Organization: ‘Wicked’ wardrobe master’s closet tips

John-John Williams IV
The Baltimore Sun
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Want to give your closet and wardrobe a wicked update?

Cynthia Lancaster, the wardrobe supervisor for the touring production of “Wicked,” has got the goods.

With more than a decade working with various traveling productions, Lancaster has picked up a myriad of tips, tricks and do-it-yourself hacks that will help you arrange and pack like a professional — and make the most of your wardrobe.

For Lancaster, it all starts with organization, which is the key to achieving the quick changes and chaotic pace necessary to keep track of the 993 costume pieces required for the production. “We try to be very organized and detail-oriented,” said Lancaster. “It actually makes our job easier if we are. It’s really so much easier to be organized and to know where each thing is.”

To re-create this same efficiency at home, Lancaster suggests a recurring review of the garments in your closet. “Sometimes — especially at home — you forget about what’s in the back of your closet and you don’t really know what you have in there,” she said. “When you go through everything and pick what you use, and you know exactly what’s there, you can pick and choose what to wear.”

Lancaster uses various hanging closet organizers to hold smaller accessories, as well as baskets for shoes, shelves for hats and heavy metal hangers for garments that can weigh up to 16 pounds — as is the case with Glinda’s bubble dress.

Garments are all hung on hangers in the same direction so that “we have a real clear knowledge of exactly what’s there,” she said.

With the average cost of dressing each ensemble actor at about $45,000, and a number of garments in the show priced at more than $10,000 — Glinda’s bubble dress is a whopping $16,000 — the production has invested in dress shields, or “pit pads,” which block sweat and deodorants from damaging the pricey fabrics.

This trick can also be applied to your average wardrobe, according to Lancaster. “If you did that at home, especially with expensive clothes or clothes that need dry cleaning, you’d save a lot of money,” she said.

Making the fit of a garment a priority will elevate your wardrobe, according to Lancaster. For example, when garments are slightly too large for an actor, Lancaster simply adds a piece of elastic to the inside of the piece. The elastic helps to gather the fabric, which gives the clothes a more tailored look, she said.

Hemming a pair of pants or taking in a sleeve that’s too big will make a huge difference, she said. “It will look fitted,” Lancaster said. “And that’s what you want your clothes to look like.”

After 12 years working on a number of traveling productions, Lancaster can now get the nearly 1,0000 wardrobe pieces for “Wicked” packed and ready to travel in about 45 minutes.

“That’s because every piece is in its place hanging and ready to go at the end of the show,” she said.

Lancaster even applies her organizing skills from work for her own travels.

“I can get my hotel room packed in about an hour and a half,” she said in reference to packing up all her belongings from an extended stay during the tour. “It’s longer than it takes me to do the show. That’s because I travel with too much junk.”

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