Call them wardrobe mistresses...wardrobe masters...wardrobe supervisors. The name hardly defines the enormous scope of work this job encompasses.
During the course of filming a movie, the wardrobe supervisor is responsible for all costumes, from the tiniest earring to something like an enormous train trailing off a Vampire's cape. A gorilla suit. Space garb. And everything in between. The job includes the wardrobe personnel working on the project. The individual in this key position makes certain every character is fully equipped, even assigning dressers who work closely with the film's stars and featured players.
In consultation with the production manager, stage manager and frequently with the director, the wardrobe supervisor determines when and how costume changes are made in coordination with the clothing and activities called for by the script. The current script, that is.
Frequently, last minute changes occur. And when they do, this information must be immediately conveyed to everyone involved because it's essential that everything in a previous scene matches up with the new footage to be shot. Most times it does. But sometimes it's a toss-up. As in the case of the airborne jacket.
A well-respected wardrobe supervisor we know was working on a film that included a scene involving a young man entering a grocery store. The previous day, the decision was made for the actor to continue wearing a leather jacket he'd been seen in up to that point. It called for him to have it on once he was inside the store. Unfortunately, the dresser assigned to this actor hadn't noted the updated change in the day's script whose prior day's instructions stipulated "no jacket".
Luckily, the wardrobe mistress was on set and by some miracle, had the jacket in her hand. Because through her headphones, the director was yelling "is he wearing the #***###%% jacket or not"? Consummate professionals, both the wardrobe supervisor and the actor reacted immediately. As he strolled toward the door off-camera, the actor held out his arms to the wardrobe gal's leather jacket Hail Mary pass. Lo and behold he caught it, managed to don it and arrived inside the grocery store set properly garbed.
The scenes matched. The Director's blood pressure level returned to normal. Life was good.
Sometimes the Wardrobe Supervisor or person-in-charge-of-wardrobe can miss the mark. Such was the case when the usually very together personal assistant to one of the world's greatest concert pianists left his formal shirts behind in his prestige Chicago hotel suite. They were checked out and in flight to Boston when the oversight was discovered by the personal assistant's sister-in-law. An executive with a major cosmetic company, she was reviewing the hotel's accommodations in advance of a major event at the same hotel.
The oversight would never have come to light save for the fact that both personal assistant and corporate exec shared the same last name. The hotel representative noted this while she and Ms.
Exec were touring the concert pianist's former suite. That's when they saw the package of newly laundered and starched formal shirts resting comfortably on a sofa.
Now you must know that a concert pianist's job is---contrary to what you may think---very athletic. Therefore requiring shirts to be custom made to allow "give" across the shoulders so the artist can comfortably reach the entire keyboard. It would be impossible to duplicate them by the next night's performance in Boston.
Never one to let down a family member or a fellow professional, the corporate exec tucked the shirts into her luggage and detoured to Boston, arriving just in time for the Maestro's sold-out performance, She was, of course, rewarded with a front row center seat.