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Become the Expert
Inventory Fundamentals - Lesson 2
Recognize what you have

Note for this exercise you will need a way to take photos (your phone, a camera, etc) and transfer them to your computer.  I would also be helpful to be able to print out the worksheets, fill them in and scan (or take a picture with your phone) to send them in with your Exercise.

     An inventory of costumes, props, or equipment in your theatre is only as good as the data that is entered.  It is good to spend some time to learn about costumes, props and sets, lighting and sound equipment.  The more practice you have in describing the costumes and props/sets the better you will be at looking at a garment or prop/set piece and recognizing what you have.  If you don't know the difference between a blazer and a pea coat or the difference between an arm chair and a Queen Ann chair you will not be as good at placing these items in a production or answering questions from people wanting to rent your costumes and props.
1.  Descriptive Terms:


    Each item (Costume, Prop, etc) in the database can be described by many different terms.  The more ways you can describe an item - the more ways you can search for items and the more useful your data will be to you and others.

    Each type of item (costumes, props, equipment, etc.) will have it’s own set of descriptive terms.   Here are few to learn:


    Costume Type (Dress, Shirt, Pants, etc)
    Category (Categories can be set up for Military, Holiday, Fantasy, etc.)
    Design Style (Formal, Casual, etc)
    Pattern (Checks, Plaid, Floral, etc)
    Time Period
    Special Effects    (Distressed, blood, electric lights, etc)
    Size (both general size info like Small, Medium and specific measurements    
    Cost & Replacement Cost
    Cleaning information (how to clean)
    Storage Location

    Look at the data entry form below to see how these descriptions are helpful.


    Prop Type (Personal Prop, Set, weapon, rehearsal prop, etc)
    Prop Item (Phone, Chair, Sword, etc)
    Materials Prop/Set made of
    Size / Dimensions
    Time Period
    Special Effects
    Source or who Prop/Set was made by    
    Storage Location
    Cost & Replacement Cost

Lighting Equipment:

    Category (Fixture, Accessory, Gobo, etc)
    Type of Item (Spot, Flood, etc)
    Watts, Electrical Rating

    Connectors, etc
    Weight, Size
    Cost & Replacement Cost
    Storage Location
    If in a fixed location, Current Location

Sound / Media Equipment:

    Category (Audio, Visual, Presentation, etc.)
    Type of item (Microphone, digital camera, digital video recorder, speakers, etc)
    Serial number
    Replacement cost
    Storage Location



    Publication Type: (Script, Book, Score, etc.)
    Author (There are often more than one but be sure to identify the primary author
    Date of Publication
    Cost - if purchased
    Rental Fee - if rented/leased from another organization
    Type of ownership (Owned by the teacher/school, Leased, Borrowed, etc)
    If leased or borrowed - from who?
    Storage Location


2.  Data Entry Guidebook
The "Guidebook for Costume Inventory Data Entry" was created to help teach students about many of the descriptive terms used for costumes.  Each section has information to help you fill in the fields in the Costume Pieces screen.
The Guidebook is available to download as a PDF from the Costume Inventory Resources website here:     (Or - Look under the Support/Help Desk for Resource Guides.)  
The sections of the Guidebook are:  
1)   Examples of garment types
         Not everyone knows what the difference is between slacks and jeans or a dress compared to a jumper.  There are 7 pages of line drawings of dress, shirt, pants, coat/jacket, shoe and hat styles.  While many drawing are a bit dated they convey a lot information.  

2)   Parts of a garment and Differences between Men’s and Women’s garments
     Unless people have done a lot of sewing they many not be familiar with the parts of a garment (collar, gusset, lapel, etc.)  Many people have trouble determining if a shirt is a man's or woman's.  Section 2 has a few diagrams to help with these questions.

3)   Garment Details descriptions
     Section 3 has more diagrams for necklines, sleeve types, collar types, and bodice types.

4)   How to measure a garment for size & Size Charts
     Everyone knows that the sizes that manufacturers put in garments vary a lot these days and certainly aren't comparible to garments made 20 or 30 years ago.  It is a lot of work but many shops adopt a size chart and measure and size everything according to the chart.  Included in section 4 are size charts to look at.

5)   Fabric/color patterns - There are a lot of patterns in fabrics that are not familiar to students and volunteers so it is helpful to have a guide to some of the more common patterns.

6)   Fabric Samples - the pages are blank in the PDF so you and your students can find and cut fabric samples to put in there.  Pre-cut fabric samples for 40 different fabrics are available from the Costume Inventory Store.
Pant Styles
How to measure a dress
3.  Costume & Props Worksheet
Often you will have a group of volunteers ready to help inventory your costumes and props but only one or two computers to work on.  To make the best use of your workers you can print out a lot of copies the Costume Piece Worksheet and the Props/Sets Worksheet.  Give each worker a clipboard with 25 or 50 sheets on it and have them catalog the descriptions of as many items as they can.  Then one person can sit at the computer and enter the data from the worksheets.  
The worksheets can also be printed from the Theatre Inventory Database (Costume Piece Reports and Props/Sets Reports) or downloaded from the website (costumes, props).   When you print the worksheet from the database the values for the costume type, colors, etc will be those values from your database.  If you have added new costume types, colors, or patterns they will be displayed on the worksheet.

What have you added to your binder?

  • Data Entry Guidebook

  • Costume Piece Worksheet

  • Props Worksheet


Download Costume Piece Worksheet

Download Props Worksheet

What’s next ?

    Lesson 3:  Tools to Help you Inventory Everything Look at several methods to store data including spreadsheets and databases.

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