Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Extravagance Made by Hand

Fabric, patterns and Sonya Berlovitz' designs for Valere's suit in Tartuffe.
Whisk collar.
Bodices, petticoats, and waistcoats are just a few of the pieces involved in period clothing. With South Coast Repertory’s production of Tartuffe inspired by the 17th century, certain design needs and techniques are required. In an era of fashion with copious amounts of layers and fabric, a copious amount of work is needed to achieve the structured extravagance of that century.

Actor Christopher Carley in his floral suit costume.
From hand-making over 240 covered buttons to embroidering gloves to hand-crafting a whisk collar, Tartuffe called upon every able body to accomplish the design. Costume designer Sonya Berlovitz chose to remain inspired by the 17th century but played with lines and fabrics to emphasize the comedy and themes within the play. Her design is an update of her past work with director Dominique Serrand and his previous productions of Tartuffe. To help with time constraints, she refined parts of her design to ease the work load. Yet, even pieces that are typically simple, called for more care.

Seemingly straightforward, the suit for the young lover, Valere, used traditional tailoring to assemble the look. Going through the typical stages of patterns, sewing, linings and finishing touches, the suit needed a little more detail work. The trickiness with the suit lay within the floral fabric. To help accent the floral print, the Costume Shop appliquéd flower clusters from another fabric onto the suit, creating the illusion of larger flowers.

The underskirt.
On the other end of the spectrum, the biggest challenge of Tartuffe was Elmire’s blue dress. Clocking in at around 80 hours of work with 60 of those hours spent on the skirt alone, this dress demanded attention. The shop began with muslin mock-ups used in rehearsal to make sure the design was functional. Following its testing stages, blue silk taffeta—measuring at 10 yards around the skirt—was then bonded onto a knit fabric to create a sturdy layer. Then, two days were dedicated to hand-stitching cartridge pleating around the length five times to achieve the desired look.

The almost completed skirt.
The skirt was then sewn as a “bubble,” meaning the bottom hem was tucked back and sewn under the skirt. To finish it off, 30 yards of blue netting is worn underneath it with the a hoop petticoat to give it a structured shape. Hidden from the audience, a zipper was included underneath to allow the wardrobe crew the ability to lay it out and press it for each performance.

Tartuffe gave the Costume Shop a chance to flex its muscles and tackle the demands of 17th century inspired clothing. The costume shop used many of its tricks and techniques to get each design element as envisioned by Sonya. All the hours spent on every piece of costuming results in an extravagant design that further supports the monolithic styling of SCR’s Tartuffe.

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1 comment:

  1. Amazing! I feel for the seamstresses and designers and also for the actors - especially the women - who have to wear these gorgeous outfits. Aren't we glad we live in the 21st century? We are not so elegant, but we sure are more comfortable.