This necessitated upper crust British formal wear c. 1895. My research showed that this was the era of the largest mutton chop sleeves ever seen on Earth. Plus froo-froos and lace and ribbons and feathers. Definitely a "more is more" look.
We wanted the look to be over the top. It's Oscar Wilde after all, and the theme has a lot to do with how over the top these people are, while at the same time maintaing that stiff upper lip in the face of actual Life happening to them. But we were certainly not going to make new dresses for everyone!
We went to our costume boxes (see the post "Thin Ice Theater's Costume Collection" for the story of our costume boxes), and pulled out some gowns. Most were clearly 1980s prom dresses, not exactly the same style as 1895! We considered adding mutton chop sleeves, but quickly decided it would look too odd to have all these dresses on stage with sleeves that didn't match the rest of the dress, even if we added some of the new fabric elsewhere.
So Annie suggested that we leave the mutton chop era behind, move ahead a few years on the fashion timeline, and go for an overall look without the huge sleeves. Just because we can.
Annie masterminded the transformations and many people sewed. Many of the additional fabrics were bought resale - curtains, tablecloths, and such. It's a great source for very inexpensive yardage. (And the white overskirt below used to be a plain ol' slip.) Then, lots of ribbons and trim were added to the mix. Matching hair doodads and jewelry and accessories - plus hot rollers, bobby pins, and lots of hairspray - completed the look. Here are before and after looks for some of the dresses.
The whole set of Ideal Husband costumes can be see on my website at: http://www.annquilts.com/costumes/Ideal%20Husband/Costume%20Portraits.html