The restoration and redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) Costume Workshop has been completed in the Company’s Stratford-upon-Avon hometown.

The RSC has the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre and the future of costume making on the historical site has been secured through a mix of public and private support.

Over 30,000 people from around the world supported the Stitch In Time fundraising campaign, alongside the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.  With gifts from other trusts, foundations, companies and individuals, £8.7 million was raised for the Costume Workshop restoration and redevelopment.

The 30-strong team of costume makers have moved back into the new workshop which has some of the best facilities for costume-making.  The redeveloped building, which includes more space and daylight, is now fit to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities to retain the costume-making skills and crafts locally. For the first time the Costume Workshop will be open to visitors where they will get a glimpse at the skills used every day to create RSC costumes, and to see the restored Grade II listed buildings that now sit alongside newly created spaces. Guided tours are expected to start in 2022.

The Costume Workshop team had to relocate for two years whilst the restoration and redevelopment took place. This involved packing and moving:

- Over 1714 reels of thread
- 7885m of stock fabric
- 3500 pairs of shoes
- 1131 magnets
- One pricing gun
- 126 paintbrushes
- Five Sheila’s Maids
- 115kg salt
- 97 hat blocks
- Two hat stretchers
- 27 fob watches
- One Sonic Jewellery Cleaner
- One swivel knife
- One power file
- One anvil pre-1950s
- 36 Mannequins
- 45 Sewing machines
- 862 square feet of stock leather
- One manual treadle machine from the 1920s
- Seven tailor’s hams
- Eight velvet boards

All items are now in the new Costume Workshop which is home to many specialist skills, and crafts including men’s and women’s costume-making, millinery and jewellery, dyeing and costume painting, costume props and footwear (see facts at the end of the release). The workshop sits opposite the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres on the site of the 1887 Memorial Theatre Scene Dock, which is now the new entrance to the building. 

Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director said: “Thank you to all who have supported the restoration and redevelopment of our Costume Workshop. The team create amazing costumes every year but were doing so in conditions that were not fit for purpose.  Costumes are integral to an actor’s performance and to them becoming the character they are to play.  As Judi Dench said, ‘no matter how much rehearsal time you have, you cannot get fully into the part until you are in costume’.

“We make, repair and recycle hundreds of costume pieces each year, which are seen by audiences around the world.  Costumes have been made on this site continuously since at least the 1940s, and the workshop now has the costume-making facilities to secure the legacy of our costume-making skills and the heritage buildings that house them.”

For more information, visit: rsc.org.uk