I begin to suspect that I am getting a reputation for the Wrong Thing.
I don’t mind people knowing that I’m fast, and I don’t mind their knowing that I can come up with a hell of a good show on a very light budget. (Well, I do mind that last, but the five-figure costume-budget shows are hardly breaking down my door, so I work with what I get.)
I certainly don’t mind being known for innovative problem-solving, at least to a point. But the problem that I am repeatedly being asked to solve leads to what I am calling “the convertibles”. These are outfits that make me wish I was a designer who cannot sew – a breed that I customarily deride, along with anyone else who has ever had to make the infamous cloak that has no fastenings, or the quick-change from something like a squat dwarf with a cape to Elrond.
But, when I start dealing with the convertibles, I wish that I could just sketch them off and foist them on some unsuspecting cutter. “Here, you should be able to do this one with those little loops for roman blinds, and a weighted pouch.” Then I’ll sit back and have my coffee while waiting for the kudos.
It started in Psycho Beach Party: “We need a dress for a 60s beach party, but it has to be a Siamese Twin Act dress. And it has to tear away, because they get pulled apart when Chicklet goes crazy. Oh, and Chicklet’s part of the dress also gets torn off, so it has to tear right off, and cover the shorts and shirt she’ll have under it. Did we mention the reason she goes crazy is that the dress is red? The script just has them in a red dress, but that’s dumb, she would go mad right away, so we thought that if the dress turned red halfway through the act, it would make more sense. So we’ll just work it into the number, but they need to be able to pull a string or something and the dress will turn into a different dress which is red. And tear-away.”
That’s still (thank goodness) the worst of them. But currently there is a 16th century musician – who only gets ONE piece of costume to identify him as such, that’s the way the show is designed – and whatever that one piece is has to turn inside out and identify him as a friar. Then there’s today’s project: The late 19th c. party scene in Dorian Gray where an entire dining room full of titled people in evening dress have ten seconds to become sailors, prostitutes and opium addicts in a dockside tavern, without ever leaving the stage. My vision for it is like the building of the barricades in Les Miserables – such a simple change, but so incredibly neat it made me want to cry. Great idea, except the time it takes to make it happen fast is also making me want to cry!
I don’t have pictures of any of that yet – you’ll notice in time that it takes me forever to get relevant pictures – but here’s one of Lord Henry Wotton’s wife, Victoria: (From the book – “her dresses looked as if they had been designed in a frenzy, and put on in a tempest”)