Bygone Theatre Rentals – Office Furniture

We recently did a production of His Girl Friday, which meant acquiring a LARGE volume of vintage office furniture and supplies; here’s some of the furniture pieces we now have available to rent.

 

  1. Vintage Wood Office Chairs: see individual pictures for details
    Rental Price: $20.00 each/wk
  2. Burgundy Faux Leather Executive Chair: see individual picture for details
    Rental Price: $30.00/wk
  3. Small Telephone Desk: see individual picture for details
    Rental Price: $15.00/wk
  4. Wood Arts & Crafts and Mid Century Modern Desks: see individual pictures for details
    Rental Price: $40.00 each/wk
  5. Metal Cabinet: see individual picture for details
    Rental Price: $15.00/wk

The styles we have available would be suitable for someone looking for something from the 1920s-60s, or something modern day with a vintage twist. Discounts available when renting multiple pieces at once, prices listed are for a single item, before HST.

Stay tuned to see some of the smaller set dressing items we have as well.

Performer Spotlight – The Vintage Taps

You can’t really have a Vaudeville show without some kind of tap routine. Hoofers have been a big part of Vaudeville since the early days, with notable performers like Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, The Nicholas Brothers and Eleanor Powell.
nicholas-brothers-jumpin-jive-stormy-weather-1943-1
Our revue features a jazzy trio of ladies; Trina Josdal, Amy Lintunen & Geneviève Fullerton. Check out their facebook page to see some of their past performances.
BIO: The sensational Vintage Taps will whisk you back to an era where chorus girls and swinging jazz beats were the trends on the streets.  Inspired by both Broadway and rhythm tap dancing, their fast feet and delightful personalities have been dazzling audiences worldwide.  These dynamic ladies have enjoyed tapping their way across numerous European countries, China, the United States and their beloved Canada.  Collectively, the Vintage Taps boast an impressive resume including productions of 42nd Street (producer – Mark Bramble), Hair, Cabaret, and Dancing Damsels with appearances at the Montreal Tap Festival, Pan Am Games, CP24 Breakfast Television, MTV Canada, PRIDE Toronto, and the Toronto Fringe Festival.  Vintage Taps will make you smile and leave you with a toe-tapping rhythm in your heart.

So, Ya Wanna Be In Vaudeville? CASTING CALL

Hey you! Ya, you! Have you ever dreamed of playing the circuit? Making it big on stage? Think you got what it takes to be a star of Vaudeville? Well then you’re in luck – forget those critics, Vaudeville ain’t dead! We’re breathing new life into it this June with Bygone Theatre’s…

VAUDEVILLE REVUE
Alumnae Theatre Mainstage
June 22-24, 2016

We are currently accepting proposals for acts and are looking for the following;

  • Singers
  • Dancers (tap, ragtime), solo or group
  • Comedians (think more sketches than stand-up)
  • Acrobats/gymnasts
  • Magicians
  • Musicians
  • Jugglers
  • Clowns
  • Unique acts

Acts should be 3-8 minutes long and family friendly (keep it PG). We are looking for period appropriate, which for Vaudeville means 1890s-1930s, so keep that in mind when it comes to material, style and music – don’t worry about costumes, we’ll take care of those. Please note, only scripts and songs written before 1935 will be accepted.

At the moment we are looking for people with specific acts in mind; they don’t need to be completely polished, but we want to know what your source material is and your general concept. There may be an open casting call at a later date for those who want to be involved, but that will depend on this round of submissions.

How to apply:

  • Email director Emily Dix at emily@bygonetheatre.com with the following;
    • A copy of your source material (ie. a link to or pdf of the script, sheet music etc.)
    • A description of your proposed act that highlights, a. the number of performers, b. any specific materials required (props, set, costumes etc.), c. the approximate length, and, d. a breakdown of what the performance will include (if it’s something like a dance that need explanation, for sketches the script will suffice).
    • Any support materials you may have (video footage of a previous performance, or a self-tape is ideal)

What Else You Need To Know:

  • This is likely to remain a non-union production, but at this stage Equity members are welcome to apply, as we are still working on funding
  • This will be a profit-share production
  • All performers will receive a high-quality, professionally filmed copy of their performance
  • Rehearsals will be in June 2016, with a load-in/dress on June 21, and evening performances June 22-24; matinees TBD

Deadline for this first round of submissions is Friday February 12, 2016, at 5:00pm. 

Spread the word and spread the love – Vaudeville is back!

-E.

Retro Christmas Countdown – Xmas in the 20th Century

While Christmas dates back hundreds of years before, it was the start of the 20th century that saw the turn towards the lavish and very commercial holiday that we all know today. Here’s a very brief history of Christmas traditions from the last century.

1900s

christmas-m-christmas-happy-new-year

The first Christmas card was created in 1843 by John Horsley, and by the turn of the century the Victorian’s love of sentimental greetings had made this a popular tradition.

The Victorian styles of decorating carried into the start of the 20th century, with gilded nuts, candles and paper ornaments adorning trees.

This decade also saw the creation of what was to become one of the most popular children’s toys of the century; the Teddy Bear. Named after President Roosevelt, the charming story of the origin of this toy and its name can be read here.

1910s

frenchfamily1910_tincans_on_tree

As Christmas rapidly became a highly commercialized holiday, more and more companies used it as a means of selling their products, and the image of Santa Claus began to morph into the one we are familiar with today. It was in the 1910s that Santa’s now unmistakable look, with red suit and pants trimmed in white fur, matching cap and long white beard, began to become the norm.

While a legend has grown that claims Coca Cola invented the modern-day image of Santa, that is not quite the case. Prior to the famous Coca Cola Santa (who was created in 1931), the jolly elf had been portrayed as anything from tall and lanky to a munchkin-sized man. Norman Rockwell had painted a Santa who is strikingly similar to the 30s Coke version all the way back in 1911, however it wasn’t until Coke began regularly producing consistent looking Christmas ads that the current version of St. Nick really began to stick.

For an interesting pictorial history of Santa, check out this link.

1920s

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By the 1920s the upper class had traded-in their candles for electric Christmas lights, and trees were as lavish and daring as the fashions of the decades.

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With the rising popularity of the wireless (radio), the 1920s also saw the first Christmas radio broadcast when, in 1922, Arthur Burrow presented “The Truth About Father Christmas”.

1930s

rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-1931

Rockefeller Centre, 1931

In the midst of the Great Depression few had money to spend on food and clothing, let alone Christmas gifts and decorations. Still, the tradition of putting up a tree hung on, with many families owning decorations they had purchased in the more prosperous 1920s. Homemade ornaments also adorned the tree, made out of things like the foil paper saved from cigarette packs. As previously mentioned, Coca Cola started to advertise with their own version of Santa, and upbeat Christmas songs were enjoyed on the radio. Advertisements still bombarded shoppers with ideas for the perfect Christmas gift, only their tactics had changed; a focus on the practical and sometimes financing options were promoted.

finlaystraussad2

The popular character Rudolph, everyone’s favourite red-nosed reindeer, was created in 1939 by Montgomery Ward. Although it wasn’t until a decade later when Gene Autry released the song that we’ve all learned as kids.

rudolph

1940s

The 1940s saw the Second World War, and with that came rations and a reminder that the war effort should be supported above all else. Sales in non-necessities like Christmas lights dropped dramatically as many companies changed their focus to assist in the war effort. War bonds were promoted as a perfect gift for any family member or friend, and Santa himself switched his classic red & white outfit to don army duds and support the cause.

With many families missing fathers, brothers and sons overseas, Christmas could have been a bittersweet time. However, back home the masses were reminded to keep their spirits up while fighting the good fight, so many Christmas celebrations resumed some of the splendour they had seen before the Depression.

vmail_wwii_christmas

1950s

The post-war boom made the Christmas of the 1950s one of the biggest and gaudiest yet. The Baby Boom meant there were lots of families with youngsters, and so the toy market was buzzing. Wide-spread prosperity meant most were lucky enough to be able to afford Christmas celebrations, and women’s magazines, eager to encourage them to return to the home, now that the war was over, pushed for the ideal Christmas season, full of elaborate recipes and decor.

Television was also becoming popular and with it came a host of Christmas specials. Stars like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby recorded Christmas songs and popular shows like I Love Lucy recorded special Christmas episodes.

SH023033850000_20151219_154835_ILoveLucyChristmas_Widg

1960s

By the 1960s, the fads of the 50s were firmly cemented; every toy imaginable was available on the market and they were advertised directly to children in between the cartoons they watched on tv. The Christmas shows we still see today – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman – first appeared on the airwaves and decorations were more colourful and outlandish than ever before.

There was significant variety now as well. Christmas trees could be anything from your traditional green pine, to the popular aluminum trees that came in silver, aqua and even pink! And don’t forget the fake snow! The concept of “Kitschmas” was truly born in the 1960s.

What’s your favourite Christmas decade? Tweet your replies to @BygoneTheatre #RetroXmas 

-E.

Hollywood During WWII

With Remembrance Day around the corner we’d like to share some WWII facts about Hollywood and the stars who helped the war effort. While many stars performed for the troops and helped support their country by selling war bonds, some had more notable achievements that have been largely forgotten over the years.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

German-born performer Marlene Dietrich was a staunch anti-Nazi who became an American citizen in 1939. The outspoken actress was one of the first stars to start selling war bonds, and is said to have sold more than any other. She refused multiple requests to return to her native country and instead performed for American troops, sometimes dangerously close to enemy lines. She was awarded the US Medal of Freedom in 1945 which she said was her “highest honour”.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

Actress Hedy Lamarr is mostly remembered for her stunning good looks, and for her risque nude scene, but the Austrian born actress contributed much more than pinups to the  Allied war effort. Along with the help of George Antheil, an Avant Garde composer, Lamarr created a device that could prevent the enemy from throwing their torpedoes off-course. By utilizing a piano roll to unpredictably change frequencies, they made it nearly impossible for the enemy to scan and jam frequency signals. This frequency hopping spread-spectrum invention would become the basis for modern technologies such as GPS and Bluetooth.

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Comedian Mel Brooks was drafted into the army and served as a corporal combat engineer. In addition to fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Brooks had the nerve-wracking task of diffusing land mines. Always a comedian, he kept up his fellow soldiers spirits by broadcasting Al Jolson music over the loud-speakers in response to the German propaganda playing (Jolson, like Brooks, was a Jewish performer).

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

Born in St.Louis, Missouri, Josephine Baker moved to France in the 1920s and became enormously popular. During the war Baker served as part of the French Resistance, working as a secret informer and smuggling messages written in invisible ink on her sheet music. Upon her death in 1975 she was buried with military honours.

Jimmy Stewart

482px-Jimmy_Stewart_getting_medal-e1282911945287Jimmy Stewart was eager to join the war effort and reapplied after initially being rejected due to being underweight. While initially his star status delegated him to tasks such as paperwork and making training videos, Stewart pushed for the chance to see combat and in four short years moved up the ranks from private to colonel. Stewart flew a B-24 into German and for his bravery twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France. After the war, Stewart remained a part of the Air Force, reaching the rank of Major General (two star general) after 27 years of service.

Retro Radio Hour – Spring Fling!

On Thursday May 14, 2015, Bygone will be presenting the 5th show in the retro radio series, Retro Radio Hour – Spring Fling. We are back at the SoCap and as always, tickets are only $5 cash at the door. This week’s show features; Emily Dix, Matt McGrath, Elizabeth Rose Morriss, Ian McGarrett, Mikey Zahorak, Peter Grant Mackechnie, Nicole Byblow, Astrid Atherly and Joseph Vita with magic by Leigh Beadon.

Ladies and Fellas, Grab a Sinker & a Joe – It’s Time to Learn Some Swell Slang!

It’s funny how much slang changes from generation to generation; sometimes in listening to my 19 year old sister, I already find myself feeling out of touch. When working on a period show like Rope it is important to have a sense of the slang from the time, both to understand the text and to help with improvising. I came across an amazing list of 1920s & 30s slang and couldn’t resist sharing it here; I think it’s time we bring some of these back, they really are the bee’s knees.

*Original post found at http://www.1929anupperclassaffair.com/Flapperspeak.pdf
Flapperspeak: Dictionary of Words From the 1920’s and 1930’s
From the AACA Potpourri website and Mark McCutcheon’s Writer’s Guide To Everyday Life From Prohibition Through World War II

Ab-so-lute-ly – affirmative
All six, hit on – to hit on all six cylinders, 100% percent performance
All wet – describes an erroneous idea or individual, as in, “he’s all wet.”
And how – I strongly agree!
And howl – emphatic response like, “You said it!”
Applesauce – an expletive same as horsefeathers, As in “Ah applesauce!”
Attaboy – well done!; also Attagirl!
Baby – sweetheart. Also denotes something of high value or respect.
Baby vamp – attractive female usually used by college boys – other terms include: angel, thrill, bird, liveone, peach, choice bit of calico, sweet patootie, panic
Balled Up – confused, messed up
Baloney – nonsense!
Bank’s Closed – no kissing or making out – i.e. – “Sorry, Mac, the bank’s closed.”
Barb – college student that was not part of a fraternity
Barleycorn, John – popular personification of bootleg alcohol – this term was used throughout Prohibition
Barrel House – illegal alcohol distillation plant
Bearcat – a hot-blooded or fiery girl
Beat it – scram or get lost
Beat one’s gums – idle chatter
Bee’s knees – extraordinary person, thing, idea; the ultimate also “Cat’s Meow”
Beef – a complaint or to complain
Beeswax – business, i.e. None of your beeswax.”
Bell bottom – a sailor
Bent – drunk, ossified
Berries – That which is attractive or pleasing; similar to bee’s knees, as in “It’s the berries.”
Bible Belt – Area in the South and Midwest where Fundamentalism flourishes
Big six – a strong man; from auto advertising, for the new and powerful; six cylinder engines
Bimbo – a tough guy
Bird – general term for a man or woman, sometimes meaning strange or odd
Blind Pig – place where illegal alcohol was served, like a speakeasy. Blind Pigs had deceptive or “blank” fronts –often were in basements, behind peep-holed doors or in the back of legitimate businesses
Blocker –Southern term for moonshiner or bootlegger
Blotto – drunk, ossified, bent
Bluenose – An excessively puritanical person, a prude
Bohunk – derogatory term to describe a central European immigrant (used from 1900-1930)
Bootleg – illegal liquor also called busthead
Breezer – a convertible car
Brown – Bootlegger’s term for whiskey
Brown plaid – bootlegger’s term for Scotch
Bubs – women’s breasts (used as description from 1900 on)
Bug-eyed Betty – unattractive or unpopular girl, often this term was used by college boys – other 1920’s slang include: pig’s coattail, washout, mess, flat tire, chunk of lead, crumb
Bull – (1) a policeman or law-enforcement officer including FBI (2) nonsense (3) to chat idly, to exaggerate
Bull Session – Male talkfest, gossip, stories of sexual exploits
Bum’s Rush – ejection by force from an establishment
Bump Off – to murder or kill
Bunny- term that conveys sympathy and endearment for lost or confused person
Bus – old, worn out big vehicle (used from 1915 onwards)
Bushwa – softer version of bull shit also spelled booshwash
Butterfly’s boots, the – anyone or anything that is great or dreamy like the cat’s meow
Cake-eater – a ladies’ man
Canned – drunk, ossified, bent
Caper – a criminal act or robbery
Carry a torch – To have a crush on someone
Cash – a kiss
Cash or check? – Do you kiss now or later?
Cast a kitten – to have a fit
Cat’s meow – Something splendid or stylish, similar to bee’s knees; the best or greatest, wonderful.
Cat’s pajamas – Same as cat’s meow or cat’s whiskers or gnat’s eyebrows
Chase yourself, go -get lost (from 1900 onwards)
Chassis – the female body from 1930
Cheaters – Eyeglasses
Check – kiss me later
Chewing gum – double talk
Copacetic – Wonderful, fine, all right
Coffin varnish – bootleg or homemade alcohol, also called horse liniment, stuff, and tarantula juice
Crush – An infatuation
Daddy – a young woman’s boyfriend or lover, especially if he’s rich
Dame – a female (term used since 1900, gained wide use in the 1930’s and 1940’s)
Dapper – a Flapper’s dad
Darb – An excellent person or thing (as in “the Darb” – a person with money who can be relied on to pay the check)
Dead soldier – an empty beer bottle
Deb – a debutante
Dick – a private investigator
Doll – an attractive woman
Dolled up – dressed up
Dope – drugs
Double-cross – to cheat, stab in the back
Dough – money
Drag – college dance
Dry – person who is against drinking and for Prohibition
Dry up – shut up, get lost
Dumb Dora – a stupid female also called Dumbbell
Earful – enough
Eel’s hips – variation of cat’s meow
Edge – intoxication, a buzz
Egg – a person who lives the big life

Ethel – effeminate man

Fag – before 1920, a cigarette, after 1920, a cigarette or effeminate man
Fella – guy
Fire extinguisher – a chaperone
Fish -(1) a college freshman also can be a first timer in prison
Flapper –free-spirited young woman
Flat tire – a dull, insipid, disappointing date. Also known as a pill, pickle, drag, rag, oil can
Flivver – a Model T; after 1928, could mean any old broken down car
Flapper – A stylish, brash, hedonistic young woman with short skirts & shorter hair
Fly boy – a glamorous term for an aviator
Fried – drunk, ossified, bent
Frosh –first year student at college
Gay – happy
Giggle water – an intoxicating beverage; alcohol
Gin mill – An establishment where hard liquor is sold; bar
Glad rags – “going out on the town” clothes
Gold digger – A woman who associates with or marries a man for his wealth
Goods, the – the desired material
Goof – stupid bumbling person
Goon – hoodlum
Hair of the dog – a shot of alcohol
Half seas over – thoroughly drunk also known as “half under”
Heel – scoundrel
He-man – a masculine man
Hayburner – (1) a gas guzzling car (2) a horse one loses money on
Heebie-jeebies – The jitters, anxiety
High-hat – To snub or a snob
Hip – savvy –used since 1915
Hip flask – small container used to carry alcohol, hidden by the hip or in a big pocket –fad item in 1920’s
Hit on all sixes – to perform 100 per cent; as “hitting on all six cyclinders”
Hokey-Pokey – inexpensive candy or ice cream for children
Hooch – Bootleg liquor
Hooey – nonsense
Hoofer – Dancer
Horsefeathers – an expletive; same usage as applesauce
Hotsy – totsy – pleasing
Hurdy-gurdy – a hand organ often played in the streets
It – sex appeal
Iron – a motorcycle
Jack – money
Jake – all is is okay, as in, “Everything is Jake.”
Jalopy – Old car
Jane – any female
Java – coffee
Jitney – a car employed as a private bus. Fare was usually five cents; also called a “nickel”

Joe – coffee

Joe Brooks – someone who is fashionably dressed
Joe Zilch – any male college student also known as Joe College or Joe Yale
John – a toilet
Joint – an establishment
Juice joint – a speakeasy
Joint – A club, usually selling alcohol, also called speakeasy, club, juice joint
Kale – money
Keen – Attractive or appealing
Knock-up – get pregnant not on purpose
Know One’s Onions – know what you are talking about
Lady legger – female bootlegger
Lam, on the – running away from the police
Lay off – knock it off
Level with me – be honest
Line – Insincere flattery
Live wire – a lively person – wild
Milquetoast – timid, mild person
Mind your own potatoes – mind your own business
Moonshine – bootleg alcohol
Neck – Kissing with passion
Nifty – great, excellent
Ofay – African American term to describe white people
Old Boy – male term to address other men also “Old man”
On the lam – fleeing from police
On the level – legitimate, honest
On the up and up – on the level
Ossified – a drunk person
Owl – a person who’s out late
Palooka – (1) a below-average or average boxer (2) a social outsider, from the comic strip character Joe Palooka
Pet – Same as neck, but more so
Piker – (1) a cheapskate (2) a coward
Pill – (1) a teacher (2) an unlikable person
Pin – announce an engagement or agreement to be serious by giving or receiving a sweetheart’s fraternity pin
Pinch – To arrest
Pinko – liberal
Pip – extraordinary person or thing, sometimes used sarcastically
Prom-trotter – gregarious student who attends school social functions and likes to dance
Putting on the Ritz – after the Ritz hotel in Paris; doing something in high style
Quiff – cheap prostitute
Rag-a-muffin – a dirty or disheveled individual
Razz – to make fun of or take the piss out of, heckle
Ritzy – Elegant (from the hotel)
Rub – student dance party
Rube – hick
Rummy – drunk, alcoholic
Rush – try to get into a fraternity
Sap – a fool
Says you – a reaction of disbelief
Scratch – money
See a man about a dog, have to – phrase to describe “I need to leave now”, often referring to going out and buying bootleg whiskey
Sheba – A woman with sex appeal (from the move Queen of Sheba) or (e.g. Clara Bow)
Sheik – A man with sex appeal (from the Valentino movies)
Shiv – a knife
Sinker – a doughnut
Sitting pretty – in a great position
Snake’s hips – cat’s whiskers or bee’s knees
Snoot full, have a – to be drunk
Snuggle pup – teenager term for a sweetheart who likes to cuddle
Sockdollager – knock out punch
So’s Your Old Man – reply showing irritation from 1915 onwards
Speakeasy – Irish word to describe an illicit, undercover bar selling bootleg liquor also called blind pig and scatter
Spifflicated – Drunk. The same as canned, corked, tanked, primed, scrooched, jazzed, zozzled, plastered,owled, embalmed, lit, potted, ossified or fried to the hat
Spoon – to neck, or at least talk of love
Stuck On – infatuated, in love with
Struggle buggy – the backseat of a car (where young couples made out)
Stuck On – Having a crush on
Swanky – Ritzy
Swell – Wonderful. Also: a rich man – more in later 1930’s
Talkies – movies with sound
Tin Pan Alley – the music industry in New York, located between 48th and 52nd street
Tomato – a female
Toot, on a – drinking spree
Up and up – on the level, legitimate
Wet – stupid, unsophisticated also can be someone who is against Prohibition and for the legalization of alcohol
Wet Blanket – a solemn person, a killjoy
Whisper Sister – female proprietor of a speakeasy
Whoopee – To have a good time
Wife – affectionate term to describe college dorm roommate
Wooden nickels, don’t take any – a fad expression of 1920, that meant “don’t do anything stupid – takecare of yourself.”
TERMS FOR DRUNKENNESS
Bleary-eyed, bent, blind, blotto, boiled, boiled as an owl, burning with a blue flame, canned, corked, corned, crocked, edged, embalmed, fried, four sheets in the wind, full, ginned, half-cocked, half seas over, half-screwed, half-shot, happy, high, hoary-eyed, jazzed, jingle, lathered, liquored, lit, lit up like a Christmas tree, lit up like a store window, lit up like the commonwealth, loaded, loaded for beer, loaded to the muzzle, lubricated, oiled, over the bay, ossified, owled, paralyzed, plastered, pie-eyed, pickled, piffed, piped, polluted, potted, primed, saturated, slopped, sloppy, stiff, stinko, soused, squiffy, stewed, sprung, tanked, tight, lit,under the table, wall-eyed, wet, woozy

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.