Friday, 25 January 2013

Playhouse Creatures Part Two

We had our work cut out on this show. January productions are usually quite light on the design side as the Christmas show is always so full on. However, this one proved an exception to the rule with many costume requirements. Apart from Doll Common who only has the one costume, Mrs Betterton has 7 changes, Mrs Farley has 7, Mrs Marshall has 6  and Nell Gwyn has about 9. I would have loved to update our collection by making some more dresses for this show but time was not on our side.  In fact, mention is made in the play about the slightly shabby state of the costumes so some of our well loved 17th century gowns fitted the bill quite well. This time I just have to content myself with making new corsets and updating and tarting up some or our existing frocks.

When we first meet Nell she is a grubby little barmaid and is wearing an unadorned muslin chemise and a calico corset (this was actually the trial corset we made for fittings and to work out the pattern, but waste not want not!)

Pretty Nell in the dressing room sporting calico corset 

 By the second act, she has found favour with the King and is sporting altogether more beautiful garments like this brocade corset and lace adorned chemise.

Detail of Nell's pretty corset. Probably a pressie from the King
Lace sleeved chemise

As you can see, the corsets are pretty low cut. In fact, it was quite the fashion for ladies to expose a great deal of bosom. But for the sake of modesty, I didn't insist on this for our actors!

The real Nell Gwyn displaying a fair amount of cleavage!

As I mentioned earlier, we do have rather a lot of costume at the Maddermarket so quite often I can reuse items. It's always fun to completely renovate a garment. Bring it back to life. We also are lucky in that we have an abundance of vintage haberdashery which makes such a difference to the look of a costume. Modern materials just don't cut it. Too much polyester and the colours are too harsh.

Before - In need of some TLC

After - Looking much more like it.

This is Mrs Marshall's final dress in which she collects the theatre shares for herself and Nell. It is a shot purple/black silk with a pink satin stomacher and has a separate white underskirt. Whilst rummaging around for some black lace for the waterfall sleeve trimming, I came across a bag full of this purple taffeta crimped trimming. It was the perfect match so it went around the sleeves and the bodice. I made some little bows of graduating size from some lovely worn black and white grosgrain ribbon and finished the edges off with some   narrow black ladder lace (very useful stuff. I've used loads of it over the years but have nearly run out now!).

Well, the show went up last night and was a great success and next week I will post some pictures from the final dress rehearsal. All that is left for me to do now is clear up this chaos!


I would also just like to say a huge thank you to all my volunteers without who this would not be possible. At all! So thank you to Romilly for corset wrangling, Julia for saving the day in the snow, Eileen for being amazing and always there and to Judith, Behira, Clarissa and Sarah. Also a big thanks to Mary for re styling Nell's and Mrs B's wigs and to Bella for doing the hair and make up and not forgetting Chrissie and her army of dressers.

Back next week for production piccies...................

In the meantime, do come and see the show if you can.

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