You Made This?!? From What?!?
Updated: Feb 25, 2021
Behind the Seams Look at Costume Design for Salomé
Theater companies tend to accumulate costume inventory. Well-meaning patrons donate old clothing; costumes are made for shows. Period costuming presents challenges for a small theater company because fabric and trim are expensive. Volunteers who sew are not common – as are volunteers able to design costumes. For Salomé, the costume budget was zero because, to be blunt, the pandemic has hit Village Playhouse hard; there simply was no budget. What does a small theater do? It gets creative.
The design concept for Salomé is the seven deadly sins. Herod, Herodias and Salomé’s costumes were created in this color palette using fabrics with texture and sheen.
Other characters’ costumes were made of cotton and cotton blend fabrics in more muted colors and textures. Most of these were pulled from existing costume stock and the rest made for the show.
Getting creative meant “cannibalizing” garments in costume stock unlikely to ever be used or in poor condition plus repurposing curtains, tablecloths and sheets.
This 1980s blazer was made of a metallic fabric with a peacock motif. Dawn Molly Dewane and Rebecca, Reyes, our costume team, turned it into trim and two belts. Dewane said, “A blazer like this is unlikely to be used so why waste good fabric? We also found a blue velvet 1980s prom dress that was falling apart on the hanger, so we used that, too.”
This 1980s prom dress was falling apart on a hanger. The velvet quality was good, so it became Herodias’ robe. To make the robe look more “royal”, it was lined with gold fabric from a repurposed tablecloth and then the robe was trimmed with fabric from the 1980s blazer.
Left to right: 1) Fabric from jacket used to trim robe 2) Both Salomé and Herodias wear a belt made from the jacket fabric 3) Close-up of fabric 4) View of fabric used as trim and belt
Dewane said, laughing, “Curtains, sheets and tablecloths are great sources of fabric. I can’t think of a show I’ve designed for community theater where I had an actual budget to buy fabric from a store.” Curtains were used to create soldier cloaks, toga, and tunic.
1. Herod’s tunic and toga are made from curtains as are the soldiers’ cloaks.
2. Sequin trim was hand sewn on Salome’s costume and scarves.
Dewane continued, “Two costume businesses closed its doors over the years and donated inventory to Village Playhouse. Of course, there were costume pieces but there were also hundreds of yards of sequin trim in multiple colors. We used that to trim the veils for the “Dance of Seven Veils” plus Herodias’ and Salomé’s costumes. The narrow sequin trim had to be sewn by hand. It took forever!”
Rehearsals for Salomé started January 5. The show was filmed February 8. In four and a half weeks, Dewane and Reyes made full costumes for Herod, Herodias, and Salomé’, including crowns for each. They also made three cloaks, two tunics, three turbans and two long vests.
Left to right: Herod’s garland of roses, Salome’s crown, Herodias’ miter
Herod’s garland of roses was made from leftover craft supplies and silk flowers. Salomé’s crown was hand beaded using beads from a Christmas ornament and a broken bracelet. Herodias’ miter was made from leftover craft supplies; lace overlay fabric from a damaged dress and cardboard.
The result is a visually appealing show that looks expensive. Theater magic was made by using existing materials and repurposing others. In community theater, “reduce/reuse/recycle” is an important mantra!