Every Costume a Story

It’s Everything Speaks Saturday. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, my father brought home from his office a copy of the Time Magazine article that chronicled the opening of the park. One of the great photos was of Disney Cast Members in various costumes aboard the horse-drawn trolley.

The original caption read: “Mickey Mouse gives trolley ride to staffers in sampling of costumes”

Of those costumes you can see, you can fairly well identify the themed land or attraction they belong to. After the driver with the trolley and Mickey, you see a young man from Liberty Square. Kneeling next to him is a girl from Fantasyland (though the hat throws me off). I assume the one above her is from Adventureland and next to her from the Polynesian Resort. But it could both be Adventureland. Clearly the girl with the signature cap was part of the monorail team, and next to her, a hostess from the Diamond Horseshoe. Down below is a young man from Refreshment Corner, and another one running the Grand Prix Raceway. The young man above the girl from the Diamond Horseshoe is with the Jungle Cruise. It’s difficult to see the entire Cast from there on out, but the one with the long blonde hair was working food and beverage at locations like the Tomorrowland Terrace. She is followed by a tour guide and a young man selling balloons.

As interesting as many of those costumes were back then, I think they are better today. In particular, the fabrics are much more breathable and easy to wear than they were years ago. My former Disney colleagues remember years of hot polyester in the sun and of coonskin caps that stunk. Today they are available in a bigger range of sizes, including variations for those who are expecting–something which used to result in losing a job if you didn’t fit.

In the new Storybook Circus Land, everyone is dressed as fine as the Ringmaster.

It is striking how much costumes add to the experience of the parks. We take this little thing for granted. Most don’t know that there is an entire plant dedicated just to keeping those costumes clean.Thousands of costumes are prepared daily, and enough on hand that a Cast Member can take an entire week’s wardrobe home and change into them before leaving for work.

This is one of three textile services featured on property. The other two focus more on linen and towels.

It’s a big operation for a little detail that adds to the park experience. But Everything Speaks, and what your employee wears is as important as anything. You may not need your employees wearing polo caps or ringmaster outfits, but ask yourself, “What message or story is their attire sending about our organization?”

J. Jeff Kober