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Reflecting Historical Periods in Stage Costume

2013-12-8 19:56:11      点击:
Costume for Berta in Act III of Frederick Ashton's ballet 'Ondine', designed by Lila de Nobili, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, 1958. Museum no. S.1643-1982

Costume for Berta in Act III of Frederick Ashton's ballet 'Ondine', designed by Lila de Nobili, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, 1958. Museum no. S.1643-1982

Ondine

The inspiration for the Court costumes in Ondine came from the dresses designed by Jean Baptiste Isabey for the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor in Paris in 1804.

From these, de Nobili adapted the high-waisted Empire line and the low neck-line with its serrated stand-up 'collar'. The fabric is a grey-silver metal gauze woven with shadowy floral motifs, overlaid onto a black net base, which shimmered under the stage lights; this is encrusted with silver braids, sequins and contrasting amethyst 'jewels,' sewn onto flesh-coloured net at the neck.

In contrast, the sleeve puffs are made from a contemporary fabric, reminiscent of bubble-wrap, with the 'bubbles' of narrow strips of cellophane caught in a net base.

The train is made of the same fabric as the sleeve puffs, and is very light. Its cut is simple, involving two pieces of fabric sewn together up the length and then, at a right angle, across the width. Once the corner is inverted, it provides the necessary weight to the light-weight fabric, ensuring that it falls correctly and gives the requisite 'drag' to the costume.

The costume shows de Nobili's flair for selecting and juxtaposing extraordinary textures and seemingly dissimilar fabrics, yet retaining the correct period feel.

Costume for Berta in Act III Frederick Ashton's ballet ''Ondine', London, 1958. Museum no. S.1643 - 1982
Costume for Berta in Act III of Frederick Ashton's ballet ''Ondine', London, 1958. Museum no. S.1643-1982
Production Photograph of Fredrick Ashtons ballet 'Ondine,' Covent Garden, London, 1958. Photograph by Houston Rogers
Production photograph of Fredrick Ashton's ballet 'Ondine,' Covent Garden, London, 1958. Photograph by Houston Rogers

The Importance of Being Earnest

Stage costumes always reflect, consciously or unconsciously, the age in which they are created. However, there were many similarities between clothes in the 1890s, when Wilde's play is set, and the 1990s, when Bob Crowley designed this costume for Maggie Smith as Lady Bracknell. The tailored jacket, 'bustle' and leg-of-mutton sleeves balanced by the width of the skirt, the exaggerated shoulders, emphasised by the width of the sleeves and wide lapels are all characteristic of the 1890s. Crowley has maintained the monumental feel, which the diagonal waist stripes do nothing to mitigate. The upright posture implies confidence and self-possession - both notable traits of Lady Bracknell - and in fact, the severe tailored jacket fashion of the 1890s, did give contemporary women a more confident air, reflecting a stronger sense of self.

The 1980s and early 1990s were the era of power dressing, although it may be fanciful to see the inspiration as Mrs Thatcher - is the dark grey satin a reference to the 'Iron Lady'? The high plumed hat is again in keeping with the period, but is also part of the building of the character - to wear it correctly means that the performer has to stand with back straight and unbending, adding to the impression of iron will and determination that are part of Lady Bracknell's formidable character.

The hems are weighted to produce the correct drag of the costume and keep its shape in movement. This could have been achieved in several ways - here the maker has chosen a broad band of buckram. The structure does not come from the underpinnings but from the cut, notably the jacket's back panels sticking out over the fullness of the back skirt; the bustle had essentially disappeared by 1895, and the sharp uncompromising shape of Crowley's costume are an indication of character rather than period.

Costume for Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, London 1993. Museum no. S.108 – 1993
Costume for Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s 'The Importance of Being Earnest', London, 1993. Museum no. S.108-1993
Costume for Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, London 1993. Museum no. S.108 – 1993
Costume for Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s 'The Importance of Being Earnest', London, 1993. Museum no. S.108-1993
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