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10 Costume Designer Tools For A Long Lasting Wardrobe

by Sica Schmitz | Posted on March 24 2017

Before creating Bead & Reel I spent many years working in film and television in the costume department of productions from indie films like Safety Not Guaranteed to popular shows like Castle. It was this career in costumes that taught me about storytelling through clothing and ignited my passion for helping others harness the power of what we wear to shape and share who we are, a theme that has carried over heavily into my work in sustainable fashion.

Bead & Reel has been my (very) full time job since it opened in 2014, however, I was recently offered an opportunity I couldn't pass up to work on an exciting tv pilot. I can't say much about it, but will let Deadline give you a few clues, if you're interested. 

Costume Design Tools

Being back in the costume department has reminded me just how much work goes into the seemingly effortless looks we watch our favorite characters wear. Personal shoppers, multiple rounds of fittings, custom alterations and dying, and a designated person to fix every wrinkle or piece of link on an actor throughout the day are all standards parts of any character's wardrobe.

While most of us may not have an entire department of skilled people offering these services for us, there are some tools of the trade that everyone has access to which will allow your wardrobe to have its longest, happiest, most useful life. I'm sharing the things I use (with links to the exact brands I prefer, though, there are plenty of other options out there!). I realize that many of these are not specifically eco-friendly, however, these tools will help extend the life and wearability of your closet, and there's definitely something to be said for not having to buy more or toss out what you already have. 

Costume Designer Tools

Top Stick

This is an industry essential, and something I use personally all the time as well. Whether I want to keep bra straps in place, make a wrap front a little less scandalous, or perfect my LTP's tie, this discreet double sided tape is wonderful at keeping clothes where you want them. I've even used this to make a makeshift hem on dresses or pants (until I have the time to sew a proper one, of course!)!

Lint Roller

If you have pets, or wear a lot of dark colors, or wear a lot of light colors, or basically wear clothing in general, it's pretty likely you will pick up stray hairs and lint and other contrasting particles at some point (or all the time, if you're me). A quick roll of the lint brush will quickly get your clothes back to their original state of beauty.

Instant Shine Sponge

A quick shine can do wonders for keeping your leather and vegan leather goods looking new and fresh. This sponge doesn't have any polish in it, so it's more of a sweep and buff and works on any color. 

Instant Shine Polish

And in case your shoes need a little more help than the sponge offers, this is a fool-proof way to make sure your shoes keep their luster. It has a built-in sponge and polish and is available in a variety of colors. I actually just used this polish yesterday on a pair of shoes I've had for 10 years, and it absolutely transformed them from ratty no-longer-really-black oxfords to sleek black oxfords I could proudly wear outside. 


I honestly don't know how people survived before steamers existed. It's easier than ironing (plus more fun) and keeps your clothing always looking so fresh. I have a large industrial steamer (for regular photoshoots) along with this small handheld steamer (for everyday use or travel). I'm currently on my 3rd one after losing them over the years and hope to hold onto this one for a while. 

Pro Tip: the best way to steam a garment is to put the steamer inside of it, with the steam facing towards you. Pull on the hem to keep the fabric smooth and taut, and run the steamer in smooth strokes up and down. And don't forget hidden creases on the arms and sides!

10 Tips from a Costume Designer

Stain Remover

Life happens, but your clothing doesn't have to pay the price. The key to preventing stains is quickness, so I keep wipes, sticks, and my favorite non-toxic leave-on stain remover handy for just such occassions. I've used these for everything from removing dirt off a white dress to getting blood out of khakis (after a director cut his finger!).

Non Slip Shoe Grip

Your shoes shouldn't frighten you. If your favorite heels or everyday boots leave you slipping across various surfaces or aren't safe in the rain, just stick these on the bottom of your soles and it will significantly increase their traction. I have really slick metal stairs in my loft and these have saved me a time or two!

Halter Foot Cushion

Your shoes also shouldn't hurt you! A foot halter adds extra padding to the ball of your foot, which is especially helpful for high heels (or sensitive feet). However this should be a short-term fix. In the end, I really do recommend buying actually comfortable shoes (which, Bead & Reel happens to sell quite a lot of!). 

Sweater Wash Bag

I really hate dry cleaning. Not only is it bad for our clothes, skin, and environment, but it's expensive and time consuming (my preferred dry cleaner is 20 minutes away, so that's 40 minutes of driving for a few pieces of clean clothes!). For many of my Hand Wash Only or Dry Clean Only items, I put them in a mesh wash bag through a gentle cycle, though of course I could never officially advise you to disregard the care instructions. I use a gentle, non-toxic detergent and now have to dry clean almost nothing.

Vodka Spray

There are lots of reasons you may not want to wash or even dry clean something: perhaps the fabric is complicated, perhaps you don't have the time/desire, or maybe it just needs a quick refresh and not a full cleanse. That's where the vodka spray comes in. Mix 1 part water with 1 part (cheap, unless you're feeling really fancy) vodka in a spray bottle, spritz the offending garment, and let it dry (overnight is best, but a few hours will work in a pinch). Keep the mist light and gentle, a little goes a long way (and now you know why I always keep vodka in the mini fridge of a costume trailer!). Sica Schmitz


  • Blythe: October 06, 2017

    Thanks for this useful article! I’d like to swap my old school iron for a steamer? Any recommendations as to which small handheld steamer I should buy for everyday use? I’ve seen gimmicky-looking ones at mall stands that are expensive and I’m hoping I can just find a more affordable but solid one elsewhere. Any suggestions would be most appreciated!

  • Derek McDoogle: September 23, 2017

    Keeping wipes, sticks, and leave-on stain Keeping wipes, sticks, and leave-on stain remover with you would definitely be a great idea. I will tell my daughter about this when she gets home later tonight. She will be happy to learn more clothing care ideas so her clothes will last longer. I can’t wait to try these on my own clothes too!

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