Costumes: Part 2
Extravagance in dress ended in France with the reign of the ill-fated Louis VII and Marie Antoinette. The red heels, knee breeches, wigs and powder all became taboo as marks of the hated aristocracy. Velvets and satins were banned, and French patriots wore cloth instead. Men cropped their hair quite short. Women wore curls, ringlets, or the wind-blown bob. A new hat for men and women had a tapered, high crown.
After the French Revolution, it was thought that the classic dress of ancient Rome was a fitting style for the new Republic. Women discarded petticoats and high heels in exchange for white fabrics in linen and silk which hung in soft folds. They wrapped themselves in long scarves and shawls. The costume was complete with sandals and silk stockings, worn even in midwinter.
At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, London took the lead as the center of fashion. A typical man's outfit was a jacket cut away in front, with tails at the back. Women wore high-waisted empire dresses, tiny spencer jackets, scarves and shawls. The favorite dress was white, and the jacket was a shade of brown or rich green. Velvet and satin were reserved for formal dress. In the 1820's, cloth pantaloons instead of satin knee breeches were first introduced for evening wear.
The bicorn, a two-cornered cocked hat, replaced the three-cornered one, but even more popular was a top hat of brushed beaver. Men had side whiskers, and ladies had ringlets showing beneath poke bonnets and turbans. Long veils draped over bonnets and the vogue for white dresses led to the modern wedding costume. Shoes were flat-heeled and often resembled slippers, made of soft silk or satin with a bit of embroidery on the toes. Around 1800, drawers or pantalets were seen occasionally, but drawers as a regular undergarment date from around 1830.
In the 1830's, corsets and fitted bodices returned to fashion and skirts flared bell-shaped over starched petticoats. Sloping shoulders were accented by huge, puffed sleeves stiffened with horsehair and whalebone. The hair was dressed high in back into a topknot. Hats, bonnets, and caps were decorated with ribbons, flowers, feathers and ostrich plumes, often several different trimmings on one hat. Shawls and muffs were also popular.
Men's clothes were fitted at the waist almost as tightly as the women's. This required a tight underbelt and padding at chest and hips. Trousers, which were worn over the boots, were tight and had a strap passing under the boot. The polished black silk topper replaced the top hat of beaver. A finishing touch was the cravat in white linen, black satin, or silk. Men's hair curled in short ringlets along with thin side whiskers, Vandyke beard and mustache.
Around 1845, a band of horsehair (crinoline) was sewn into a petticoat, then a band of straw in the hem. Around 1850, a corded petticoat with hoops of whalebone and steel appeared. Capes, shawls, and flaring mantles were well suited for the crinoline mode. Coquettish hats were secured with hatpins and veils. The hair was dressed low or was encased in a heavy silk net. Dainty boots of soft kid, satin or black patent leather had low heels. Tiny parasols were also fashionable.
An American woman named Amelia Bloomer, rebelling at the uncomfortable skirts, designed a new costume consisting of a short tunic worn over a pair of ankle-length pantalets. Though she didn't succeed in changing the fashion, "bloomers" became the name of ladies' pantalets.
Around 1870, the crinoline changed to the bustle which was worn until the end of the 19th century. A heavily boned corset shaped and held the body firmly. For men, a short jacket was introduced for informal evening wear. It was known as a dinner jacket, smoking jacket, or tuxedo. An English hatter, William Bowler, designed a round felt hat. First worn by the Earl of Derby, it became known as a bowler or derby. Men at this time had luxurious side whiskers. Women's hair was dressed high in back, their hats decorated with flowers, fruits, feathers, lace, and ribbons.
The 1890's hourglass figure had a tiny waist measuring only 18 inches, acquired by wearing such a tight corset that women had an odd gait, called a kangaroo walk. But when they took to the popular new pastime of bicycling, women wore only a short skirt and bloomers. For men, trouser creases and cuffs were introduced. Levi Strauss' 20-year patent on riveted denim work pants expired in 1891. Everyday fashions were mass marketed in Sears catalogs beginning in 1896.
The natural figure came back in style after the opening of the 20th century. Waistlines disappeared and dress became simple and practical. The invention of the permanent wave in 1905 was a sensation. The years of World War I put women into plain, straight, short sheath frocks. The rising hemline put more emphasis on shoes and stockings. Black silk stockings were replaced with colored ones. Shoe designers created a wide range of models from sandals to suede boots and from wedge soles to spike heels. Dark jackets with light trousers were popular with men.
Now that garments were being produced in large quantities in factories, fashionable clothing was no longer reserved for a privileged few. Specialized clothing was made for each and every occasion for men, women, and children - business clothes, formal evening attire, work clothes, casual clothes and sportswear. There were new synthetic fabrics as well as the classic woolens, silks, velvets, cottons, and laces. The sheer nylon stocking replaced silk stockings in the 1930's.
Following World War II, denim blue jeans became less associated with workwear and more associated with the leisure activities of prosperous post-war America. Colorful play clothes and sportswear designed for comfort and freedom of movement were designed to suit the modern, active lifestyle. Southern California became a center of fashion because Hollywood had to be months ahead of the current vogue in dress. Otherwise, by the time a movie was released, the clothes worn in the film would lack the distinctiveness of style that audiences came to expect.
Costuming for motion pictures runs into millions of dollars and calls upon the talents of world-famous designers and style authorities. Every studio has a wardrobe department, generally one of its largest units. They have huge, well-lit workrooms complete with seamstresses and tailors.
A star's wardrobe for a film is designed and created long before the actual filming of a picture. The actors must have fittings and wardrobe tests. Clothes worn in pictures are tailored precisely, because unwanted wrinkles or bulges would be magnified by the camera. The wardrobe designer must consider the kind of costume that will best bring out the character to be portrayed, as well as how colors and fabrics will look in the lighting to be used.
Historical costumes are absolutely true to their period. The research department examines books, magazines, old paintings and the like to obtain accurate designs. Sketches, drawings, and even paintings are made; and when these are approved, the actual making of the costumes is begun. Studios may also rent costumes from large costume companies. These places have many garments in stock available for immediate use, or will make costumes to order.
Proper accessories are important, as the finest details of dress must be carried out. Both studios and costume companies have hundreds of pairs of shoes of all styles, sizes, and colors, as well as handbags, gloves, belts, jewelry, hats, wigs, beards, scarves, fans, and the like.
It was just recently when I learned that Southern California is a great place to get costumes - not Halloween costumes, but professional theatrical costumes. Los Angeles, the motion picture capital of the world, probably has even more costume warehouses, but it was in San Diego where I found what I was looking for while on vacation. My husband and I were going to be attending a Regency era ball, and we had been searching for some appropriate historic apparel. There is a lot of Renaissance, Civil War, and Victorian stuff out there, but Regency style clothing is virtually impossible to find locally, and difficult to get even on the Internet.
Then we discovered San Diego's oldest and largest costume company - curiously named Buffalo Breath - which has over 50,000 costumes in stock. You can buy or rent costumes in person or over the Internet at www.buffalobreath.com, from every era for any event or special occasion. Their warehouse is filled from wall to wall and floor to ceiling with hundreds of racks of costumes - Biblical, Renaissance, Colonial, Civil War, Ancient Rome, Medieval, Victorian, etc. - including togas and gladiators of Ancient Rome, World War II civilian and military costumes, Victorian gentlemen, Elizabethan queens, Renaissance peasants, colonial merchants, Roaring Twenties flappers, Disco costumes from the Seventies, Western and Civil War, and many more. You name it, they've got it! -whether it's for a masquerade ball, biography report, corporate event, convention, theme party, Renaissance Faire, school play, theatrical production, vintage fashion show or wedding. They also have a large selection of accessories such as hats, wigs, beards, jewelry, boas, gloves, makeup, teeth, masks, wings, swords, pistols, etc.
We were assisted by two of the nicest ladies who were very knowledgeable about historical fashion. They agreed that Regency era costumes are hard to come by, but said that if they didn't have it, they'd figure out how to put something together for us by mixing and matching pieces from other outfits. Their rule of thumb is that you don't have to be perfectly authentic, but simply give the illusion of authenticity. They kept bustling back and forth, bringing out sets of clothes for us to look at, fitting us, making adjustments, and suggesting accessories that would go well. It almost made me feel like a movie star - but when they started placing bonnets on my head I felt more like Little Bo Peep! The Buffalo Breath people really seem to take personal pride in making you look your best for whatever function you do. And since these were used theatrical costumes with a little wear and tear, they weren't too expensive. My husband's tailcoat, complete with a Hollywood designer label, only cost $50. It had dirty scuff marks where the long tails were probably hanging on the floor, but a little scrubbing with Fels-Naptha laundry soap cleaned it up. A similar tailcoat in like-new condition would have cost $150!
Galaxy of Costumes (www.gocostumes.com) is a smaller costume rental place in North San Diego County, offering costumes for holidays, storybook themes, historical, Renaissance Faires, Wild West, school projects, and more. Costume Classics in Oceanside offers classical, theatrical, and motion picture costumes. There is a quaint little store in Oceanside called Vintage Sanctuary, 625 S. Coast Hwy. next to the 101 Café. (Phone 760-439-4535) Browsing through their eclectic collection of extremely vintage clothes, handbags, and jewelry is like exploring Gramma's attic. In nearby Fallbrook is Millie's Antiquities 'N Old Lace, "the magical costume place." Millie offers costume rentals for theater and school productions, and features vintage attire and vintage fashion shows. Millie, a theater arts consultant, can be reached at 760-723-9206. Then there is the Horse's Mouth Historical Clothier (www.horses-mouth.com) at 129 S. Orange in Escondido, purveyor of fine historical clothing and period uniforms for re-enactors, museums, and film.
Arizona Costume Resources
We Make History (www.wemakehistory.com), founded by Scott Hinkle of Scottsdale, Arizona, offers authentic historic events such as Grand Balls, reenactments, "in character" speeches and presentations of famous persons from history. The Grand Balls are each set during a certain historic period such as Colonial, Regency, Civil War or Victorian. Their website contains fascinating details and facts on costume and lifestyle from several different eras, along with period illustrations and modern photographs.
Wild West Mercantile (www.wwmerc.com) is the world's largest Old West clothing outfitter, voted "Best Vintage Western Clothing Outfitter." It's located in Phoenix at 5637 N. 19th Avenue, 602-246-6078. They specialize in men's and women's Old West clothing including classic Old West style formalwear, leatherwear, old fashioned boots, hats, undergarments, patterns, and accessories such as suspenders, garters, lace jabots, shawls, jewelry, cavalry items, replica pistols, badges, spectacles, and more. A great place for Wild West re-enactors and Old West enthusiasts!
YESTERDAZE, 2413 E. Osborn, Phoenix (www.azresale.com/Yesterdaze/link18.html) is the largest vintage clothing store in the Valley, specializing in sales and rentals of 1870-1910 period and 1920-1970 vintage outfits and accessories for tea parties, school events, stage, photo shoots, corporate events, murder mysteries, class reunions, balls, or any old-fashioned occasion.
Mardi Gras Costume, 5895 N. Granite Reef Rd., Scottsdale, 480-948-4030 is Arizona's largest costumer, offering a vast collection of unique period and modern costumes for theatrical productions, conventions, parties, and special events. More then 10,000 costumes are available here, including Renaissance designs, glamorous gowns, military fatigues, and Mardi Gras parade costumes, plus accessories such as hats, wigs, jewelry, masks and theatrical makeup. They are the exclusive Arizona retailer of Sofi's Stitches, manufacturer of quality reproduction gowns, robes, shirts, vests, breeches, bloomers, etc. documented from paintings, statutes, and garment studies.
Did You Know…? San Diego's oldest and largest costume company – curiously named Buffalo Breath – has more than 25,000 costumes in stock. Their warehouse is filled from wall to wall and floor to ceiling with hundreds of racks of theatrical quality costumes. You must see it to believe it! Arizona's largest costumer is Mardi Gras Costume, 5895 N. Granite Reef Rd., Scottsdale, offering over 10,000 period and modern costumes.
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