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Costume design for enchanted April

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Chelsey A Schuller
Abstract:
The following thesis explores the costume design process and execution for the production Enchanted April. Included in this document is an explanation of the design approach, images from costume and character research, fabric swatches for constructed costumes, process photos and production photos. The production of Enchanted April studied in this paper was produced by the University of Maryland and opened on October 8, 2010. K.J. Sanchez directed the production, the set was designed by J.D. Madsen, the lighting was designed by Ariel Benjamin, and the sound was designed by Neil McFadden.

Table of Contents

Dedication.....................................................................................................................ii Table of Contents.........................................................................................................iii Chapter 1: Concept Statement......................................................................................1 Chapter 2: Costume Research.......................................................................................5 Chapter 3: Costume Sketches.....................................................................................19 Preliminary Sketches..............................................................................................19 Revised Preliminary Sketches................................................................................54 Chapter 4: Color Renderings......................................................................................84 Chapter 5: Costume Design Plot/Piece List.............................................................122 Chapter 6: Costume Fitting Photos..........................................................................130 Chapter 7: Production Photos..................................................................................146 Bibliography.............................................................................................................160

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Chapter 1: Concept Statement

Enchanted April is a beautiful tale of self-discovery that chronicles the story of four women as they regain their love of life. The play begins in post World War I London, England surrounded by an oppressive atmosphere. The setting is immensely oppressive for Lotty Wilton and Rose Arnott who are also under the thumb of a society that imposes strict rules for women, one of which is duty to their husbands. As the story unfolds Lotty and Rose grow bolder to the point of disobeying their husbands and abandoning the suffocating grasp of London for a month of sunshine in Italy with two complete strangers, Lady Caroline Bramble and Mrs. Graves. In the warm unrestricted rays, the two new adventurers and their companions slowly begin to recover the bloom of life. By the end of the play, the four women blossom into full beauty of spirit as they are finally able to come to terms with their lives. The concept for the costume design centered on this idea of the women emerging from a constricted, suffocating bud and blooming into vibrancy and life. Initial conversations with the director K.J. Sanchez also followed along the same lines of restriction and oppression becoming openness and freedom as the play progressed. One challenge for me as the costume designer was the sheer magnitude of the play in terms of different settings and changes in day and time. The first act alone covered eight different locations over the span of months. Because the scenes had to move so quickly, we did not want them to become bogged down with costume changes. However, K.J. and I still wanted a way to illustrate the changes in time. The solution was for Lotty and Rose to wear the same dress for the entire first act, but to

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change their coats and hats to signify a new day. Some of the changes still had to be pared down once we got into technical rehearsals, but the overall effect was successful. For the second act, the scenes became longer and K.J. and I both agreed that complete costume changes were needed to help show the progression of time – especially since the location would remain the same for the whole act. The development of Lotty and Rose’s clothing was a balancing act. We had to see their differences, while still being able to see how these two women could become good friends. K.J. also felt that is was important for us to maintain some level of consistency in the detail and styling of the costume designs for each character as the play progressed. This idea translated into fluttery collars and ruffles for Lotty, and high modest collars and long sleeves for Rose. The breaking down of these elements was one tool used to show the inner changes of heart happening to these women. Lady Caroline Bramble’s costume design underwent many changes. She is used to a high-paced glamorous life, and decides to escape to Italy with Lotty and Rose to rest and recover from her husband’s untimely death. We began with the idea that her look became one of simple elegance once she arrived in Italy to signify the fact that she no longer had to put on a show for anyone, namely men. As the design process continued, K.J. wanted to continue pushing Caroline’s glamour. Eventually, her clothing became a sort of elaborate shield she hid behind, most especially from her travel companions. Her costumes became high fashion, and were made of rich silks. Once we are able to see past her defense we realize that she is a lonely soul looking for love and peace of mind, a revelation that might not have been as powerful if we had decided to stick with the original plan of simplicity for the second act.

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Mrs. Graves, the final companion on the journey to Italy, seems rather cynical and cantankerous at first, but she reveals herself as a discerning and loyal friend by the end of the play. Her costume design supported this through a softening of fabrics and a lightening of layers as the play progressed. It was important that Mrs. Graves always maintained a sense of elegance. She is, after all, a well-to-do educated woman who has seen the world. I tried to achieve that by keeping her designs fairly simple with a few elegant details in terms of trims and accessories. Though the play focuses on these four women, the men are also to be considered. In the beginning of the play, the two husbands are seen as the misunderstanding oppressors whom Lotty and Rose must escape. The one exception is Wilding, the Italian villa’s owner. I approached his costume as if he were our first glimpse of Italy. At first he wore tan pants with a white shirt and ascot, but we eventually changed his shirt to a mauve tint, which pulled him further into the world of London while still giving him visual warmth. K.J. and I had several discussions about Wilding’s progression. While the rest of the characters come to the villa as an escape, it is home for him. However, it is a home where his parents are no longer alive that holds memories of his struggle to recover from the trauma of the war. As such, I designed his second act costume to be comfortable but somewhat more restricted initially. However, like everyone else he eventually drops his guard under the peaceful influence of the Italian villa. Even Mellersh and Frederick, the husbands of Lotty and Rose, fall under the magic of San Salvatore. They have relinquished their roles as the all-knowing providers and begin to listen and understand their wives.

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The final scene of the play is an evening dinner party. K.J. and I both agreed that this scene should be a glamorous event where we finally see a complete blossoming of the women. To achieve this I put the men in full tuxes and the women in rich evening gowns. I stepped away from the previous pastel palette of Italy and painted the women in rich jewel tones of elegant fully blossomed flowers. And so the play ends like a fairytale, displaying the four traveling companions in vibrant, confident hues finally at peace with their lives.

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Chapter 2: Costume Research

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Chapter 3: Costume Sketches

Preliminary Sketches:

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Revised Preliminary Sketches:

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Chapter 4: Color Renderings

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Chapter 5: Costume Design Plot/Piece List

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Chapter 6: Costume Fittings Photos

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The fitting photo to the right shows the first idea for Rose’s Act 2, Scene 3 costume. The change into this costume was very quick, so we planned to simply have the actor remove the long sleeve blouse from the previous costume to reveal a different blouse underneath. However, the end result felt very mismatched and did not seem to be a drastic enough change. Fortunately, a transition scene had been added giving the actor enough time to completely change dresses. Therefore, we decided to change this look completely to the off-white dress with blue trimming pictured on the left. Unfortunately, this dress was actually a vintage dress from the period and began to rip during dress rehearsals, forcing us to find another dress. The replacement dress is very similar in style, and can be seen in the production photo section of this document.

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In the fitting photo above you can see the first wig option we tried for Lady Caroline. When we got to dress rehearsals, we felt that the wig was too obviously synthetic. As the actor could not cut her hair due to a previous commitment, we had to either create a sleek enough hairstyle or find another wig. Our attempts at a hairstyle were not quite successful, but fortunately we had ordered the first wig in dark brunette as well. We tried the brunette wig in rehearsals and it worked so well that we decided to use it in the show it since it felt more real while adding a certain level of mystery and mood to the character. The new wig can be seen in the production photos in this document.

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In the script, the dress that Costanza wears in the left picture is meant to be the same dress that Mrs. Graves has worn in the scene before. We decided to build just one dress fitted to the actor that played Mrs. Graves and have Olivia Brann, the actor playing Costanza, put the dress on during the scene change. The dress was a little big for Olivia, but that worked well with the idea that the dress was borrowed from Mrs. Graves.

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Chapter 7: Production Photos

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Bibliography

Aubenas, Sylvie et.al. Elegance: The Seeberger Brothers and the Birth of Fashion Photography . San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2007.

Bell, C. Jeanenne. Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry 1840-1950 . Iola: Krause Publications, 2003.

Blum, Stella, ed. Everyday Fashions of the Twenties as Pictured in Sears and other Catalogs . New York: Dover Publications, 1981.

Corbis Online Image Archive . .

Eubank, Keith and Phyllis G. Tortora. Survey of Historic Costume: a History of Western Dress . New York: Fairchild Publications, 2005.

Flikr Photo Sharing . .

Fukai, Akiko et.al. Fashion: A History from the 18 th to the 20 th Century, Volume 2: 20 th Century . Cologne: Taschen, 2005.

Getty Image Archive . .

Grafton, Carol Belanger, ed. French fashion illustrations of the twenties: 634 cuts from La Vie Parisienne . New York: Dover Publications, 1987.

Home page. american-vintage.net . 16 September 2010. American Vintage. September 2010. .

Langley, Sue. Roaring 20s Fashions: Jazz . Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, 2005

Latham, Angela J. Posing a threat: flappers, chorus girls, and other brazen performers of the American 1920s . Hanover: University Press of New England, 2000.

“Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.” loc.gov . 2009. Library of Congress. November 2009. < http://www.loc.gov/pictures/>.

Yapp, Nick. 1920s: Decades of the 20 th Century . New York: Langenscheidt Publishing Group, 2008.

Full document contains 169 pages
Abstract: The following thesis explores the costume design process and execution for the production Enchanted April. Included in this document is an explanation of the design approach, images from costume and character research, fabric swatches for constructed costumes, process photos and production photos. The production of Enchanted April studied in this paper was produced by the University of Maryland and opened on October 8, 2010. K.J. Sanchez directed the production, the set was designed by J.D. Madsen, the lighting was designed by Ariel Benjamin, and the sound was designed by Neil McFadden.