Bygone Theatre Rentals – Appliances

Bygone Theatre has finally gotten our  storage space sorted, which means we are ready to start renting out some of our great vintage pieces! Take a look at some of our larger items here; all prices listed are before HST. Please note that we are able to negotiate payment structures, and that discounts are available when renting multiple items at once. Email us at info@bygonetheatre.com with any questions, or to place an order; we require a minimum of 3 days notice for all prop rentals.

  1. Vintage Fridge: used in Wait Until Dark, gorgeous late 50s/early 60s white fridge with dusty rose interior. Inside latch has been modified to make for easier opening. Rental Price: $75.00/wk

2. Vintage Stove: used in Wait Until Dark, charming late 1940s white stove with oven.
Rental Price: $75.00/wk

3. Vintage 1950s Ringer Washer: used in Wait Until Dark, white General Electric washing machine with wringer, mid-50s, excellent condition.
Rental Price: $75.00/wk

Bygone Theatre - 1950s Wringer Washer Rental

4. Vintage 1950s Red Mini Fridge: Late 1940s/1950s, bright red mini fridge with chrome handle. Great for a photoshoot, or for a cafe/soda shop look.
Rental Price: $75/week

Bygone Theatre Red Mini Fridge

Stay tuned for much more, including vintage office supplies, props & costumes.

Advertisements

What It Really Costs To Be An Actor (and to put on a show)

I came across an interesting Business Insider article today on the costs associated with working as an actor; even as someone who is well aware of the small return on a huge investment (of both time and money) I was shocked by some of the numbers.

Consider the cost of training and promotional materials, for one;

School: some go the 4 year BA route, which will cost about $20 000 in total, but even if you are forgoing traditional education for workshops or conservatory programs, expect to spend thousands here.

Headshots: these are essential for any actor and can cost a pretty penny. Expect $500+ to have them shot, plus the cost of printing. It isn’t unusual to spend close to $1000 for good quality headshots, and then of course they need to be updated whenever you change your look.

Personal Website: while free avenues like facebook and wordpress are frequently used, a lot of people choose to have a custom domain name as well; add another $100 or more a year for this.

Then of course there is the cost of any additional training you do along the way, things like haircuts, makeup etc. to keep you looking pretty, expensive dance shoes – you get the idea. It’s not cheap. And there is really no guarantee of a return.

It was the author’s salaries in the article though that really caught me by surprise; even at the high end, performing at Madison Square Garden in a multi-million dollar performance, the author was only making $527/week. $527/week for 52 weeks in a year is a whopping $27 404 annual salary; not exactly a celebrity lifestyle. Plus, consider the fact that not only do most actors not get big gigs like that, but the majority of actor’s contracts are not for a full year. So even if you’re raking in big dough for the duration of your contract, you may need to stretch 2 months of pay over an entire year.

The author was only making $527/week. $527/week for 52 weeks in a year is a whopping $27 404 annual salary; not exactly a celebrity lifestyle

Our upcoming production of Rope is certainly small budget compared to the shows mentioned above, but it’s still a considerable amount of money for those of us who are funding it while working minimum wage jobs. Our overall budget is $4500.00, and that does not include paying the actors. You can see a detailed breakdown of our budget on our FWYC campaign page.  As someone who is certainly used to working for no pay (I put hundreds of volunteer hours over 6 years into theatre work on campus before finally getting a paid, part-time position this year) I went into this knowing I likely couldn’t pay anyone involved, but still feeling really guilty about it. So that’s why we started a Fund What You Can Campaign.

Our goal is to raise the entire cost of our production – $4500.00 – so that any money we make on the show itself can be split among the cast and crew. Of course there is no guarantee of ticket sales, but if we were to sell out all of our shows we could potentially be paying everyone about $380; not a Broadway level salary, but it’s a start. To put that further into perspective, all of actors are putting in about 14 hours of performance time plus 40-60 hours of rehearsal time. So let’s say that they are working a conservative 54 hours and make at the very most $380; that’s still only $7/hour. Considerably below minimum wage.

Our goal is to raise the entire cost of our production – $4500.00 – so that any money we make on the show itself can be split among the cast and crew…that’s still only $7/hour. Considerably below minimum wage.

As a producer it is important to me to put on a successful show and to compensate those involved. As an artist and student myself, I do not have the money to do that on my own. That’s where you come in. By making a donation to Rope you will be helping to further the careers of 8 talented actors, our wonderful stage manager and Bygone Theatre itself. Every little bit counts and gets us one step closer to realizing our dreams while earning a decent wage.

Check out our Fund What You Can Campaign for Rope to make a donation to the production.

-E.

1920s Food Inspiration – Making Faux Food for “Rope”

Our director Emily Dix is busily making props for our upcoming production of Rope. She consulted the fabulous website, Food Timeline, for some ideas and then scoured pinterest for pictures of things that looked doable. Here are the results so far.

They may still need a few tweaks – I think the caprese skewers could use some “balsamic vinegar” – but not bad for a first go.

A Tip Of The Hat: Conveying Character With Hats

Every costumer knows that it is their job to create an outfit that showcases the actor’s character onstage. While every designer has their own method, it is doubtless that all put in hours of research trying to find just the right colours and styles. But the actor too can make small changes to the clothes they are given and in doing so drastically alter the meaning of the pieces, especially when it comes to hats.

I am currently taking a millinery class at Stratford Off The Wall. You can see some of my how-to tutorials on making hats here. Today in class while we were creating our patterns an interesting point was made; depending on the angle someone chooses to tilt and wear their hat, a variety of personalities can be conveyed, all with the same costume piece. Take for example, a man’s fedora;

In the first image, Cary Grant looks sexy and sophisticated. Maybe a business man, or even a gangster. He wears his hat tilted and low down on the brow.
Bob Hope wears his hat a bit further back on his head and at a less severe angle. This gives a more laid-back vibe, almost tired or lazy and somewhat comical.

Finally, Ray Bolger wears his at the back of his head, giving him a clownish appearance that works well with his goofy, snarky farm-hand character.

A similar effect can occur with mens’ bowlers;

The first image shows a man wearing a bowler the “correct” way, sitting right atop his head. This is a serious, sophisticated and very vintage look.

In his Boardwalk Empire outfit, Steve Buscemi looks every bit the classy gangster, thanks in part to the casual backwards tilt of his hat.

Once again, a hat worn on the back of one’s head immediately creates a clownish look, as does an ill-fitting hat, as seen in this Laurel & Hardy shot.

Women’s hats can do the same thing;

For a serious, mysterious look, Joan Crawford wears a severe looking hat, tilted low on her brow with a minimal side tilt.

Lucille Ball looks sultry and sophisticated in a hat with a fashionably jaunty tilt.

The smiling woman also wears a hat tilted far to the side, but hers is further back on the brow, giving a playful, energetic vibe.

Finally, Judy Garland is the picture of youth and innocence in this cap that sits at the back of her head, wrapped around her ears.

When costuming it is always important to remember not just what your actors will be wearing, but how they will wear it. Subtle changes in attitude can be reflected through minimal costume changes; a man could start the play with his fedora tilted low, looking professional and suave. After a frantic day, he may push it further back on his head, while wiping his brow. During a madcap comical scene later on, the hat could end up right on the back of his head and even slightly squished (likely combined with a loosened tie or un-tucked shirt). That’s just a random example, but you get the idea.

So if you feel your costume is lacking a little “something”, give your actor a hat and let them play with it. It may just top things off perfectly.

Want to make your own vintage hat? Check out our A.D. Emily Dix’s tutorial on how to make a custom hat pattern from scratch!

-E.

Underneath It All: A Brief History of Women’s Underwear, 1900-1970

When dressing a period show, it is important to remember that it’s not just the clothing the audience sees that makes the look authentic. To really capture a realistic period style, the proper undergarments need to be used to help achieve the accurate shape or silhouette.

For those doing a show set in the first half of the 20th century, the following crash-course may be of some assistance.

The 1900s

As you can see in the photos above, the early 1900s embraced a truly “feminine” shape; big hips, large breasts, and a very cinched in “wasp waist”. The look was not quite as extreme as it had been in previous decades (where, in some cases, women may have had ribs removed to try and make their waists smaller, though this idea is debated), but it still required tightly bound whale bone corsets and layers of heavy petticoats.  Little attention was paid to the breasts; push-up and padded bras did not exist, instead the curved upper torso was created by cinching in the waist, so that while the upper body appeared fuller, it did not yet have the definition that would be seen in later decades.

The 1910s

As the century progressed, silhouettes began to transform into a leaner, straighter shape, and the corsets and bustles of the previous decades mostly disappeared. What corsets were still in use now were longer, coming down past the hips and up to just under the bust, helping to achieve a streamlined look. The waist line rose to an “empire waist”, just below the bust, and as the ankles were now often visible, the length of slips shortened. As the petticoats slimmed, bloomers were replaced with a closer fitting underwear, more similar to what we see today. It is also during this time that we see a change in the overall aesthetic of undergarments; they were truly becoming lingerie. Machine-made lace was more readily available, and so decorative underwear could be purchased for a more reasonable price. The ads of the time no longer looked like a textbook page on what was available, but began to embrace the beauty and sensuality of the products.

1920s

The 1920s saw the change from a “womanish” figure to a “girlish” one; the bust, hips and waist were slimmed to a straight, narrow, almost boyish look, and hemlines shortened dramatically. We begin to see some two-piece undergarments, but the bras still are not lifting or defining the breasts. As hemlines were shorter, decorative garters and stockings became popular. Tube-like corsets were used to help curvier women attain a straighter silhouette.

1930s

Two-piece undergarments were the norm come the 1930s and slips were less common. Curves again were being embraced, and women with round, curved hips were adored. Tight-fitting girdles were sometimes used to shape the hips, and early versions of the bras we wear today are seen. Hollywood began to have a major part in the popularity of women’s styles, and ads of the decade catered to those looking for a glamourous silhouette.

1940s

The war had a major effect on women’s fashions as many materials were rationed. “Make do and mend” was the motto, and women were encouraged to sew their own clothes and update their old ones to match the current styles. The limits on fabrics meant that a more angular, fitted look defined the decade, and hemlines were once again shorter, hitting just below the knee. Military styles were popular, and women’s suits came in fashion. Nylon was one of the casualties of the war, as it was needed to make parachutes, and so nylon stockings disappeared from the stores. In an effort to maintain the look, some women drew black “seams” up the back of their legs, giving the illusion of wearing stockings. As many women went out to work in factories, they traded in their dresses and skirts for trousers and overalls, a style that required more form-fitting underwear. Silk was also unavailable because of the war effort, and so slips were less common. To make up for the simplicity in clothing, women’s hairstyles became more elaborate, and accessories were used to decorate an outfit rather than wearing a whole new garment. While there were new styles in 1940s undergarments, keep in mind that many would not have been purchasing them, and would have likely used what they already had instead.

1950s

When the war and its rations ended, fashions embraced the new availability of fabrics, and the female silhouette returned to a fullness it had not seen since the turn of the century. Fitted tops showcased a full bust, and pointed bras lifted and accentuated the breasts. The waist was cinched with a girdle, and full skirts were ballooned with petticoats and bouffants. Stockings were again available, and new “seamless” ones were on the market. Underwear ads became increasingly sexual, and there is a noticeable turn in the marketing which now aimed itself more at men (purchasing for their wives) than women.  Most women were back in the home, and so fashion could again take place over practicality. The ideal women was one who, as Audrey sings in “Little Shop of Horrors”, “cooked like Betty Crocker and looked like Donna Reed”; feminine, fashionable and a devoted wife and mother.

1960s

While many in the 1960s still embraced full skirts, girdles and push-up bras, as feminism blossomed many in the fashion world began to lean towards more natural silhouettes and more comfortable clothing. Skirts got very short, cut high on the thigh, and so slips and underwear shortened as well. Late in the decade and into the 1970s, some women stopped wearing bras and by that point most had long abandoned the corset or girdle. When dressing the 1960s, there are several ways you can go, so before looking for undergarments, ask yourself; is your character a Glamour Puss? a Hippie? a preppy teen? There are many ways to go.

Earlier Decades:

While we here at Bygone tend to focus on the first half of the 20th Century, when it comes to underwear, earlier periods have some of the most interesting articles. Want to learn more about women’s unmentionables? Check out some of these articles:

Mental Floss – A Funny Approach

Hosiery History – Stockings Through The Years

Vintage Lingerie Ads

Elizabethan Costuming

 

-E.

Set Design Inspiration – Art Deco

Recently I did a blog post on set design inspiration in a Mid Century Modern style  and referenced our production of “Dial M For Murder” that was set in the mid 1950s. As we start to get ready for our next show, Patrick Hamilton’s “Rope”, written in 1929, I’ve been thinking about another major design trend; Art Deco.

The term Art Deco refers to a visual design period that originated in France after World War One. While it was still seen into the early 1940s, the style is most commonly associated with the 1920s and 30s. It featured bold, geometric patterns, rich colours, metallics, and modern Machine Age imagery. It is associated with modern glamour and mass production (which did not have the negative connotation then that it often does today).

Now for a recap – when starting to research a period’s design aesthetic, I start by looking at the following three elements:

  1. Silhouette: What sort of general styles and silhouettes were common, and where can we find those in both vintage and modern pieces?
  2. Colour: What colours were popular at the time? And in particular, what colour schemes would have been used then that are rarely used today?
  3. Accents: Are there any accent pieces (lamps, phones, statues, vases etc.) that are frequently associated with the decade?

They always say there are three things everyone wants when putting together a show; for it to be good, fast and cheap. The catch, of course, is that you can only ever have two of the three. For most of us in the theatre world, “cheap” is a necessity, and personally I always want “good” as well, which means I have to put a lot of time into researching and sourcing materials. If you want to have a great looking set, start early. Very early. And take your time looking around not only vintage stores (they can be pricey) but thrift stores, garage sales, and hell, even checking out what people throw out on garbage day. You know what they say, “one man’s trash…”.

Time to start the research bit:

Art Deco Palette: 1920s and 30s Colours:

Colour schemes of the Jazz Age were anything but subtle; while many pastels and secondary colours were in use they were often used as a background against bold, contrasting pieces. Sherwin Williams has a great section on authentic period colours that you can check out for some specifics. Purples and blues were very popular, as were accents of red or orange. Black trim alongside a tropical colour like peacock blue or a bright mint green was common.

Possibly more important than the colours were the patterns used on anything from walls to curtains to furniture. Intricate geometric patterns, often featuring shell or fan shapes adorned often multiple pieces in a Art Deco room. Tiled floors in black and white were also a common feature.

 

Of course, not all homes of the 1920s and 30s were complete examples of the Art Deco style, however, many had some features that can be associated with the look; in the photos below, you can see examples of minimal Art Deco features (like the tile work in the kitchen floors or on the bathroom wall) alongside rooms that are the epitome of the look (like the gorgeous bedroom and the circular interior entryway).

Art Deco Silhouette: 1920s and 30s Furniture

Art Deco furniture is about glamour and bold statements; each piece is like a work of art. Complex geometric designs alongside beautiful organic curves created a look of extravagance. Often different types of wood were mixed within one piece, creating interesting patterns and design, and mirrored furniture and metallics were all the rage.

Art Deco Vibe: 1920s and 30s Accent Pieces

Bronze sculptures are a staple of the Art Deco look. Gorgeous women (often either naked or wearing a flapper-style outfit) sometimes held a light, or simple stood there as a beautiful accent. Greyhounds were the “it” dog, and are often seen on anything from lamps to ashtrays.  Panthers were also a common sculptural subject. The lamps of the period were more about artistic beauty than practically shining light in the room.

Bygone’s Art Deco – How to Fake The Look Today

As we prepare for “Rope” I have started a pinterest board collecting some of my favourite examples of Art Deco; you can see it here, and I will update this once our set design begins.

For those of you trying to do this look before then, here are some tips on how to fake it and do it on the cheap:

Painting a Art Deco design on a simple tray

Painting a Art Deco design on a simple tray

 

Art Deco Tray: The simplest and easiest way to create a Deco piece is with paint. If you’re new to stenciling, try starting with something small, like a tray, and if that is successful you can move on to a larger piece like a dresser. HGTV has a great tutorial here to get you started.

 

artdeco

Moldings create architectural detail.

Art Deco Molding: If you’re doing a show with flats, try adding some architectural detail above doorways or windows. This can be done with wood or even cardboard. For a great tutorial on this look (one meant for the home, remember, cheaper materials could be used onstage), check out The Joy Of Moldings.

 

1980s Finds: Finally, as always, when setting a stage on the cheap, your local thrift shop is your best friend. The 1980s saw a revival of Art Deco style and so you may be able to come across some pieces on the cheap. Look for things with the right “bones” – changing the colour of a dresser or adding a throw pillow on a sofa is easy, but you don’t want to take on anything that doesn’t have your desired silhouette. If you don’t have a lot of money for set pieces, but want to make an impact, stenciling designs on the flats may be a good way to go.

Again, not everyone in the 1920s or 30’s had art Art Deco home – country styles were common in the 1920s, and during the Great Depression of course, homes were rarely decorated with anything new. So before you start to collect deco pieces for your set, make sure that it fits the show – this style is associated with the upper class, new money, “modern young things”. A great look but not for everyone.

-E.

 

 

Vintage Labels: Creating Authentic Props with Public Domain Images

When dressing a period set, one of the first problems you may encounter is how to have vintage items that don’t look old. While your show may be set in 1920, you of course don’t want a can of beans that looks like it has actually been around since the 20s – rusted, peeling label, dents etc. And of course, to buy a mint condition vintage item you’re likely looking at spending far too much. Still, the importance of period-specific props shouldn’t be overlooked, so here are some handy hints on creating your own authentic looking props:

grapenuts1

  1. Research The Food and Packaging Materials Used In The Period: Foods come in and out of fashion, just like anything else. Start off researching what was popular during your period: The Food Timeline is a great resource for this. They even have a section on popular brands advertised during the decade. From there, look up how your items were packaged; looking at a show in the 1920s or earlier? You’re not going to see plastic. Go for cans, glass bottle and boxes. War-time also had an effect on the materials used, and women were encouraged to make their own preserves. If you’re setting something during one of the World Wars, try have some homemade items on hand.
  2. Think About What Your Characters Would Use: A play about a bachelor doesn’t need a jar of baby food, and a family-centered drama may have more crowded cupboards than one about a single man. You can of course go much more in-depth with this; read though carefully to see if there’s any references to food and think about what types of things make sense for your show when you consider cultural and ethnic background, socioeconomic status, trends etc. This can be a fun exercise to do with your actors too. Sometimes the more details you think of (ie. my character loves pickles but can’t stand mustard) the more nuances you come up with.
  3. Use Authentic Vintage Labels: Finally, nothing will help make an authentic prop more than a real vintage label. See below for my list of favourite sites to score great graphics.

My Favourite Sites for Free Printable Labels: 4964821_orig

  1. The Old Design Shop:  Not only do they have a section on labels, they have just about every category you could think of if you’re looking for some general inspiration. Check out the Food & Drink section and you can see what kind of bottle or can you should affix your label to.
  2. The Graphics Fairy: Beautiful vintage labels and other graphics, many of them turn-of-the-century French. Not as many food labels, but there are beautiful stock images of things like vegetables, if you were interested in designing your own.
  3. The Candy Wrapper Museum: If you’re looking for some authentic candy wrappers, look no further! This well organized site has everything you could need from just about any time period. The only issue is they are scans of old (often crumpled) labels, so I would suggest using them as a guide and photoshopping them to clean them up a bit.

Of course, if you’re handy with photoshop, you can always google vintage labels and try to replicate one yourself. There are lots of free fonts and filigrees to help  you out, and that way you can customize your prop exactly how you want.

6a00d83451ccbc69e201a3fced05fe970bRelated Sites:
If you’re looking for vintage posters, say to decorate a store front or to put in a replica magazine or newspaper, check out Free Vintage Posters. They also have some great WWII ads.

Another good resource is Free Vintage Art, again, not for labels, but for some other beautiful, free vintage stock photos.

And finally, if you’re finding the whole concept of “public domain” a little daunting, check out Public Domain Treasure Hunter; they spell it out for you 🙂

 

For this post, I focused simply on creating canned and boxed goods, bu you can make things like cookies and sandwiches as well. Stay tuned for another post on authentic, non-packaged period foods.

-E.

Set Design Inspiration – Mid Century Modern

When dressing a period set it is important to have not only a good grasp of what was actually popular and available during the period, but also an idea of what most audiences will associate with it. “Mid Century Modern” is a huge decor trend right now, and so those looking to set a show in the 1950s or 60s are in luck – there are lots of vintage and new pieces available that fit the style, for a range of costs.

When trying to capture the essence of an era, I usually focus on a few key things:

  1. Silhouette: What sort of general styles and silhouettes were common, and where can we find those in both vintage and modern pieces?
  2. Colour: What colours were popular at the time? And in particular, what colour schemes would have been used then that are rarely used today?
  3. Accents: Are there any accent pieces (lamps, phones, statues, vases etc.) that are frequently associated with the decade?

I then research a bunch of photos and hit the thrift shops. While it is always fun to go to vintage and antique stores, I generally find that, for one, the costs there can be high and two, since those pieces are actually old they frequently look too worn to be used in a set that is meant to be of that time. Often times, the best solution is to go through thrift stores and see what more recent pieces can be recycled and reworked to fit the desired decade. But before I get to the little details, I start with the first thing the audience will spot: the colour.

The Mid Century Palette: 1950s and 1960s Colour Schemes

While many of the colours popular during the 50s and 60s are seen in homes today, the big difference is in how they weren’t afraid to mix lots of bold, contrasting colours, whereas we tend to tone them down with neutrals. Let your colours speak to the tone of your show; doing a drama? Why not try for a deep, forest green with red and golden accents? Have a cheerier, lighter mood in mind? Pastels were popular and can look stunning onstage. Don’t be afraid to play with unique colour combinations, and when in doubt, a quick google search will come up with some mid century colour palettes you can choose from. If you have the opportunity, one of the best ways to get a real retro look is to incorporate the bold carpet colours of the decade (though of course we don’t all have the resources to cover our stage floor).

 

The Mid Century Silhouette: 1950s and 60s Furniture

One of the most easily recognized features of the mid century furniture silhouette is the thin, tapered wooden legs. Often stained to look like teak, they sometimes had a metal cap at the bottom, and are relatively easy to replicate should you not be able to find an actual vintage piece. Eames-styled chairs, with thin wooden arms and legs and tailored, boxy cushions were also popular. I often find pieces from the 1980s that, from a distance, can work in a mid century set.

The Mid Century Vibe: 1950s and 60s Accent Pieces

The fun part of dressing a mid century set is hunting for little accent pieces that can really bring the whole thing together. Try to think of things that, not only have the right look for the decade, but that can be usable onstage. People in the 1950s and 60s smoked and drank more than most of us do today, so investing in a bar, some ashtrays and some retro glassware may be worth the while. A vintage lamp will instantly stand out as something not-of-this-decade and so can be a good choice as well. And of course, who doesn’t like to add a few vases or some kitschy ceramics? They are fun, often cheap, and help the overall vintage vibe of your set.

Bygone’s Mid Century Set: Dial m For Murder

In August of 2013, Bygone Theatre produced Frederick Knott’s “Dial M For Murder”, setting the show in 1956. While the set was simple, some vintage elements (along with some new, “vintage styled” elements) quickly conveyed a retro vibe.

DSC_0752In this shot you can see several key pieces:

1. The Bar – this vintage find cost us $100 and is currently in our living room. It was worth the splurge as it was a key piece in the show an a great spot for stage business.

2. The “Vintage” Couch – while this is actually our old living room couch (bought new at a futon store in downtown Toronto a few years before) the boxy, tailored style fit it in perfectly to our 50s living room. A couple bright accent pillows were added to bring it into our whole “martini” colour scheme

3. The “Vintage” Coffee Table – I suspect this table is actually from the 80s, because unlike a true mid century one from he 50s or 60s, it is made of particle board and plastic, not teak. I found it for $20 on kijiji and it is currently our living room table

4. The 1950s Lamp with Fibreglass Shade – another splurge at $100, but one I think was completely worth it. This lamp is so perfectly 50s, and that fibreglass shade stands out beautifully onstage. We used it a lot for practical lighting, so that was good as well. This too has made its way into our regular living room furniture.

When dressing a period set on the cheap, it is important to think about what the audience will really see. Yes, you can likely find a beautiful vintage Eames-styled chair, but at what cost? Our used couch had the right shape and colour, and worked great. Lots of 1980s furniture has the look of mid century modern from a distance, but is much cheaper as it is made of plastic or metal, rather than solid wood. Again, great onstage. If you keep your colour scheme retro and throw in a couple well-picked vintage knick knacks (we used quite a bit of Blue Mountain Pottery, cheap, and made it look like something Margot collected), you can avoid having to purchase too many things. Try to think of pieces that could be used in other shows, or other periods as well. Remember, just because something is set in the 1950s, doesn’t mean the character’s can’t have a few older “inherited” pieces as well. It’s all about balance. In this show, we paid particular attention to the costumes, which also allowed us to go a bit simpler on the set. In dressing a period show on the cheap, remember that, while you may put in the time researching exactly what is accurate for the year (I know I did!) most audiences won’t know the difference between something from 1950 and 1960. Play with what you can find and you’ll realize that a period set can be a lot of fun, and a lot simpler than it may initially appear.

E.

 

How to Dress the 1920’s – Affordable Modern Day Alternatives to Authentic 20’s Women’s Fashion

We’ve all had that disappointing moment, when, in dressing a period show, we realize how difficult and more so, how expensive authentic period fashion can be.
While one of Bygone’s mandates is to keep our costumes as authentic as possible, in some of my other productions I’ve had to bend the rules and work with modern clothing that mimics the shape and style of period pieces.

In this blog mini-series, I will demonstrate some simple methods for achieving period-esq looks on a budget. If you’ve got some tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments!

The 1920s Silhouette
Chances are, when most people think of the 1920s, the first image to come to mind is that of the “flapper”. A drop-waist, lots of fringe, knee-length skirt and swinging beads. While this look works for “party girl” characters, or those in a musical, it is not the style that was worn by the majority of women. Still, it is a great stepping stone for a basic women’s silhouette. Let’s examine some basic silhouettes here:

Fig. 1 – Here is a 1920 silhouette from the Fashion-Era website. Early in the decade styles were still fairly conservative. Hemlines reached below mid-calf, exposing no more than the ankles, and empire-waists were still common. Sheath-style, tube-like dresses that gave the women a androgynous look were popular and floppy hats, low on the brow, were often worn (see my blog on hats for more details).

Fig. 2 – Another silhouette courtesy of Fashion-Era , this time from 1922. Note the drop-waist. Flowing, light-weight fabric in the skirt.

Fig. 3 – By the middle of the decade, hemlines were shorter now reaching mid-calf (but still always covering the knee). The drop waist was still fashionable, and the skirts were still often made of flowing fabric.

Fig. 4 – Not an authentic silhouette, but one immediately recognizable as being from the decade. Now the hair is cut short, rather than pinned up, in a style associated with Louise Brooks. Still a drop-waist. Here the skirt seems to be made of fringe or even feathers. The hemline is higher than what would have likely been seen (the knees were rarely revealed).

1920s Colours

The Roaring Twenties saw a wide range of colour in fashion. While only a few decades earlier, most women were wearing dark, dreary colours, the 20’s featured clothing from pastels to bold primary colours. Gowns were generally monochromatic, layering colour-on-colour details and relying on beading or embroidery for variation, rather than mixing colours. This helped to create the long, lean look that was the signature style of the decade.

Fig. 5 – Bold, dark colours for the winter months. Note how the dress itself is nearly entirely one colour – at the very least, monochromatic. A contrasting hat was sometimes worn, and most shoes were black leather.

Fig. 6 – Salmon colours, emerald, and lots of blue. Again, mostly monochromatic although note the high-contrast in the yellow and black gown, and the mixing of natural fur with a bright pastel.

Fig. 7 – More pastel colours for the summer months, and again, blue! Shoes for summer frocks were often of lighter, brighter colours that matched the dress. While there is a lot of detail on the gowns, they continue to be primarily monochromatic.

Fig. 8 – Mixing various shades of the same colour for some visual interest, but still keeping the look monochromatic.

Fig. 9 – Bold, Art Deco inspired styles. Black and white high-contrast gowns with accents in red or pink give a startling, stylized look.

Again, nearly any colour could be used for the 1920s, just remember to avoid any complimentary colours within one outfit for a more authentic look. For additional info, The Vintage Traveler blog has a great post on dating vintage fashion with colour.

1920s Fabrics

A variety of fabrics were available in the 1920s. The majority of things that we purchase today were available then, with the main exception being “stretchy” fabrics (no Lycra in the 20s!). While daily wear was likely simple cotton dresses, I will briefly go over some fabrics that those who do not sew may not be as familiar with:

Chiffon: Made from cotton, silk or synthetic fibers, this sheer, light-weight fabric is woven in a way that puckers the fabric slightly, giving it some stretch and a rough feel. Available in a wide variety of colours it is most common in evening wear and can give an elegant, floating appearance.

Satin: A light-weight, flowing fabric with a glossy front and dull back, satin is another popular formal wear choice. Often associated with nightgowns, this fabric hangs loose and looks stunning when draped. Also available in many colours.

Taffeta: Generally more expensive than the previous two listed, it is a crisp, smooth fabric with a bit of a sheen. Stiff and able to hold some shape, taffeta can be used to create things from corsets, to gowns that maintain a consistent shape. Many colours, but generally less variety (at least in local fabric stores) than the other two, likely due to the cost.

Velvet: A thick, woven, tufted fabric, generally made in deep, dark colours. Smooth and soft, the fabric is associated with nobility and high status, and so the high price tag shouldn’t be a surprise.

I won’t go into too much detail for these, as it is not my area of expertise. However, for a great resource on what fabrics to use, and how to combine them, check out this site.

How-To: 1920s Style in Modern Day Fashion

So what to do with this information now? Certainly those with the budget can source out authentic patterns (Vintage Vogue has a few) and buy expensive fabrics, but when working in community theatre this is rarely an option. To give you an idea of some affordable, modern day pieces that can be used to imitate 1920s fashion, check out my design boards below:

1920s Style from 2014 H&M Dresses

1920s Style from 2014 H&M Dresses

A great resource for affordable dresses is H&M. While the styles you will find here will generally be too short or two revealing to be a really authentic 20s look, there are some dresses that can be a good starting place. Whether you buy a gown that already has a waist, or go for a more loose-fit, flowing style, give the dress a 20s flair by adding an exaggerated drop-waist. A simple way to do this (especially for non-sewers) is to add a sash (remembering to keep it monochromatic!) out of something like satin, tied low on the hips. For those with more sewing knowledge, sleeves could be fashioned out of chiffon or additional beading could be added. Throw on some retro pumps, a few strands of long beaded necklaces, and crop the hair (whether by pinning it up, or cutting it) and you will quickly and cheaply achieve a 20s look.

Sourcing 1980s & 90s Fashion for a 1920s Look

Sourcing 1980s & 90s Fashion for a 1920s Look

The community theatre costumer’s best friend is of course, the thrift shop. When trying to create a 1920s look, I generally go for 1980s and 90s fashions. As you can see in the board above, many of the styles of those decades incorporated the drop-waist, as well as large collars, lengthy sleeves, and an overall loose look. You can find these types of dresses in your local value village, or, if you happen to have some old patterns lying around, can make them and tailor them as required.

Finally, online resources like ebay and etsy often have real vintage, or vintage styled clothing. They are worth a look, at least for inspiration, if not to actually purchase the garments. Costume and party stores will often have flapper costumes, but these are generally very stylized and won’t do if you’re trying for a serious period piece. However, the cost is sometimes low, so I keep these in mind for things like dance numbers that require a lot of performers. When trying to do a cheap flapper look, simply create a headband with a feather accent, wear it low on the brow, include a sleeveless, straight-fitting tank top and a low-riding skirt, preferably out of fringe or something that moves. Throw on some cheap plastic beads and voila! Not a look I often need for my shows, but it does in a pinch.

So there you have it! A brief how-to on 1920s women’s fashion for theatre. There are tons of great resources out there, and to be honest, I usually start with a simple google search for my inspiration. Do you have any great 1920s resources? Share them here in the comments, or on our facebook page!

All for now,

E.

A Brief History of Women’s Hats, 1900-1960

My Mother and I recently signed up for the Millinery course at Stratford Off The Wall, the place where I took my Faux Food class this past September. Over the course of the week, we will learn how to make either fascinators or buckram or soft-form hats. As the two of us do all the costuming for Bygone, I thought I should look up some authentic period pieces for inspiration, in hopes I can make something for a future show. There are so many styles of hats that were seen during the first half of the 20th century, that I decided to put together a very simple, very brief history for any other costumers out there who need a quick reference guide. Hope it helps!

1900’s
In the early Edwardian period, hats were a fashion accessory, rather than a necessity. Most were kept fairly small, sitting on the top of the head atop a pile of hair. More masculine styles had begun to emerge during the 1890s, and some of these were still popular during this period. Women were seen wearing traditionally male styles such as the “Boater” or “Trilbys”. Bonnets had grown out of style, and women preferred hats that soared above the head, sometimes called “3 Story” or “Flower Pots”.

1910’s
During the 1910’s, hats began to grown again in size. The brims grew increasingly large, often reaching past the wearer’s shoulders. To keep these large pieces steady, hat pins, sometimes over a foot long, were used to secure them to the hair. Large plumes and floral pieces adorned hats of this period. During the First World War, however, hats began to decrease in size, fitting closer to the head and sitting low-down on the face, giving the woman a youthful appearance. Hats became more plain, as it was seen as unpatriotic to be concerned with ones appearance during this time.

1920’s
Continuing the trend of the previous decade, hats continued to get lower on the brow and closer fitting on the head. The “cloche hat”, a bell-shaped piece that covered the wearer’s head almost entirely, became a staple of the period. Rather than tall feathers or blooms adorning the hats, design was seen through elaborate detailing in shape, with felt molded into waves and curls. Most hats of the period, particularly later in the decade, did not have brims.

1930’s
The 30’s saw the re-appearance of brims as well as a shallower crown to accommodate the full, curled hairstyles that were popular in this decade. As parasols were now out of fashion, wider brims became popular to protect the wearer from the sun. Towards the end of the decade, hats became taller and were perched on the top of the head, similar to the way they were in the early years of the century. Women’s fedoras (traditionally a male style) also became fashionable when paired with a tailored suit.

1940’s
World War II shaped the look of 1940’s women’s fashion. Because of rations, clothing was often utilitarian looking and closely fit, using as little fabric as possible. Hat materials, however, were not rationed, and so the decade saw the emergence of a wide variety of hat styles, overly adorned and frequently elaborate. Feathers, veils, and artificial flowers graced the tops of wearer’s heads, and the term “piece de resistance” or “resistance piece” implied that the fashions were in a way patriotic, and in protest to the Nazi occupation (a very different outlook than that taken during the First World War). “Doll Hats”, similar to some styles seen in gothic fashion today, were also worn. They sat a-top the wearer’s head, very small and very far forward on the brow, reminiscent of some Victorian styles. The turban was another look, one that covered all or most of the woman’s hair, and that was pulled up into a ‘v’ at the front of the brow; sometimes coined “v for victory”, once again connecting fashion with patriotism.

1950’s
Post WWII saw a decline in the popularity of hats as many women chose to now leave the house without them. In an effort to keep afloat, the millinery industry began to create variety and extravagance, making hats the “must have” piece to top-off a formal outfit. While most hats remained close to the head, “pancake” and “cart-wheel” hats, wide-brimmed, flat pieces that perched atop short hairstyles were also popular.

1960’s
The 1960s saw a greater decline in the wearing of hats, although the popularity of Jackie Kennedy made the pillbox hat extremely fashionable for some time. The decade’s higher, fuller hairstyles meant that hats needed to be small and sit on the top of the head. Fashion in the 60s was increasingly geared toward youth, and so hats began to be viewed as a thing of the past. Towards the end of the decade, hats as a daily accessory, except during the cold months, were nearly extinct. Brief re-emergence’s have been seen since then, but for the most part, the hat as an everyday accessory died out in the 1960s.

E.

 

Sources: http://vintagefashionguild.org
Google Search