Costuming Cinderella

What does it take to costume a show? Planning, research, organization, many, many hours, attention to detail, collaboration, budgeting and a good bit of art and craft.

Fall of 2015 students at Aspire Middle School for the Performing Arts took part in a production of “Cinderella: The World’s Favorite Fairy Tale” that presents the global story of Cinderella seen through the eyes of Chinese, Russian and Native American cultures. This production was costumed, for the most part, by Masque & Pettycote with some volunteer and student assistance in the last few days of production.

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This semester, the Aspire students will present Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which tells this beloved story in song and dance. In addition to learning lines, choreography, and lyrics, some of the students are taking part in costuming the production.

Aspire’s curriculum concentrates on refining performance skills, but we saw this as a chance to give the students more of the theatrical process by having them experience the backstage work.

An old theatre saying says, “An actor without technicians is just a naked person emoting in the dark.” This emphasizes the importance of those who help create the rest of the world not inferred through words or music. Theatre technicians help flesh out the environments, moods, and characters through specifically chosen, colors, textures, and movement that give an audience as well as performers a more nuanced story.

R&H Cinderella research

The chosen time period for our Cinderella is Medieval, between 1400 and 1450 with long gowns, bell sleeves, elaborate headdresses, and men in tights.

First, the students familiarized themselves with historical research provided by the show’s costume designer, Mishka Navarre. Students then chose colors and styles that depicted the characters and created design sketches to establish general character looks.

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With sketches in hand, the casting complete, and all 60 cast members measured and sized, costume pulling could begin.

Masque & Pettycote has a fairly large collection of Medieval costumes to pull from. After  cast members were assigned pieces that relate to their size and character needs, the costume team would have a better idea idea of what was left to do: Who has pieces and who doesn’t? What pieces need to be found? What pieces need to be made?

We found that we were able to assign pieces to a majority of the cast, many of whom play townspeople, as well as attendees at the ball, but there whole show was not dressed yet.  A few people were missing critical pieces such as gowns and tunics, which, for the most part, will be made in Masque & Pettycote’s workshop.

In fact, each actor will have at least one gown or tunic, a tabard or surcote, a belt, a headpiece, and boys will need leggings. Special characters will need their specific pieces such step sister ball gowns, Cinderella’s glass slippers, horse heads for the horses, a chef’s hat, and the minister’s vestments. IMG_20160213_194730478

This becomes a mountain of clothes and organization to keep track of. With at least 4 costume items per person, we’re looking at over 300 pieces–each piece getting a name tag, which by itself can take hours.

Each item will be also be fitted, with about a 1/4 of the show created from scratch or shopped for.

The next step, will be finding appropriate fabrics and patterns to build the missing items. These will then be cut and stitched with the help of students and volunteer parents.IMG_20160220_131834801_HDR

Soon, we will arrange fittings where we find out how the selected pieces fit. Do they need adjustments? Do we need to come up with completely different pieces? What articles are missing and what needs to obtained?

Once the clothing is determined for each actor, the details get attended to: hats, veils, headpieces, belts etc.We are looking forward to a few days where elaborate headdresses will be assembled for the ladies and gentlemen.

Take a sneak peek at our process, look here for updates on the work to come and mark your calendars to go see our work in action April 13, 15 and 16 At North Thurston Performing Arts Center.

Remember to support your local community artists and go see some theatre. We don’t exist without you and we are here for you; to give you–and that naked actor in the dark–a well dressed, lit, constructed and designed world.

Before Opening Weekend, A Little History Lesson

We are in the midst of planning our opening weekend out and about talking to our new neighbors, making outfits for our first commissions, and receiving our first walk-in customers. When they see our vintage interior, customers ask about the history of the building to which we say, “We’re working on it!”

Well here it is people. The start of a great story about the history of our building. Here’s a helpful map:

This is our lovely little neighborhood in 1879.

This is our lovely little neighborhood in 1879. Click for a high def picture from the Library of Congress.

Upon the first search of our address, we came up with nothing. Now, Mishka and I are used to this. Certain history likes to stay hidden in pockets, waiting for us. So we rolled up our sleeves and got to searching.

We wanted to find something about the neighborhood in general, partially because the streets had different names in the 19th century, partially because it would give us a good starting point on where to continue our research. On the map, 3rd Street is now State and 2nd is now Olympia. Also, Main Street is now Capitol. The center of downtown has changed… interesting.

Looking at our location on the map, you can see that we are between where the Bayview Hotel on 3rd (State) and the Standard Printing Office on 2nd (Olympia) used to be.

Now that you’re oriented, we can share these tidbits from the Olympia Historical Society website:

The Bayview Hotel was located on Third Avenue (now State Street) in Olympia. Third Avenue was the dividing line between the “respectable” part of downtown and the Dead Zone, or Tenderloin District. As suggested by its name, the hotel was located on what was then waterfront on the north side of the street. In this photograph, from around 1900, the staff and proprietor are awaiting customers in the hotel’s restaurant. Photographs selected and captioned by Deborah Ross. 

The Bayview Hotel was located on Third Avenue (now State Street) in Olympia. Third Avenue was the dividing line between the “respectable” part of downtown and the Dead Zone, or Tenderloin District. As suggested by its name, the hotel was located on what was then waterfront on the north side of the street. In this photograph, from around 1900, the staff and proprietor are awaiting customers in the hotel’s restaurant. Photographs selected and captioned by Deborah Ross.

John Miller Murphy, prolific, opinionated, long-lived editor of the Washington Standard, came to Olympia with his sister in 1851 and, having learned the printing trade in Portland, eventually returned to found the Standard, which he published until 1912. Along the way he was a city councilman, firefighter, member of various fraternal organizations, opera house owner, women’s suffragist, and tireless Olympia booster. He lived near the Standard building, just north of State Ave., even after that area of town became industrialized and a hangout for prostitutes and transients

John Miller Murphy, prolific, opinionated, long-lived editor of the Washington Standard, came to Olympia with his sister in 1851 and, having learned the printing trade in Portland, eventually returned to found the Standard, which he published until 1912. Along the way he was a city councilman, firefighter, member of various fraternal organizations, opera house owner, women’s suffragist, and tireless Olympia booster. He lived near the Standard building, just north of State Ave., even after that area of town became industrialized and a hangout for prostitutes and transients.

Looking back at the map, there was obviously some kind of structure here at 209 Washington in the 19th Century. We’d like to know what that was.

We sincerely hope that we were something fun.

Maybe not this fun.

Maybe not this fun.

Fast forward, we know that past 1927 this was an auto repair shop. It would be great to see what sort of shop it was.

Putting that on the back burner, we are having amazing food for our Formal Fantasy including:

A Selection of Northwest Seafood

Artisan platters from EZ Foods Olympia

Locally Brewed Beer from the Fishtail Pub

A Selection of Regional Wines and Prosecco

AND The Andy Omdahl Jazz Trio

There will also be surprise guests and a raffle of fun historical items like:

  • A 1962 Worlds Fair Elevator Operator Uniform
  • Win A Tuxedo in The Wearers Size
  • 2 $100 Masque & Pettycote Gift Certificates
  • Vintage Sports Equipment From Brocklinds
  • Historical 48 Star American Flag
  • Turn Of The Twentieth Century Steamer Trunk
  • A Collection of Vintage Western Artifacts
  • Original Commemorative Masque & Pettycote Costume Renderings

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