Theatre Green Book One Toolkit – Designing and Making


23. Costumes

Design of costume for a production needs to build in sustainability , with designers and costume supervisors collaborating on ways to reduce unsustainable practice through the design of the costumes.


• Re use of costumes is a great practice and theatre costume stores, Hire companies and second hand retailers should be the first ports of call for finding costumes if a appropriate for the design.

• Theatres with costume stores should consider sharing or hiring stock to other local theatres to increase usage and sustainable value of the stored costumes.

• It should be noted that second hand shopping is not as readily refundable or exchangeable as high street shopping and that the items that are unused after fitting will need to be stored/returned to the second hand market or donated to make this sustainable. Extra time is needed to be built in for this.

• Where it is not possible to use pre used clothing consider retailers environmental policies and the fabric that the garment is made from.

• There are several trading standard certifications that may indicate good standards: GOTS, GRS, OEKO-TEX, Fairtraid (see the costume directory for an extensive list).

Making Costumes

• Where possible use recycled or sustainable fabrics.

• Look out for:

– GOTS certification

– GRS (global recycling standards)

– OEKO-Tex standards

• Use the principles of Reduce,Recycle,Repurpose, Recycle.

• Show the designer fabric from any existing stored “deadstock”.

• Consider re purposing fabric from an existing garment.

•When buying new fabric try to source from local suppliers (e.g., for Manchester: Huddersfield woollen mills, Biddle Sawyer silks in Manchester or Bennets Silks in Stockport).

• Buying from sample books, not shops, cuts travel .

• Make it known to your fabric suppliers that you are improving your sustainable practice and are keen to buy from them if they stock fabrics that are environmentally conscious and have been manufactured with ethical working practices.

• If there is an option of a washable fabric for costumes, choose that to cut down on dry cleaning.

• Keep fabric scraps for recycling, you can send to a fabric recyclers or take them to retailers such as marks and Spencer, other stories or H&m who will recycle. Encourage freelance makers to do similarly.

Sustainable Suppliers

Try and buy sustainable haberdashery and fabric, such as:

• Gutermann 100% recycled thread – plastic free sewing tools all carefully sourced with eco friendly materials and manufacturing methods. -all the fabric and haberdashery sold is either ethical sourced, environmentally friendly or both. -enviromentally friendly fabrics. -great selection of sustainable Tencel, Modal and Cupro as well as organic and OEKO-TEX certified fabric. -specialised in absorbent, stay dry and waterproof fabrics and stock bamboo and organic cotton. -Welsh based company, based in an eco friendly estate selling organic fabrics and bamboos. -100% certified organic cotton based fabrics, ethical sourced and dyed with eco-responsible low impact inks. -organic cotton and eco friendly wool. -organic fabric. -recycled fabric, haberdashery (lots of buttons!), certified organic cotton and they commit to CO2 offsetting. -organic and OEKO-TEX certified fabric. -organic, natural fabrics and raw materials. -organic fabric -eco-friendly, organic and recycled fabric. -organic cotton -organic silk and natural dyes -organic hemp fabrics -organic trims and recycled haberdashery –East London initiative that sells dead stock from design houses, saving it from landfill. -naturally dyed silk/bamboo ribbons – is an online research and sourcing tool. -A curated collection, A KIND CLOTH chooses fabrics which manufacturing processes have a low impact to the environment, and are certified accordingly – GOTS, OEKO-TEX, BCI, LENZING, ECO-VERO to name a few. -sustainable fabrics and haberdashery -animal cruelty free and polyester free fabrics as well as plastic free packaging and haberdashery. -deadstock fabrics with a small selection of recycled fabric -a well researched directory that can help to connect people to sustainable suppliers. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND HAVING A READ) – sell home compostable garment bags

Alteration to Costume Design during tech and preview

• Tech and previews are when costumes are first seen on set and in a group. Amendments to Costume design often happen at this stage.

• Major costume alterations such as remakes or rebuys made at this point are often done with the least sustainable practice due to time constraints and dwindling budget. The benefit of major changes should be weighed against the less sustainable practice necessitated to achieve these changes.

Costume Organisation

• Organising a set of costumes may include using disposable plastic garment and shoe bags. Consider using re usable cloth dress and shoe bags instead.

• If hirers send costumes in plastic garment bags , make sure to keep them and return the costumes in the same bags at the end of the run.

• Hangers: when garment hangers become broken or of no use , recycle at a dry cleaners rather than sending to landfill.

• Have a store of bags to shop with in the wardrobe dept instead of buying new ones.


• Try to wash items at 30 degrees, as it is suggested that this temperature uses 40% less energy than washing at 40 degrees. This will also reduce damage and shrinkage to the fibres which will lengthen the lifespan of the item. Use shorter cycles to reduce energy usage and protect the fabric from degradation.

• Avoid the shredding of micro plastics/fibres

– Wash items in laundry bags to catch microfibers

– Install a Filtrol or Lint LUV-R to your washing machines discharge hose.

– Use a Guppyfriend bag to wash your clothes in 

– Use a Coraball in the drum of your machine

– Don’t use a tumble dryer. Tumble dryers have been proven to increase microfiber shredding.

– When buying new washing machines, make sure they have an inbuilt filter such as XFiltra.

– Wash full loads. The less space to move around the less shredding occurs.

– Do not wash unnecessarily.

– Use Natural fibres. Natural fibres still shred micro plastics, due to processing, but at a much lower rate than synthetic.

• An extra spin, in the washing machine, will cut down drying time.

• For drying, use a drying cabinet rather than a tumble dryer. They seem to use a similar amount of energy to run, but a drying cabinet is much more gentle of clothing so is very unlikely to cause shrinkage and damage and the items will require less ironing after being dried.

• If using a tumble dryer use dryer balls to help speed up drying and naturally soften clothing. Don’t add more wet clothing mid-cycle as this will increase the drying time of everything. Dry similar fabric types together and shake clothing out before transferring. This is reduce wrinkles and make sure nothing is knotted or twisted. Try and make sure the dryer is in a well ventilated room.

• If a dehumidifier is used to aid drying, use the water collected for your steam iron.

• On all laundry equipment, make sure to clean filters, hoses and fans regularly to reduce risk of fire and improve efficiency.

• Clean machines regularly to keep them working well. For natural washing machine cleaning:

– Use distilled white vinegar to wipe around the door and seal.

– Soak drawer in hot water and scrub clean

– Spray vinegar inside machine (where you removed the drawer) and clean away any build up or mould.

– Replace drawer and add a couple of cups of vinegar

– Add baking soda/bicarbonate of soda or soda crystals into the drum and put on a hot wash (60 degrees or above)

– Open door and drawer and allow to dry (overnight if possible)

• For cleaning any other surfaces, all of the brands listed below also make environmentally friend household sprays and hand soaps etc.

Dry cleaning

• Don’t dry clean more than necessary.

• Where possible, use an o-zone treatment instead of dry cleaning.

• Send dry cleaning in a sturdy reusable bag and ask for it to be returned each time.

• Return all hangers to the dry cleaning company.

• Try and organise for your dry cleaning to be done on a day when the collection van is in your area already.

• Consider hand washing or steam cleaning or ozone treatment for garments that you would often dry clean.

• See if your dry cleaners offer wet cleaning or cleaning with Co2 solvents to avoid the more toxic perchloroethylene (PERC)

• Send dry cleaning in fabric dress bags and ask the dry cleaners to return in the same bags. Return any hangers not needed to the dry cleaners.

•Aim to improve your sustainable laundry practice show by show as you learn more by trialing new methods. Take it step by step and get input from all members of the wardrobe team.

Laundry Product Suppliers


Welsh based company with a “closed loop recycling system”. All their products are vegan, septic tank safe and made with natural ingredients that are not tested on animals. They sell household cleaners, laundry products and toiletries. You can initially buy a plastic bottle from them that has a lifetime guarantee attached and after that refills are sent through the post in concentrated pouches. By removing the water from the product (you add it at home) more of the product can be sent in each pouch (which usually holds about 4 bottles worth of concentrate) which reduces the carbon footprint of deliveries. Once the pouches are empty they can be sent back to Splosh were they will either be cleaned, refilled and sold at a discounted price or broken down within their own factories to be made into new products that they intend to sell in the future.

They are a relatively new company that is still piloting the best way to process their plastic waste. Initially all pouches that were returned to them were refilled but they soon realised that often these pouches would leak which is why they have created the “closed loop recycling system” so they deal with their plastic from start to finish. The pouches have been known to break in extreme temperatures.

The products clean very well and leave clothes fresh and stain free. You also buy directly from the manufacturer which keeps the price low.


Another UK based cleaning company. Smol are plastic free where possible and any plastic used is made from fully recyclable, 100% post consumer recycled plastic and is refillable. The cardboard used for the packaging is from Forest Stewardship Council approved forests (which means the board comes from responsibly managed forests) and the ink used for printing is vegetable based, which means they take less energy to recycle. Smol are leaping bunny accredited.

Smol technology means that they can clean just as well as other household laundry products but with fewer chemicals. Fragrance is added with ethically sourced essential oils.

The Fabric condition is 100% animal fat free and the laundry tabs are in water soluble and biodegrable pouches.

The packaging carries a hazardous to aquatic life warning (as does Splosh), but this is due to stringent EU label requirements. The product is sent out highly concentrated, which reduces the carbon footprint, which is why they must have this labelling. Once the product is diluted it is no longer classes as hazardous. This labelling is needed in case of a catastrophic/undiluted/concentrated exposure to the environment by which a large amount enters the waterway, such as in an industrial accident.

Smol is also purchased directly from the manufacturer.


Ecover is a Belgium based company of 40 years. They work to seven main beliefs-

1. Clean plastic- Ecover are working hard to close the loop by recovering and reusing as much packing as possible. They are also looking for new biodegradable materials so they can move away from plastic all together. Ecover launched a bottle in 2014 which was partially made of plastic recovered from oceans, beaches, canals and other waterways. All of the bottles are 100% recyclable.

2. Clean water- Ecover stopped using phosphates in their products in 1979! To put that into context it was only written into EU law in 2017. As well as not using phosphates in their products, Ecover keep a very close eye on their water footprint every year and work on new ways to reduce their footprint further, including researching how ingredient producing crops are grown, concentrating products and using new cleaning devices within the factory to reduce water waste during production. In 2019 Ecover launched a washing up liquid made using 25% waste ingredients from beer brewing processes in Belguim. (water & ethanol)

3. Clean design- all packaging is designed with a less is more ideal. All packaging, including dyes, are recyclable. They created a limited edition bottle that was inspired by the marine micro-organisms that are most at risk by the plastic problem. The bottle featured a distinctive hole pattern which is inspired by lightweight yet robust skeletal structures called diatoms and radiolarians. This structure creates a bottle that uses less plastic than a traditional design and is strong enough to be re-used again and again. The design even won a gold award at the 2015 German Design Awards.

4. Clean sourcing- Ecover try to source as locally as possible. If they can’t find ingredients clost to their factory in Malle, Belgium then they try to order from mainland Europe. They also order enough to fill the truck being used for delivery, reducing the number of deliveries needed. All palm oil and palm kernel oil they source is certified by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which certifies that all the suppliers plantations and processes are not contributing to deforestation. They are also looking for sustainable alternatives to sustainably reduce their need for palm oil. All suppliers must also adhere to a strict code of conduct.

5. Clean ingredients- Ecover use mainly plant based ingredients that are biodegradable. They have started to move away from palm oil due to the devastating problem of deforestation and instead they have moved towards French grown rapeseed oil, which has reduced their use of Palm oil by 200 tonnes a year. They have also cut out their use of petroleum based products after finding that a yeast present in beehives has similar surfactant properties. They then experimented and worked with leading universities and research institutes to create a patent breeding ground for the yeast. Ecover are vegan friendly and Leaping Bunny certified.

6. Clean Fragrances- all their fragrances are at least 50% naturally derived and all synthetic components biodegrade.

7. Clean manufacturing- the factory that produces their products is made from 90% recycled or renewable materials. They have a green roof that attracts local wildlife and blends into the environment. They are aiming for a zero- carbon footprint but are focusing on reducing it by using renewable energy. They also set themselves a target that by the end of 2020 that all their waste would either be recycled or composted meaning that none of their waste went to landfill. Ecover also have refill stations in local shops nationwide and sell their products in large 5 litre boxes that reduce packaging.


Originally American, now owned by Ecover but still based in Chicago. All manufacturing and bottling happens under the same green roof (it’s literally covered in greenhouses which supplies the local area with produce) and half its energy is created by a large wind turbine and sun tracking solar trees.

They follow all the same ethos’s as their parent company and are accredited by Cradle to Cradle certified. They also offering refill pouches which reduce plastic waste further. They also offset any carbon footprint they create with a financial incentives to suppliers to help they create greener practises.


This affordable, UK based, environmentally and sustainable companies credentials boast plant based ingredients, palm oil free, septic tank safe, natural and organice ingredients that are pet friendly, vegan, safe for aquatic life, cruelty free and part of Allergy UK as well as Nature Watch Foundation.

Fill Refill Co

Fill Refill Co is a family run business in Northamptonshire focusing on refillable eco laundry and household cleaning products that reduce packaging waste. Supplied in 500mL screen-printed glass bottles and jars, 10L bag-in-box, 20L post consumer recycled (PCR) refills and returnable bulk 200L (they can also do 600L & 1000L) containers that they pick up and refill for a zero-waste closed loop solution.

They are accredited by Made in Britain, 1% for the planet, Plastic free, ISO 14000 family environmental management, Allergy UK, Vegan, Sedex and they are a Living Wage member. They have also collaborated with Planet Minimal who uses electrical vehicles to deliver products using reusable containers.

Faith in Nature

Faith in Nature is a UK based company which creates vegan, cruelty free products using 100% natural products in recycled and recyclable packaging. They have a closed loop system where you can return the 5l and 20l refill bottles to them where they will be ground down and made into new bottles for them to use.


Bio D is a company based in Hull. They are accredited by Cruelty Free International, The Vegan Society, Allergy UK and they are the only green cleaning company to whose products meet commercial food preparation standards (BSEN1276). They have complete traceability on their ingredients so they can ensure that they are ethically and sustainably sourced. The bottles are made from 100% recycled materials and are recyclable and they offer refill stations.

Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation is an American company that is produced in US, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Its parent company is Unilever.

They are plant based and use essential oils for fragrance, no synthetic dyes or colours and recyclable packaging that is also made from recycled plastic. They are certified by Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO), B Corp, USDA biobased product, Leaping Bunny, FSC, Rainforest Alliance, Cotton Incorporated and Clean Well.


A Philadelphia based company that started off making cotton yarn and moved into detergent to find the best ingredients to care for their product. They claim to be the inventor of the laundry pod. They use eco-friendly ingredients, don’t test on animals and have low waste/ compostable packaging. The pod is made from a water soluble casing called Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), which dissolves upon contact with water and is consumed by microorganisms.

Well Earth Goods

Well Earth Goods is a US based company that sells a plastic free laundry detergent strip. The strips are biodegradable, vegan, made from eco friendly ingredients, plastic free and its lightweight nature reduces transportation fuel consumption and carbon emissions by 94% compared to the country’s leading brand detergents. -is an online store with a lot of variety in stock. -another online green supermarket


• Encourage strong hand and machine sewing skills to allow for lasting repairs.

• Staffing levels need to be adequate to allow for all day to day operations (dressing, laundry, paperwork, maintenance, shopping etc) as well as emergencies and repairs. If staffing levels are too low then there won’t be enough hands available and the repair will need to be done quickly and may not last, resulting in replacing costumes more frequently.

• When a costume is no longer wearable, remove all usable haberdashery to be reused and keep good sections of fabric for future repairs. Then dispose of the rest of the item appropriately (specialist fabric recycling, high street recycling schemes etc).

• Always repair before rebuying/making.

• When cutting, plan pattern/block piece placement to least amount of fabric wastage.

Disposal of Costumes

• Employ a wardrobe staff member to re distribute the costumes in an appropriate way, including;

– Returns to hirers

– Returning to stock or in house costume hire dept

– Donations to local Homeless shelters/food banks,

– Donations to organisations for interview clothes (eg Smart Works).

– Donations to am dram groups or HE Drama courses

– Donations to charity shops

– Resale to performers

– Resale to public via online stores such as eBay, Debop, Etsy etc

– Resale via dress agencies

– Take unusable remnants and garments to a recycling centre.


• Have a catch up with everyone involved about which processes have worked for everyone and how these can be improved on next time. Each production will have different requirements and challenges and need adaptions to processes.

• Try to share experiences of what has worked and what didn’t with other costume departments and freelancers.

• Get a better knowledge of issues around climate change and unsustainable practice, carbon literacy courses such as the one run by MAST are available free of charge.

• Use costume resources and associations such as

– The costume directory

– Julies Bicycle production guide

– We are Albert

– Bectu resources , webinar “can costume go green ?”

– Wardrobe chronicles


– Conscious Costume (US)