Typically, a Broadway costume is showy and dramatic, but not all costumery falls into those categories–or if they do, it is in a much more subtle fashion. Such is the case with the designs that Tony-award winning costume designer Paloma Young crafted for Bandstand, a 2016-2017 season production. Set in the immediate post-war era of the 1940s, the musical is a swing-inspired theatrical moment in time that follows returned war veterans as they seek to win a national radio contest. Sweeping and dramatic, its costumes are understated in their elegance and Ms Young delivers some memorable pieces we’ll take a look at now. For this review, all of the photos are publicly available on the Playbill website and copyright remains with the photographer and licensee.
With the technical lingo and introduction out of the way, let’s sample a few of the designs Ms Young has put out. The female lead (and costumes for female leads are almost always the most interesting), Julia Trojan, is played by the truly incomparable Laura Osnes, and she spends the production radiating late 1940s glamor and style. There’s no particular order to the pieces I’m reviewing, so here goes:
This blue number is absolutely classic mid-1940s; it could easily have come out of the closet of any number of working or middle-class women in the era, either as a party dress for formal outfit for the former, or something a bit more run-of-the-mill for the latter. The 1940s was really the first decade of American fashion where patterned fabrics were obtainable by the masses. Prior to the Second World War, the cost of producing a patterned outfit meant that it was relegated either to specific types of couture or otherwise priced out of the range of the average American woman. But with increased production speed and revolutions in textile technology (including some used by yours truly’s grandparents!), patterned fabrics became accessible, and with accessibility, they became fashionable.
Blue and white is a classic combination of colors, or more strictly, a color and negative space. The floral is well-defined and monochromatic, with the variation in the blues caused by the presence or absence of additional dyes or pigments depending on how Bandstand’s costume shop decided to produce this number. Based on what I can see, Ms Young seems to have been inspired by a hydrangea or other dramatic flower; this is not a surprising choice! When you have a patterned number, you want the central element of the pattern, be it a floral or geometric design, to be memorable but replicable. Pick something too complicated, and the eye lingers too long on the design and misses the overall effect. But pick something too simple and you risk the work looking shoddy or overtly cheap (unless one is going for a minimalist effect–not typically done with florals). In the case of this dress, there is a complexity to the floral element that is replicated and allows for the viewer to appreciate it without distracting from the overall ensemble.
I also quite like that Ms Young did not do this is a simple straight dress, and instead chose to allow the fabric to bunch a little. The pinching of the fabric on the chest/shoulder and the bunching on the side show that the fabric has some give and is designed to be comfortable as well as elegant, something that would have been important to a performer such as the Julia Trojan character.
The other dress from this production that I want to take a look at is the one that Playbill features on the cover of the program. which has been used as the window card for the musical, and which features as the cover of the forthcoming (23 June) cast recording:
This is, obviously, a manipulated image, designed to look like something of an oil painting despite being based in a photograph. But what’s interesting is the design on the dress, which can be more clearly scene in this production still sourced from Playbill:
Every era has its inspired designs, and Paloma Young has clearly done her research here. The 1940s was an era when geometric patterns were making a comeback (and making their way into department store and middle class fashions) after being out of vogue for a few years. If you look closely at the pattern on the red dress, you can see that there’s almost a floral nature to the geometric pattern, but that it is still somewhat abstract and “clean”. The lines form a subtle, eye-catching design that does something else important: it changes as the wearer moves. I don’t have a great clip handy right now, but the way the pattern uses a different thread to catch the light all but guarantees that you will never see the same pattern in the same way twice.
Bandstand is not a musical that is about the visual aesthetic; it is intended to be a more character-driven, simpler production that places emphasis on the music. But that does not mean the costumery is any less rich or vibrant than some of the more showy productions of the 2017-2018 season. What Paloma Young has done here is create two very different, unique pieces that fit the era of the musical and draw the eye in a positive way.
The costumes complement the wearer (in this case Ms Osnes) without being too much of a distraction. Onstage, what will come through is the beauty of the fabric but in a way that does not take away from the music or the storyline. That’s not an easy tightrope to walk as a costume designer. Subtlety is your friend, and both of these outfits possess a subtle character that is not only ingenious, but accurate to the era from which they are meant to harken.
Most of the shows that I enjoy or review have very traditional costume designs. Come From Away is a major exception to that, and I confess, I wasn’t quite sure how to review the costumes for this musical until I sat down and started writing. These are not traditional costumes by any stretch of the imagination; what costume designer and Tony-nominee Toni-Leslie James has done here is take her inspiration from mundane, run-of-the-mill clothing in order to fit the theme of the musical. But lest that come off as a crack, let me be clear: there is nothing mundane about these costumes, or the work that they have to do.
A little background first: Come From Away is an ensemble musical set in Gander, Newfoundland in the hours and days immediately following the September 11th terror attacks. When the United States closed its airspace, thirty-eight planes were forced to make an emergency landing at the Gander airport, and suddenly a town of 9,000 had to double in size to take care of the passengers. The musical follows a handful of stories that are emblematic of the drama and human moments that accompanied these events. What is different is that the musical requires each of the actors to play as many as a dozen roles per evening, sometimes needing to change roles in the middle of a song, let alone a scene. And to accomplish that? Well, the only way to make it happen is through a quick costume change.
That’s where the genius of Ms James’ designs comes into play. Taking her cue from the everyday fashions of the early 2000s, she had to come up with a way to show that characters were different. But the costumes needed to be light and able to be changed quickly, with a single garment change in some cases. I’ll take a look at a few of the designs now, with thanks once again to Playbill for making its pictures available online:
I chose this still to illustrate what I was talking about by “mundane” clothing. Ms James has used street clothes here to outfit the characters because, frankly, most of the characters don’t have the chance to change clothes over the course of the week that they’re stranded in Newfoundland. What is interesting, however, is that Ms. James chose to work with a very muted color palette. I say that’s interesting because it helps to keep the visuals of the production somewhat somber; even with the showstopping numbers, the muted visuals remind us that what lurks beneath the surface of the musical is that it exists because of a tragedy.
But even with that, there’s some irony that Ms James engages in. One character, Hannah O’Rourke (played by Q.Smith), is the mother of a firefighter battling the blazes at the World Trade Center and spends much of the musical in a state of worry and fear regarding his fate. But despite having the most tragic role of the performance, Ms James puts Hannah in the single brightest costume of the musical, with a bright purple (almost a deep lavender) sweater. There’s a subtle commentary here: this woman is experiencing profound tragedy while clothed in a joyous color–because tragedy doesn’t discriminate and the human condition doesn’t always enable a person to prepare for terrible events. She was wearing something bright on her flight home…and that’s just how it is. Have a look at the color in this scene where she discusses her fear with Gander native/teacher Beulah (Astrid van Wieran; photo courtesy of Ford’s Theatre, home of the pre-Broadway production):
It’s still a somewhat muted color, but it’s clearly the brightest main garment in the musical. It’s an inspired choice by Ms. James, and it really stuck with me throughout the musical.
But there are some more fantastic choices made by the costumer here. I want to take a showstopping number to illustrate one of those single-garment-changes-the-characters moments I referred to above. Jenn Collela portrays any number of characters in the musical, for which she was Tony-nominated, and one of those is Capt. Beverley Bass; Capt. Bass is a real person who was indeed stranded in Gander during the events of the musical as a pilot for American Airlines. She was, in fact, the first female captain in American history and later was the first to lead an all-women flight crew. During the number “Me and the Sky,” Capt. Bass sings about her fight to become a pilot, overcoming sexism and skepticism to make it into the captain’s chair. Her all-women flight crew is mentioned, and the majority of the women members of the cast don flight caps to portray them and sing backup for their Captain:
The actresses still have the fundamental same costumes as they have throughout much of the musical (with the exception of Ms Colella, who has donned a blazer), but the addition of the flight caps makes clear their changed roles. It may seem almost “too” simple, but I really think that it works. This is democratic theatre in action: the focus is on the music and the characters rather than the costumes–by intentional decision of the costume designer. Come From Away isn’t intended to be showy and flashy, but it is intended to make sure the viewer understands who is who and what is going on.
Another example of the subtle change that Ms James makes in the characters through her costume and wardrobe choices is in how she shifts from a townsperson to a plane person (as the musical calls the stranded passengers). Brenda is one of the Newfoundlanders who gives up their time and home in order to help care for the town of Gander’s guests. Diane is a businesswoman traveling back to Texas from Paris. The two are played by the same actress in the musical (Sharon Wheatley), and the only difference between the two is a simple hair tie and the addition of an Armani blazer.
The first picture is Ms Wheatley in her role as Brenda, the second as Diane, the passenger. A quick change in hairstyle and the addition of the muted beige blazer means the difference between someone who was just dressed for their daily life as opposed to someone still sporting the garb from their last business meeting. That Ms James sourced the blazer from Armani is, I think, important; it’s a fashion house, and a quick google tells me that there wasn’t a retail outlet selling it in Newfoundland (let alone Gander itself) in 2001. Subtle as it is, Diane is costumed in a way that Brenda literally could not be. That’s an accomplishment that the audience should reflect on when they consider the costumes that have been put up here.
One more set of costume changes is important to illustrate why I think Ms James did such a fantastic job here:
Geno Carr portrays a series of characters in this musical, with the guise on the left being that of Oz Fudge, a Gander police officer (who, in real life, wears glasses exactly like those on Carr, according to Ms James), and that on the right being something…completely different. The matador uniform appears once in a fantasy sequence that one of Jenn Colella’s subsidiary characters (Annette) has regarding Mr. Michaels, the Spanish teacher. Even with a fantasy sequence, Ms James keeps the outfit muted, the only color coming in the form of some gold fringe and a few red and gold sequins. But despite the simple design and styling, it’s clear what it is supposed to be–and the muting effect reinforces that in times of tragedy, even the ridiculous can feel a bit otherworldly and sombre.
In some ways, I feel like using costumes that are drawn from what small-town people would have in their closets or what people would have on their backs during a plane ride is more challenging than working from scratch. Ms James had to make sure that her costumes were timeless (no pop culture references from today!) and non-anachronistic, and could be plausibly inserted in the early 2000s setting. She had to ensure that the costumes were relatable–”Hey, I could wear something like that” is the key theme here!–without being too common. And she had to make sure that they didn’t detract from the overall message of the musical: that during adverse moments, humanity tends to come out, even if there is pain and suffering all around us.
Come From Away is a triumphant musical that, in the words of Claude (Joel Hatch), the Mayor of Gander, in the concluding number of the production, “honor[s] what was lost, but…also commemorate[s] what we found.” The costumes do a great job of reminding us of both of those things: they honor what was lost through their sobriety, and what was found through their universality and relatability.
Robbie Rotten’s mother, Robenelina Rotten, was
truly a lovely woman. Sportacus had only met her two or three times in
person, but she always baked the most delicious sugar-free cookies for
him, and regular sweets packed full of sugar for the kids, around the
holidays. She lived in a forest not far from town and was known across
the land for her renowned designs. It was understandable then how Robbie
had acquired such a divine taste for his involved disguises when his
mother was so heavily into fashion. Sometimes Robbie would show
Sportacus and the children pictures of her dresses and they would all Oooh and Aaah at
just how lovely the pieces were. Though he adamantly denied it, Robbie
was quite proud of his mother’s designs and Sportacus loved seeing his
face light up whenever he showed his audience something she had made.
It was just another factor to add to the ever-growing list of reasons
why Sportacus had fallen hopelessly in love with the villain.
It was mid-morning one day when Stephanie sent a letter to his
airship requesting him to join her and the kids for the unveiling of one
of Robenelina’s newest designs. Sportacus excitedly descended from his
airship and flipped his way to the forest where the kids were waiting.
“Sportacus!” they all greeted.
“Hello kids! Thank you for inviting me to see the newest unveiling! I bet it will be beautiful!”
Not as beautiful as Robbie, his mind offered. Sportacus
waved his head absently with a fond smile as he took in the smiling
faces of each one of the kids in turn.
“Ms. Robenelina’s designs are always so lovely!” Ziggy piped up.
“They’re alright, I guess,” Trixie mumbled, trying to show her
indifference. It was a complete failure, though, as she couldn’t fool
anyone. Everyone knew Trixie was a huge fan of Robenelina’s work.
Stephanie clapped her hands together and bounced on the balls of her
feet. “This one is apparently very special! That’s what Robbie said
anyway when we saw him heading to his mom’s earlier.”
“Robbie?” Sportacus asked, just realizing then that the villain wasn’t with the kids. “He’s not here?”
“That’s the surprise, Sportacus!” Stephanie replied happily. “This
dress we’re going to get to see in person! Robbie went off to get it and
show it to us and told us all to wait here.”
Sportacus blinked as he looked around, half-expecting Robbie to walk
through the trees at any moment, holding the most beautiful gown he had
ever laid eyes on. This would be very special!
A rustling through the trees caused all eyes to quickly turn. The
kids all gasped in excitement and wonder as the form of Robbie Rotten
stepped through the foliage and into the clearing before them.
Sportacus’s heart jolted.
Robbie wasn’t holding the dress. He was wearing it! And his
gorgeous, purple wings were fully exposed! They flapped gently in the
open air, relishing being uncovered, as the sunlight gently shined down
upon them, making them glitter in the light. Robbie’s purple eye shadow
matched the color of his wings perfectly. The top of the dress was a
sheer, see-through shirt with short sleeves and faint, swirling designs
of a pale pink. Robbie’s torso and biceps were on clear display and
Sportacus felt his mouth go dry at the sight. The bottom of the dress
flowed a bit past Robbie’s ankles and was the same sheer design, only
layered with light pink fabric so that Robbie’s legs couldn’t be seen.
Gold trim layered the skirt and wove up into the top part of the dress,
reminding Sportacus of tree vines scaling up an old cottage.
Robbie looked breathtaking.
Apparently, Sportacus wasn’t the only one to appreciate the view because the kids wasted no time in voicing their opinions.
“That dress is definitely mine!”
Pixel held Stingy back, reminding him that it wasn’t for him and that
he couldn’t have it, despite the other boy’s protesting. Ziggy’s smile
was huge as he complimented, “Whoah! That really is amazing!”
“Robbie, it’s beautiful!” Stephanie shouted excitedly, unable to take
her eyes off of the impressive workmanship applied to the fabric.
Trixie glanced at Sportacus, and, seeing his mouth hanging open like a
fish’s, smirked. “Heh, you’re not the only one who likes it, Pinkie.”
Sportacus’s blush only grew worse as he gazed at the wondrous figure of his crush before him.
Robbie Rotten, who could take a compliment just as well as he could
get the hero out of town, scoffed at the praise from the kids. “I just
want this dress off and done with, but Mum refused to let me until I
could return with your opinions of it. She told me she would have my
head if I ruined it traipsing through the forest, too. Ugh!” It was then
that Robbie’s eyes met Sportacus’s and the hero felt his heart begin
pounding so wildly he was sure everyone around could hear it.
Oblivious, Robbie raised an eyebrow in confusion at the hero and
asked, “What’s wrong with you, Sportablush? Choke on an apple or
Sportacus shook his head so fast in dire need of reassuring the hero
he was okay that it only made him look more inconspicuous. He could see
Trixie’s smirk growing out of the corner of his eye and even Stephanie
was grinning fondly. The boys seemed just as oblivious as Robbie though,
so at least he wasn’t totally embarrassed. At Sportacus’s refusal to
give an audible answer, Robbie shrugged and turned away from them,
putting his wings even further on display.
“Well, since you all seem to like it so much, I’ll go let Mum know and take this off -”
“YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL!”
Sportacus hadn’t meant to say it. The words had slipped free - he was
too afraid that Robbie wouldn’t know. That Robbie couldn’t recognize
just how wonderful he looked. Robbie froze in his movement away
from the group and slowly turned around to raise that damn eyebrow
again up at Sportacus in wonder. The elf coughed out of embarrassment
and forced his gaze away from Robbie. Looking at the ground, his face
redder than a setting sun, he whispered, “Y-you look very pretty in that
gorgeous dress, Robbie.”
Robbie seemed to freeze at the words. Slowly, a very red blush
covered his features as he looked at Sportacus’s honest face. He knew
the hero was incapable of lying. Robbie opened his mouth to reply but
then closed it. He opened it again but no sound came out so he closed it
once more. Slowly, he moved closer to the hero and reached out so that
he could gently lift the hero’s face to meet his own.
“You mean that?”
Sportacus swallowed and nodded, captivated by Robbie’s eyes. “Of course. Look at you. You’re gorgeous.”
I’ve thought you the most beautiful person in existence since I met you.
The words threatened to spill out from the hero’s lips as he stood
transfixed. It was a giggle from Stephanie that broke the reverie,
causing both Sportacus and Robbie to jump a little in place, having
forgotten they had an audience.
“Tell your mom we loved the dress, Robbie! We’re going to go play
some soccer. Meet us when you’re ready, Sportacus!” Stephanie announced,
leading the kids away from the forest and to the play fields.
Blushing further at being caught staring once again,
Sportacus nervously rubbed the back of his neck as the kids took off. It
wasn’t good that the girls could see how badly he had it for the
villain. Giving a small sigh, he glanced at Robbie again.
“I should probably go with them. Otherwise who knows the trouble they’ll get up to?”
“Oh, I could think of some trouble,” Robbie whispered with a smirk.
The naughty glint in his eyes absolutely did wonders to Sportacus’s
“Yes - yes, well - I should - I should go,” Sportacus stuttered,
stuttered!, as he began backing away from Robbie. A thought clouded his
mind and he turned back again to meet Robbie’s eyes. “You really do look
wonderful, Robbie. You always do.”
Sportacus back-flipped his way to the soccer fields, missing the blush and the huge grin that appeared on the villain’s face.
This might have come up before but... Edward was a total dick with that "assassin" remark to Rosalie, right? She killed the people who killed her. How many humans did he kill playing judge and jury? And he didn't do it to protect other people, he just did it to eat.
I think we did talk about this before but I can’t find it now. But yeah, it was rather on the insensitive side. lol
I sort of took it as Edward projecting? Like he’s ashamed of his murderous phase so he’s commenting on Rosalie’s. Accusing someone else of what you yourself are guilty of. SM says that that he wasn’t actively trying to be some Dark Knight hero during his ~rebellion but rather he justified it to himself by like “well if I kill this rapist and drink his blood I’ll save the girl so that’s not so bad.” (As opposed to “I’m killing this rapist to save the girl.”)
I think the root of Edward and Rosalie’s sibling animosity is that they see their own faults reflected in each other and it annoys them. They see some arrogance, and penchant for ~drama, and stubbornness, and I-know-best-ness and it’s like UGH! to both of them, because no one likes to be reminded of their flaws. So when Edward calls her an assassin I think he’s also reacting to his own negative feelings about his past choices.
And also everyone is just always mean to Rosalie? I can’t imagine this was the dynamic before Bella or why would she and Emmett have stayed with the Cullens? I mean I think she and Edward have always bickered but it seems like pre-Bella Alice and Rosalie had a better relationship, there’s that moment in MS where they are designing clothes at a computer together or whatever.
Paris is Paris Again: Costuming the 2015 “Gigi” Revival
Welcome back, everyone! I was planning to take a break from some of my usuals, but I had a request to add Gigi to the rotation, and I am always trying my best to do so. Prepare for some truly sumptuous costuming in another beautiful Catherine Zuber-dressed production. Bringing the best of Broadway back to the Great White Way was a wonderful way in which to celebrate the 2015-2016 theatrical season, and I cannot wait to get started with this review.
This was, in fact, one of two sets of Zuber designs on Broadway that season, with Ms Zuber’s Tony Award-winning costumes for The King and I debuting at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre just a few days after these costumes were first seen at the Neil Simon Theatre. As is the hallmark of Catherine Zuber costumes, these are absolutely stunning in terms of both their fabrics and their colors, and they are a great update of one of the Broadway classics.
Gigi is a musical set in one of my all-time favorite eras and locations of history, belle époque (or turn of the century) Paris, and follows a teenaged girl as she’s raised into young womanhood and ultimately–through a series of dramatic turns–ends up marrying a man she loves instead of becoming a, ahem, courtesan in the tradition of her family. For the revival, the main role was played by singer and television actress Vanessa Hudgens (in her Broadway musical debut), with her suitor played by Corey Cott; in the role of Gigi’s grandmother was Victoria Clark, who picked up a Tony nomination for her performance.
With Ms Zuber already nominated for Best Costume Design in a Musical in The King and I, I’ not surprised these designs didn’t score a Tony nod; they did, however, win the Drama Desk Award for Best Costumes, and when we look at the designs themselves, hopefully the reason will become apparent. They bring classic Parisian looks into the modern age in a beautiful way. Let’s take a look:
I’ll start here with one of Gigi’s best-known costumes. The character of Gilberte (Gigi’s proper name) is supposed to be a young, somewhat innocent figure in the early part of the musical at least, and her costumes reflect that to an extent. This costume in particular puts me in mind of a school uniform (confession: I grew up watching Madeline!) with the way it is simple, does not reveal too much of the wearer’s figure, and has a bow-like jabot at the neck. The shade is a beautiful sky blue that is consistent from head to toe, with some simple white satin ribbon about six inches above the hem. The top of the dress has a bit of creasing to give it some design elements, but they are cut from the same cloth and simply stitched.
The accessories for this outfit are rather simple. There is the aforementioned bow/jabot at Ms Hudgens’ neck, which is made of a material that is almost corduroy but is a little lighter and without the same piling. This allows it to have some body without being too heavy, and the color is beautiful against the blue of the dress and the white of the collar. It is matched well with the belt, in a similar fabric to the bow, with a somewhat oversized blue clasp. The overall effect of these accessories is to contribute to the seriousness of the costume. There is a demure nature to her that comes across well: for now, she is the picture of the waifish ingenue.
Over time, however, our main character changes quite a bit; she is being groomed, after all, to be the mistress of Paris’ upper crust, or so the story goes. Catherine Zuber’s designs for Gigi’s transformation into an object of sensual and even sexual desire. Take a look how that transformation takes place through the use, first off, of color (a color which ties in with another character–more on that later):
From sky blue to rose pink, this dress retains some of the gentility of the blue dress but because of the shift in color and the change in overall design, there is something more flirtatious about it. The color is a rich, soft pink in a sateen fabric that flows and drapes a bit more freely than the heavier blue fabric used in the first costume. She’s beginning to slowly accept her role–a future courtesan/mistress–and embracing the freedom, if not the love, that comes along with it.
We see that this dress as a subtle hat-tip to the blue dress through the striping on the cuffs of the sleeves, which bring to mind the satin ribboning around the bottom of that costume. The design elements here are a little bit more revealing while remaining in the realm of propriety for 1900 Paris. The collar this time has a slightly plunging neckline that is disguised with a single ruffle of the same fabric and color as the main body of the dress. The adornment comes in the form of a wide, red belt around Ms Hudgens’ waist.
Notice that despite the length, this costume is much more form-fitting than the first. Sensible, given the number where it appears (”The Night They Invented Champagne”) is a light and airy number as Gigi moves further down the road to being Gaston’s (Corey Cott’s) mistress. Having a tight belt to hug the figure would have been a sign of overtness for the era, and Ms Zuber has clearly done her homework with this production as with many of her others.
The character of Gigi has two more costumes that I feel are of particular note before I touch briefly on the other characters. Here, we see the dress used for the cover of the Playbill and many of the promotional stills:
I don’t rightly know the term for this style of dress, but I know it’s a hallmark of early couture. There is the traditional bell shape to add volume, but a panel is removed from the front to reveal not only the white lining of the underskirt, but an entirely separate black layer that clings to the wearer’s legs much more closely. It gives an overall elegant effect that I think is interesting, because I see it so rarely, even in productions that borrow from couture in their costuming.
Because the dress’ cut is so visually interesting, it’s unsurprising that there is very little in the way of adornment or detail work elsewhere. The silk and satin of the dress are allowed to speak for themselves, though there is a belt at Ms Hudgens’ waist; it is in the same color black (and as I’ve said before, black is not just one color!) and again has a bit of an oversized clasp. The only other accessories are Gigi’s opera gloves (a must in the era) and a beautiful geometric emerald necklace. Using square-cut gems here is the right choice, in my opinion, because it balances nicely with the cut of the fabric below without being too distracting.
The black dress is balanced by one of the most beautiful of Ms Zuber’s designs for this production, a white number that makes an appearance in the climax of the musical, as Gigi finds love with Gaston at long last, rather than simple physical desire. And in that sense, I love that Ms Zuber reverts to a color that screams purity, but in a fashion that reveals Gigi’s complete awakening as a woman rather than a girl (as at the start of the musical). Prepare for something visually stunning:
This is a sleek, classic, beautiful Parisian number in white satin with black accents, and a massive feather boa/stole that adds some whimsy and couture elements to the overall effect. The gown flows all the way to the floor, but this time leaves swaths of Ms Hudgens’ chest exposed, with her bust covered by black lace that is almost assuredly intended to be reminiscent of that other Parisian innovation, lingerie.
The boa serves a triple purpose. First, it adds volume to the dress itself, which would otherwise be a lengthened version of an A-line. But second, it allows the actress (and thus character) to have more control over how the costume looks to the audience. Some of this will be decided through stage direction and directorial notes, but there is still a little discretion for how the actress moves when on stage. Third, it helps the dress to catch more of the light, allowing more interplay of light and shadow on the blank canvas of the white satin.
For an idea of how the boa adds volume, consider this shot of the last pre-finale scene, where Gigi and Gaston are dancing the night away:
What was previously a relatively simple dress has been made more visually stunning and given greater stage presence through the drapery of the boa. Hanging off Ms Hudgens’ shoulder, it offers a textural contrast to the smoothness of the satin in the dress itself, and also adds to the amount of space she occupies despite a slender figure.
This lighting is also one of the reasons I find a snow-white dress and boa to be so compelling despite their simplicity. The blankness allows the stage lighting to do some remarkable things; the blue light turns into shades of blue, green, aqua, and teal as it hits various parts of the dress, giving an otherworldly and ethereal feel to an otherwise simple design. Yet again, we have an example of a costume where the designer had to work incredibly closely with other members of the creative team to make sure that everyone’s vision for the production came together.
Gigi herself, of course, is not the only character who is costumed beautifully in this production. Earlier, I noted that Gigi’s red dress seemed a nod to another character, her grandmother Mamita (played by Victoria Clark in this production). Take a look at the coloring of Mamita’s costume and notice how the red makes one think of Gigi’s pink-red dress from earlier:
The style is, naturally, much different and a little more old-fashioned, but still steeped in belle époque styling. The stripes combine a rose pink with a deeper red, and yet a third shade is used for the cummerbund element at Ms Clark’s waist. The bust is covered with a ruffle and a bit of pink and red lacework, while the dress is completed with two tail-like elements that hang down in a kind of salmon-pink silk.
I talk on occasion about millinery, which is to say hat making, and this is a place where I do want to mention the hat. The straw base in a red to complement the dress is absolutely covered in roses, giving the effect that Mamita has an almost literal bouquet of flowers on her head. Little surprise, given that of the older characters, she is by far the most fun and flirty of them, indulging her granddaughter and reminiscing about her own glory days as a courtesan. Her costume gives off that fun feeling, and I think it really works well as a design.
But now consider it in contrast to the other female character, Gigi’s great Aunt Alicia, played in this production by Dee Hoty:
While still styled like an aging courtesan, Alicia’s dress (left) is more sophisticated than that of her sister Mamita. It’s a cream shade decorated heavily with ruffles, and she has more in the way of jewelry (note the lengthy necklace hanging down). The cummerbund is a softer, more lush pink silk, and the dress itself is lightly patterned with an almost cloud-like design.
The contrast in these two costumes is pretty neat, because the personalities of each character are brought to the fore. Mamita is the showy one, while Alicia is the more practical one; her art of seduction must have been far more subtle, which is an interesting thing to consider in the altogether risqué theme of the musical (though, I would note, the musical never strays from being classy into the vulgar).
Ms Hoty actually gets to wear my favorite costume in this production, from the finale itself. Take a look at this visually impressive Catherine Zuber design in violet and purple, with Ms Hoty looking like a million dollars:
There is just something so Parisian about this design. Close-fitting, with beadwork cuffs and embroidery on the bust, some floral design elements in the upturned hem of the dress, and with lacework to cover the chest, this is one of the costumes that just feels so utterly belle époque. The purple is an absolutely darling shade regardless of the lighting, and the hat is dramatic and adds a little bit of flair to the Aunt Alicia character. You can get a little bit more of an idea what the hat looks like here, during the final bows from opening night of the production:
That is a hat designed to impress and leave the audience wowed, even with the other characters on stage. It adds height and volume, and the feathers are straight out of the designers’ handbook for how to wow a viewer. There are bows on the top portion of the hat, and what originally looked like just a circular brim is revealed to have a slight bend, which causes the whole piece to arc a little. It’s definitely a form over function piece–this would do very little to keep the sun out of Alicia’s eyes–but it’s a beautiful entry into Ms Zuber’s body of work.
To wrap up this review, I want to include the lineup from the final bows, because Alicia’s costume once again stands out:
Every single one of these costumes is beautiful in its own way, but the lavender of the dress Ms Hoty wears just pops in a way I have rarely seen even in other Catherine Zuber productions. Simply seeing it is enough to bring a smile to my face–and that’s one of the things costuming is all about in a production that is fun and lighthearted like Gigi.
Overall, I am once again awed by Catherine Zuber’s designs and work on this production, and it makes me feel privileged to have had the chance to review and analyze them. Each costume helps to tell the story not only of the musical, but of the characters themselves, even those (like Mamita or Aunt Alicia) who may not have much stage time because they are in a supporting role. No expense was spared, no detail left unchecked, and no character given short shrift. It’s really a masterful production, and I highly recommend it!
That wraps up my review of Gigi and another week of (despite the technical glitch early on) reviews. I’ll be taking a look at my queue this weekend and deciding what to bring up next; if you have requests or suggestions, please drop me an Ask or send me a Message!