Mid Century Luggage Tags

One of the necessary set pieces for Wait Until Dark is a suitcase with travel stickers, and so I’ve been scouring the internet for some of my favourite mid-century designs.

It’s really unfortunate that these are no longer used by hotels and airways, because some of them were really beautifully designed, and who wouldn’t love a bag covered in them? Personally, I might print off a second set for myself and add them to my own luggage.

-E.

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Vintage Christmas Printables

In need of some last-minute decorations or gifts? Check out these sources for great vintage printables and hand-make a card, gift tag, wreath or garland. Be sure to tweet pictures of your creations to @BygoneTheatre! Click on the images for links to the original sites.

Graphics Fairy

Graphics Fairy has hundreds of Christmas printables.

 

Vintage Holiday Crafts features many turn-of-the-century Christmas cards

Vintage Holiday Crafts features many turn-of-the-century Christmas cards

 

Beautiful gift tags from Christmas Charisma.

Beautiful gift tags from Christmas Charisma.

 

True to its name, Free Pretty Things For You has some adorable prints, a bit more modern and colourful than the others, plus ideas how on to use them!

True to its name, Free Pretty Things For You has some adorable prints, a bit more modern and colourful than the others, plus ideas how on to use them!

 

Miss the kitschy-fun wrapping paper of yesteryear? No fear! Aunt Peaches has some scanned so print to your hearts content.

Miss the kitschy-fun wrapping paper of yesteryear? No fear! Aunt Peaches has some scanned so print to your hearts content.

 

Enjoy!

Vintage Halloween Masks – DIY Printables!

With Halloween just around the corner, we thought we’d share some fun vintage masks that you can print out at home! Check out these great sites for more, and be sure to follow our pinterest board for all the updates.

Wings of Whimsey is a great source for free printables and one I visit often. You can find things like this vintage cat mask;

VintageHalloween.com is an obvious choice if you’re looking for something specific and don’t mind spending some money. They have a wide array of vintage reproduction so you can make your Halloween party as authentic as you’d like (I’m swooning over some of this stuff).

This is sort of a random one that I stumbled across while browsing pinterest. 50’s Ben Cooper Box Art Detail is how the flickr album is labeled and it seems to be a high-res scan of an old costume box. Pretty nifty.

The Monster Masks Blog is a spectacular find – you really can get anything on the internet. Check out an amazing assortment of high-quality rubber and latex masks and download some cool paper ones for yourself!

 

Prefer pretty over creepy? Check out Mamelok Papercraft for some beautiful Victorian reproduction masks like these;

Got some more resource you think we should share? Send them our way! Tweet them to @BygoneTheatre.

  • E.D.

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.

 

 

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.

Theatre Magic: Brick by Brick

Our Production Assistant Janice Li was interested in learning some theatre production techniques, so set designer Jackie McClelland taught her how to make some inexpensive fake bricks for the exterior flat for “Dial M For Murder”.

Jackie started out by giving Janice this simple design: Window Flat exterior.

Janice’s first step was to cut out a bunch of cardboard “bricks” – keeping the size consistent was important, but the edges could look rough, just like real bricks.

Start off with some cardboard

We got this cardboard for free – 3 cheers for recycling!

Then Janice painted them all using Krylon Make It Stone paint (Jackie chose “Charcoal Sand”, but there are several different colours available.

IMG_0085

Painted with Krylon Make It Stone paint

Jackie stressed that, like real bricks, there could be some small imperfections, but that it should still cover as much as possible.

IMG_0087

The painted “bricks”

In the end, we had a very inexpensive, easy-to-do brick wall, as you can see here:

The finished product onstage

The finished product onstage

Of course there are many ways to achieve a similar effect;

I found an excellent post on how to make a very realistic faux brick wall, something that looks considerably harder but would be great it if was to be seen up close. That method is probably more for interior design than set design.

Another great post shows a similar but more labour-intensive version of what we’ve done, swapping out the cardboard for styrofoam which can be given a more “brick-like” texture.

And of course if you have more money, but less time, you can opt for the paintable wallpaper or panels, like they use in this post.

I’ve also seen especially skilled artists do amazing effects with just paint alone, but with all the great things you can use for depth and texture (not to mention my abysmal painting abilities) I don’t think I’d be trying that any time soon.

Do you have a great faux brick method you want to share? Leave a link in the comments.

-E.

Dial M For Murder – Dirty Business

The other day I wrote a post about how to remove the tarnish from old brass things, and today I’m going to do the opposite and try to make a faux tarnished look on some cheap dollarstore trophies! Time to get down and dirty with a sharpie and some paint.

I started off with this plastic trophy; $1.50 from Dollarama:

Step 1: Cheap Plastic Trophy

Step 1: Cheap Plastic Trophy

It’s got the right shape, it’s light weight, can’t break, and but-by-gosh the price is right, but it’s got a cheap shiny finish that looks plastic, even from a distance.

Now, these trophies are supposed to be a few years old (after all Tony Wendice retired from tennis a year ago, so they are all at least a year old) but they aren’t ancient, so I don’t want them to be too tarnished or rusted or anything. Since I have a few of the same style, I thought I’d try to show them aged differently, as though he’s won the same tournament a few years in a row.

My first step with the older looking one was to add some dark tarnished looking bits around the details. I started off with a sharpie to get it exactly where I wanted:

Step 2: Sharpie Detailing

Step 2: Sharpie Detailing

I also dulled down the gold with a bit of silver sharpie. It doesn’t show up well in a photo, but basically all it did was make it a little less shiny, while still looking metallic.

Next, for some broader strokes, I got out the black paint. I applied it using a very dry, rough brush, and added layers slowly, often wiping some away with a kleenex. Tarnish builds over time, so you need to take the time with this step as well! It should look layered in a way.

Step 3: Black Paint

Step 3: Black Paint

I put that one aside for a bit, and started on the newer looking one. For this, I still wanted to get rid of the shine, but not by using as much black, so I got out some metallic paint that I had: Dynamic Metallic Latex Paint by Paint Wizard. It had more of a sparkly finish rather than a glossy look (though of course not like glitter, that would look worse). I sort of sponged that on, like this:

Left: The Original Cup, Right: Sponged Metallic Finish

Left: The Original Cup, Right: Sponged Metallic Finish

This kept it looking warm, but a bit more like a metal. Since it’s also supposed to be aged, I added some black paint to this as well, but not as much as on the first one. The final products look like this:

The "Newer" Cup, The Original, and the "Oldest"

The “Newer” Cup, The Original, and the “Oldest”

Admittedly, up close they are still not as good as buying a vintage metal one, but as those run you nearly $100 a pop, and these cost me under $5 and only about 20 minutes to make, I think this is a better solution. I still need to change the base, but that should be as simple as putting a different, less colourful plaque on the front.

Stay tuned for more!

-E.

Dial M for Murder – Good Ol’ Fashioned Elbow Grease (and Brass Polish)

They say there are 3 things everyone wants when buying something:

  1. Good
  2. Fast
  3. Cheap

Unfortunately, you can only ever have 2 of the 3. In theatre, I’m of the belief that the best 2 to have are good and cheap, which means we often have to spend a lot of time, and a lot of elbow grease making things look shiny and new.

This week I’ve busted out the Brasso metal polish to clean up a few props we’ve found around town; a $12 fire screen from Value Village and a $5 clock our SM Jayden found along Queen West.

Before

Before

What started out as a dusty, dirty, tarnished little clock…

After

After

Looks shiny and new with a little bit of that $5 polish!

And while the fire screen takes a bit more time…

Before

Before

it too can can brand new with a little work.

After

After

Look at that shine!

So my advice to all of you who want to make great theatre on the cheap – start early, and take all the help you can get. We started collecting props and set pieces months ago, and while we have a lovely Props Master, Jackie McClelland to oversee the whole process and do the brunt of the work, the whole cast and crew keeps their eyes peeled for deals, so we can make the most of our time and money.

Stay tuned for more before and after shots of our props, costumes and set!