The Theatre Garage Ltd
By Mari Sasano

Come as you are

Christy Hutchinson and Tessa Stamp, owners of Theatre Garage, met while working at the Citadel Theatre - Christy as assistant head of wardrobe and Tessa on the lighting crew. While working quietly behind the scenes, they secretly had dreams of taking centre stage.

“We both had an idea to have our own space,” says Tessa. “Christy had a business of her own for five years where she was doing custom costuming. She wanted a place to do fittings that wasn’t her living room, and I wanted to make masks and puppets and things.” The two started chatting about their ideas, and then opportunity knocked – hard. “We suddenly found out that Shirley Potter’s had gone out of business and that all of their stuff was available for purchase.”

Christy, who once worked for Shirley Potter’s, knew that they were hitting the jackpot as far as costume collections were concerned. “Shirley Potter herself, when she started in the ‘60s, she built pretty much built the majority of them. We still have those items. They were made 50 years ago, and people are still using them, they were built so well,” says Christy. “That’s why we worked so hard to save it,” Tessa adds. “And both of us knew we had to save that collection from the garbage. It was going to be liquidated and thrown out.”

You never get the same exact project. Every day someone brings you a different idea. - Tessa Stamp, co-owner
Rental costumes, retail costumes, make-up, accessories, fabric
Theatre Garage's wig collection is one of the largest in the city and truly a sight to behold. Photo by YP.

Where the treasure lies

While the front of the store contains wigs, make-up and accessories, the back is where the treasure lies: racks and racks of men’s and women’s historical garb, occupational wardrobes and mascots. It’s a pretty complete collection.

“We try to keep things fresh, we get new things or adapt old ones to keep it interesting. But you could shop here every day for a month and not see everything. There are still items that I haven’t really seen,” says Christy. “Five years and I still open a drawer sometimes and it’s like ‘what is this?’” Tessa says.

Theatre Garage serves individual customers (Halloween is obviously the busiest time), but often they are tasked with much bigger jobs. That’s where it gets fun for Christy.

“Probably, I like the productions the best, when it’s not just one piece but the whole production," she says. "Building the collection is my favourite because I’m working from direction, as well as making it all work together. And I think it’s fascinating, the costumes that work on stage, rather than just wearing it.”

Rental costumes, retail costumes, make-up, accessories, fabric
Theatre Garage is packed full of costumes perfect for Halloween. Photo by YP.

Building something from scratch

Surprisingly, neither of them play dress-up during the day. It’s not the wearing of the costumes for them, but the challenge of putting something together. “I love crafting, I love drafting and sewing I love because it’s 3D and complicated," Christy says. "It’s a massive challenge to try and achieve that. I love working with designers and building from that. It’s really exciting for me to see it finished, and it’s exciting to put it into customers’ hands. They’re thrilled. And then I take the next challenge.”

For Tessa, the appeal is the variety. “It’s always different. You never get the same exact project. Every day someone brings you a different idea. Even finding stuff in rentals, there’s always a different party or cosplay.”

Rental costumes, retail costumes, make-up, accessories, fabric
Theatre Garage is a costume shop that provides custom garb, as well as vintage costumes, wigs and makeup. Photo by YP.
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