Costume Design on Broadway: Designers and Their Credits, 1915-1985

Costume Design on Broadway: Designers and Their Credits, 1915-1985

Costume Design on Broadway: Designers and Their Credits, 1915-1985

Costume Design on Broadway: Designers and Their Credits, 1915-1985


List of Illustrations Preface Introduction Designers and their Credits Appendixes: Tony Award, Marharam Award, Donaldson Award Illustrations Index of Plays


"I'll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel which is best to furnish me to-morrow."

Much Ado About Nothing

Theatre, by its nature, is a collaborative art. No other art form relies so heavily on the intermingling of talents to achieve the desired result. However, for many of the participants-including actor, director, scene designer-the development of their part in the process of creating a play is clearer than that of the costume designer, which historically has been undervalued.

In the ninteenth century, designing new costumes for each play produced was rarely considered a necessity. A company of actors who performed a rotating repertory of plays could maintain a wardrobe and adequately costume their period productions. Productions requiring modern dress would be costumed out of the actors' own wardrobes, supplemented with the occasional purchase of garments for stars the management desired to keep satisfied with their current state of employment. For established companies, large wardrobes were often amassed, and successful costumes were used over and over again. But because each actor had the primary responsibility for selecting his or her wardrobe for the stage, there was rarely a unified look to a production. Some attempt might be made to give period plays a historical look, however, this was usually done without regard for accuracy, but according to available garments, conventional standards of modesty, and the actor's personal preference.

As actors began to work from production to production instead of staying with one company for several seasons, a wardrobe of costumes could no longer be realistically maintained. At the same time, an increased desire for realism in the theatre led to the choice of costumes being made by the company manager, who was more likely to dress a character according to the requirements of the role than by personal preferences. If a company manager had enough time, a unity between the sets, furnishings, costumes, and intent of the play was achieved.

During the early years of the twentieth century, as the number of theatres in New York City and plays produced in them multiplied, several developments led to the growing recognition of the contribution that a specialist in the costume area might make to a production.

The star system had long been an important part of the Broadway scene, and a star who could draw large audiences and keep revenues coming in was a performer to be treated with every courtesy-including providing him or her with costumes specially designed and constructed by knowledgeable individuals. And as a result of the actor's strike of 1919, producers were required to provide costumes, wigs, shoes, and stockings for all women in principal roles and in the chorus. The growing need for a trained person to make costume selections, especially if the producers were going to foot the bill, quickly became evident.

A movement toward a strong visual format in the theatre began in the early 1920s, when it was standard practice for a single designer to control all of the visual elements of a production, including scenery and costumes, and to have assistants follow the various elements through the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.