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April 04, 2008


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I'm very interested in your critque of the costuming. Anya Klepikov came to the Costume Institute twice to study extant 1890s garments a couple of months ago. The renderings that she brought on her second research appointment looked very promising although I never got to see the final products. She offered me tickets to see the production but the only time I could have gone would have been the same night as the 1880s Bustle Ball so I couldn't attend. I'm happy that your criticisms are minimal. It's always nice to hear that people are actually paying attention to accuracy and learning from their research appointments.

Hi Marci!
The costumes were generally a pleasure, I just don't think her color sense is quite of the period. Admittedly, I have the same problem; I just can't get my personal aesthetics around the idea of a dress that is red, orange, and green and I tend to go monochrome and rather dull. I'm working on it. I can also see the dramatic logic for the way she used color, I just don't think it was that important or necessary - the actresses were quite up to conveying their characters without the color signals.

One quibble I didn't mention is that in Mrs. Allonby's red gown, either she skipped the corset or the corset didn't come up high enough (just to under the bust). You can't see it in the photo above, but there was a clear line under the breasts rather than a smooth slope up. And, as mentioned, there was significant cleavage in that one, which is a no-no. I wish I could have gotten a look at the underpinnings!

But I would say Ms. Klepikov definitely made good use of her research visits. Nice to know she does her homework.

Now that I look closely at the photo above Mrs. Allonby does have some unsightly armpit cleavage. I think the corset is just badly fitted, it probably needs slightly larger bust gussets.
As for the color choices, I have to say that the 1890s have some the ugliest combinations of colors of all time. There are some dresses in our collection that actually make me a little queasy when I look at them. Imagine pink and green striped taffeta printed with yellow and brown cabbage roses, trimmed with red and blue velvet and covered in pearls. I can't figure out if it's just the period or if they were made by someone who was virtually color-blind since its unlikely that the colors have changed that much over time.
Red,orange, and green doesn't strike me as such an odd combination for the time but that doesn't have to mean it's pretty to look at. I remember watching a period film once and commenting,"The hat's period but it's still an ugly hat." My friend will never let me live that down.

Marci: Judging by the descriptions on fashion plates, it's the period. So using bright colors as some sort of signal about the character's morals is inherently ahistorical, as is costuming the other female characters in drab monochrome ourfits. Admittedly, most of the audience won't know this. But I do!

Mrs. Allonby's red dress just wasn't cut up high enough on the bosom - it needs to curve up and over. So she has inches of cleavage - look at the picture here and you'll see what I mean. Dreadful.

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