director of the collection, which is based in Astoria, Queens. TDF accepts donations from various theatrical performances at the end of their run and rents them back out to other performances for re-use.
Cabral: We do approximately 1,000 productions a year, renting over 10,000 costumes, both here in New York City as well as nation-wide.
Narrator: They have over 80,000 items in their collection, including shoes, shirts, dresses, hats, gloves, and various other accessories.
Cabral: A lot of times when a Broadway show will eventually close, the costumes are usually retained for the tour or backup. But every once in a while, a Broadway show will say, “OK, we’re done with these clothes; you can have them.”
Narrator: TDF started back in the early ’70s, when the Metropolitan Opera moved to Lincoln Center and donated costumes from 22 shows. TDF has since expanded, offering all sorts of items donated from a variety of performances and individuals.
Cabral: Recently, we received a rather large and very exciting donation. Hollywood, Broadway fashion designer, Bob Mackie.
Narrator: Some notable pieces Mackie donated were a dress worn by Julia Louis Dreyfuss at the 1997 Emmy awards and an entire production of “The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public.”
Cabral: When the original production of “Rent” finally closed, after running for many, many years, we were very fortunate to receive all of the original costumes from the original off-Broadway production, before it moved to Broadway. We received many donations over the years from “Mamma Mia!” when “Mamma Mia!” was on Broadway. We have a dress worn by Jane Krakowski from a recent production of “She Loves Me,” some costumes worn by Patti Lupone in the revival of “Gypsy.”
Narrator: While many of the items are iconic, you won’t necessarily find something worn by big celebrities like Cher or Barbara Streisand.
Cabral: Many celebrities actually wanna hold on to their costumes, either to potentially open a museum or more likely later on in life have some sort of celebrity auction.
Narrator: Many amateur stage performances rent from TDF, but so do some TV shows and movies. Cabral: “Saturday Night Live,” when they’re filming, depending on their season and their needs, is in here sometimes every week.
Narrator: TDF costumes can be seen in this skit with Betty White. “Now all we need is a dress and some proper shoes and a little womanly allure.”
Narrator: And this skit with Justin Timberlake as Mozart.
Cabral: Both “Birdman” and “12 Years a Slave” featured costumes in the film that were rented here from the TDF Costume Collection. The only type of rental that we really don’t do is Halloween Our costumes are really not Halloween-worthy. We also try to avoid doing rentals where there is any food or beverage involved.
Narrator: Anyone can go in and explore the collection. But if you wanna try anything on, you have to fill out some paperwork first. They have mannequins you can use to check sizes and dressing rooms you can book in advance.
“Here I go!”
Narrator: Cost is based on a whole look, not per individual item.
Cabral: The other part of our pricing exists with number of weeks of performances and how large your theatre is.
Narrator: You also have to pay to have the costumes dry cleaned before returning them. Stephen says they have a green strategy in place to make sure all the items get as much use as possible. Once an item gets too ragged, it’s moved to a special area, where these types of items are in demand.
Cabral: We have a distressed section. So for productions like “Les Mis” or “Urinetown,” these are costumes that need to not look so great.
Narrator: And two or three times a year, they open up the warehouse for a special bag sale.
Cabral: You pay for that bag, you go in, and whatever you can shove into that bag and take out the door is yours.
Narrator: So no matter what condition a costume is in, there’s always a chance at an encore performance.
Cabral: We sometimes will put costumes on people and there’s nothing. Nothing changes, they’re just kind of like, “Eh.” Then you put costumes on people and it brings out a whole other personality or two. And it’s kind of fun.
“Lovely to meet you.”
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