January 23, 2014

Romeo and Juliet - Costume Details

Here are the stories behind putting together some of the outfits worn in our recent Romeo and Juliet.  The story of the overall design process and photos of the production are in the previous post.

The main sources for the costume pieces were:
- our own collection
- a bin full of unfinsihed samples and prototypes generously donated to us by clothing designer Alice Berry
- Annie's incredible shopping spree at the Salvation Army on a 69-cent Saturday sale
- loans and donations from Julia at Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions
- the closets of the actors and costumers

Capulet and Montague
Cape and coat both from the Thin Ice collection.
Montague's coat is a vintage coat with huge shoulder pads and lots of beads, donated by Julia, with fur trim and chain closure added.
Tuxedo shirts, slacks, and belts, all from our collection.
Neck ruffles, newly made.

Lady Capulet and Lady Montague
Lady C's gown and jacket, Thin Ice. The jacket was used before in The Man Who Came to Dinner, with a different gown. I used some of the leftover bead trim Annie had added then to make matching earrings. The gown's matching shawl was draped at the back shoulders as Renaissance-style cape.  The extra-long skirt was gathered up in in foofs, which proved very impractical, and needed care after every performance.  Thanks to Nora for persevering with that project.  

Lady M's gown came from our collection also.  Marita added the sleeves and hip sash, and Hannah decorated them with ribbon and bead trim.

Shirt by Alice Berry. Jacket also by Alice Berry, with buttons, cuffs, and trim added by me.  Pants by Annie, made from the skirt of a 69-cent Salvation Army gown, with trim - fabric from resale shopped curtain panels - matching the jacket.  By the end of the week, many, many people were coveting this jacket.  The cut and fit are wonderful - many neatly planned panels with both straight and bias-cut fabric create the shape and drape.

The coat is a raincoat from our collection.  Same pants plus a peasant shirt.

This gown is one of the marvelous 69-cent finds.  The top layer of tulle on the skirt had some large rips in it, most likely the reason that no one had bought it.  That was solved by another miracle - I went to my fiber arts group meeting, and there was giveaway of a huge pile of fabrics, on the bolts, that had been donated to one of the members.  One of them was a glistening organza of exactly the right color.  It looked way better than the original fabric.

Juliet's second gown was loaned by Julia.  Without the cape, it doubled as her nightgown.  Not only was the print lovely with Romeo's big raincoat, but inadvertently, we matched styles with both R and J having caped outfits. I love it when things work out on their own better than any of my plans.

Both Juliet's gowns were located after trying a long, long string of dresses, none exactly right.  It was kind of tense for a while there.

Dressing the nurse was also a bit of a trial.  The goal was to make her look nice, but not too fancy, put together, but not too avant garde.  The blouse came from our collection.  We took off the sleeves, which were large, buccaneer style and would never fit inside the jacket.  The jacket was an Alice Berry item, with added detailing. Patty made the skirt from a resale store dust ruffle.

Benvolio's shirt is a blouse from our collection.  He bought the leather jacket for himself, as we were starting to plan the show.  The leather pants belonged to his dad, and had been languishing in a closet, just waiting to appear on stage I guess.

I knew right from the beginning that Mercutio had to wear some of our cowboy boots.  I wanted his clothes to express his humor and set him apart from the other characters a bit.  For a while, I considered giving him a hippie look.  But when we found that this jacket fit him, that ended that thought.  The jacket and shirt are from our collection.  The pants are by Alice Berry.  The cummerbund was newly made, by Nora.

I think Tybalts' costume was my favorite.  It fell together perfectly on the first attempt, which is always wonderful.  The pants are by Alice Berry, and the rest is from our collection.  Our actor enjoyed using the long, swingy coat to the max.

Our version of the play has Escalus as a princess rather than a prince as W.S. wrote it.  She is wearing another of the 69-cent gowns.  This gown, like Juliet's, also was the solution to many gowns tried on and none working quite right.  Annie made a cape of cut velvet to go with the gown.  Her tiara is made from a resurrected broken necklace attached to a small headband.

Paris is wearing a blouse from our collection with knife-pleated collar and cuffs, a jacket loaned by Julia (which in real life has a matching skirt), and pants by Alice Berry.  

Friar Lawrence
Our friar is actually more of a Mother Superior.  She is wearing a cassock from our collection and a newly made stole.

We limited the chorus palette to browns and black.  Most of their clothes came from our collection or from their own closets.  After that famous prologue, "Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene.....", they changed vests, jackets, and skirts, adding other colors, to become many other roles.

Sampson and Abram, Balthasar and Gregory

servants and citizens:

party guests:
Blouse and skirt from our collection, with ribbon and bead dangles added. (left)
Red velvet skirt found at a costume giveaway about a month before the play. (right)

Gold dress donated by Julia, sleeves and skirt extension added by Patty. (left)
Capulet's cousin:  blouse by Alice Berry, 69-cent skirt. (right)

This show was probably one of the most difficult I've done.  It certainly takes the prize for most costume pieces pulled out and not used, because I was so unclear on my tactics at the beginning.  In the end, I was pleased with the result.  Phew.

January 21, 2014

Romeo and Juliet - Costume Design

Last weekend, our high school students performed Romeo and Juliet.  They did a spectacular job with the deep emotions, the stage combat, and the lengthy script.  But what I am going to write about is the costumes.  Of course.

Eileen, our director, set quite a challenge for the costumes.  She asked that the look straddle the Elizabethan and the modern eras, expressing the timelessness of the story.  And she asked that the costumes be haute couture and edgy.

Well, even with our wonderful costume collection, this turned out to be quite a tall order.  I began to think of it all as a Project Runway challenge!  I could see the concept quite well in my mind's eye, but spent quite a while making long lists and sketches of costume items and trying to figure out how to bend them to this task.  I started my brainstorming with a Google image search for "haute couture Renaissance."  I suggest you try it - you'll see some really neat stuff!

At first, I thought I might mix and match Renaissance items with contemporary items, some in breeches, some in slacks, some in robes and tunics, some in dresses, and so on.  When we started trying things on the actors, it soon became obvious that this would look extremely awkward.  I ended up mostly using contemporary clothes and adding Renaissance-like accessories and embellishments.  That meant picking base items that had an overall shape that could be made to read as Renaissance-y.  For example, I steered clear of close-fitting, sheath style gowns, and chose gowns with more fabric in the skirts, with shaped waistlines, and so on.  I used large and/or long coats for the men, thinking both of portraits of Henry VIII, and of swirly, swashbuckling sword fights.  Many of the guys wore woman's things, as that's where the styles and colors show up in our era that are more akin the things worn by men in the Renaissance.

One of my concept goals was to have most of the characters in medium to dark and jewel tone colors.  Romeo and Juliet would be light and airy, especially to stand out against the crowd at the party scene where they fall in love at first sight.  They also became the only characters to have more than one outfit, to signify that they were the ones trying to move out of the social status quo.

I thought about having the two families use identifiable color schemes, but decided to just let the colors of the costumes fall where they may according to what fit each actor.  I think an important lesson in the story is that the feud was over absolutely nothing, so there should be no really obvious marker that differentiates the two families.  As it turned out, the parents did match one another, the Capulets and the nurse in green and the Montagues in brown, but that did not carry through the rest of the family members and servants.

In the archways from left to right, the Capulets, the Princess, and the Montagues.

Friends and servants speak of biting thumbs.

Benvolio, Romeo, Mercutio, Nurse, and servant Peter, with the huge fan than pretty much became a character in its own right.

Tybalt's death.

Juliet's faked death, with the musicians in the archways, Friar Lawrence, Nurse, and Paris.

Paris and Romeo fight in the tomb.

Photos and stories behind creating the individual outfits are in the following post.

January 19, 2014

Vintage Metallic Trim

A while back, I posted about an incredibly lovely vintage silk jacket.

One of its many gorgeous features is the wonderful metallic braid trim.  Yesterday at an estate sale, I found a length of the same kind of metallic braid.  I am so excited to have some of my own!  There is a little over 5 feet of it.

I think it's a really lovely weave.  It's 1/2" wide.

The sale was a treasure trove of antique everything.  I heard one shopper say that because there were so many eras represented that it was more like a museum than a sale.  So true!  The house is only a block away from my house.  I've walked past it a gazillion times in the 20+ years I've lived here and never imagined what was hidden inside.

January 8, 2014

Snowboarding Meets Antique Quilt

Really?  Yep.

The new US snowboarding team uniforms are styled with inspiration from an antique quilt.  

Take a look:  http://extramustard.si.com/2013/12/04/new-usa-snowboarding-uniforms-look-like-your-grandmas-quilt/

These will be worn next month at the 2014 Winter Olympics.  How fun is that?