Royal Shakespeare Company puts 10,000 costumes on sale

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The Independent Culture

Just as the January sales come to an end – the Royal Shakespeare Company jumps into action with its own bargain basement.

More than 10,000 costumes, hats, shoes and accessories, including a pair of David Tennant's socks, from the RSC Costume Department, go on sale next month, at their rehearsal rooms, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Some of the fairies' outfits designed in newspaper print from Gregory Doran's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was set in a rubbish tip and Alexandra Gilbreath's romantic cream dress, with orange and peach flowers and green sprig, worn as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, are up for grabs.

A selection of cream linen shirts worn in The Seagull and Tennant's slippers, that he wore backstage, will be sold. As well as the soldiers' lightweight knitted chain mail, sprayed silver, from the RSC's 1984 production of Henry V with Kenneth Branagh and later seen in Mel Gibson's film Braveheart.

A star piece is Tennant's costume, when he was the understudy for the forester in Loves Labour's Lost (Act 4, Scene 1); a green brocade doublet with bronze ornate buttons, breeches, leather boots and socks. There is also a velvet Regency cutaway coat worn by Sir Ben Kingsley in the 1970s.

Stephanie Smith, RSC costume store manager, Alistair McArthur, the RSC's head of costume, and their team have been sifting through 40,000 garments, deciding what to sell off, with items starting at £3 or £30 for the star rail.

"It has taken four months to match everything up," says Smith. "We've had to work out what can't be hired out or recycled because it's worn out."

This is the RSC's second costume sale since 2007. "We are bursting at the seams since The Complete Works festival and Michael Boyd's Histories. We need to clear some space."

Other must-haves include a light blue 18th-century waistcoat worn by Charles Dance in As You Like It as well as a French blue and turquoise over robe worn by Penelope Wilton in The Seagull.

What do you do with these costumes once purchased?

"People re-use them in shows and in school productions – or collectors keep them as theatre memorabilia," says Smith. "They are beautifully made, mostly out of silk. You can just revamp them and wear them out."

RSC Rehearsal Rooms, Stratford-upon-Avon ( on 12 February, 10am to 5pm