Monday, 22 April 2013

Making The Sound of Music Costumes - Part 1 - How do you solve a problem like Maria?

So how do you solve a problem like Maria?

(Photographs by Peter Cook)
Ok - so the title is a bit overused, but I did have a problem with my Maria costume - if fact I had the same problem with all the costumes I was making for the LRVS 2013 Showcase! With three different musicals showcased on the same night by the same cast, I had to create over 200 costumes on a very tight budget and allowing for very quick character changes.

When the Directors told me they were including The Sound of Music in the showcase, I turned straight to the 1985 film with Julie Andrews for inspiration. I tracked down the DVD that I knew I had somewhere - it was lurking at the back of the film cupboard in our lounge with some other dusty gems that are not so appreciated by others in my family - such as Oklahoma and Disney’s Fantasia!

I tracked down loads of You Tube videos from other productions - including the West End show with Connie Fisher, Broadway and local productions. And I searched the internet for Sound of Music costume ideas - this was an eye opener - it is amazing how many people love dressing up in costumes from The Sound of Music. There are even conventions and parties where people compete for Best Costume - including carefully copied dresses from the film and traditional outfits such as lederhose and dirndl (Austrian bib breeches and gathered skirts for the uninitiated like me).

I started planning lots of outfits for Maria - when she sings on the Hills; meeting the Captain and his offspring "Seven children!"; the outfits from curtains; the wedding, the farewell concert....

After all the fun searching, you can imagine how I felt when I realised that although our cast would need a different costume for each of the 3 musicals in the showcase, it wouldn’t be possible to have multiple outfits for each character in each musical. I was gutted, although practicality soon kicked in!

So I needed just one outfit for Maria, which would need to work with each of the scenes she was going to be in. Although we were not performing the full show, we did need something that wouldn’t look out of place in the convent, and was ugly enough for when Maria first meets the Captain, but smart enough for her to wear as Mrs Von Trapp. It also had to give the impression of being made from curtain fabric and look a little like the Austrian national dress. No problem there then!

Luckily, for most of the musical, Maria doesn’t wear the tailored clothes that were fashionable in the 1930s - so I was able to come up with a traditional look. I searched eBay for Austrian outfits and clothes - I didn’t want a fancy dress look so I concentrated my search in the ladies clothing and vintage sections. I was horrified by the prices some of the items reached - it wasn’t uncommon to see dirndl style skirts from the 80s going for upwards of £30 and real vintage items were even higher.

I did manage to secure a reasonably priced dark green skirt and bolero with a blouse, which I hoped would work. However, while it would have been great for Maria after she married the Captain, it didn't look young enough for her straight out of the convent, so I resold the skirt and bolero, but hung onto the pale blue-green blouse which was a peasant style in a very pretty broderie anglaise fabric.

Kia as Maria ((Photographs by Peter Cook)
I eventually tracked down a lovely long tiered corduroy skirt in an autumn coloured floral print on a dark green background - although it was a 1970s Laura Ashley skirt, I could just image old fashioned curtains in this fabric and the green colour was typically Austrian.

Both of our Marias are fairly short, so the mid calf A-line skirt was far too long. I cut off the top tier and added an elasticated waist for easy change - which also gave it the full dirndl look I was after.

I used the fabric offcuts to create a bib for the front and back, which gave the dress a traditional feel without being obvious.

Dayna as Maria (Photographs by Peter Cook)

Luckily, the one outfit fitted both Dayna and Kia without the need for alterations. You have to agree with the Von Trapp children when they say "Your dress is the ugliest one I've ever seen" and I take my hat off to both girls for wearing it with such style. Our Marias were definitely not a problem.

(Photographs by Peter Cook)
So with some simple props, including a battered old cardboard suitcase that was my great grandmothers, a half size wooden guitar and a wide brim hat, Maria sets off to start her new life - but perhaps it is with some trepidation that she first meets the Captain!

As can be seen by these gorgeous photos, both girls played the part of Maria brilliantly - and take it from me, they sounded just as amazing as they looked. And I think they had great fun at rehearsals, especially running up and down the line of kids in Do Re Mi, trying to tap the right kid on the head for each note! 

So let's end with a little quiz. During my research for Maria's costume I found some amazing outfits inspired by The Sound of Music song titles and lyrics - I bet you recognise most of the songs that the following costume ideas are based on:

  1. Tea bag
  2. A goat with long strings going from hands and feet to two crossed sticks
  3. A jar of fruit jam
  4. Atro turf
  5. Whiskered cats
  6. Five teenagers wearing different numbers reading left to right 16; 161/4; 161/2; 163/4 and 167/8.

And if you don't manage to get them all, I’ll give you the answers in next week’s blog - which will be all about nuns. 

The Old Button is more than happy for you to use these costume ideas as inspiration for your own production.

Pinning through Pinterest is fine as long as you credit The Old Button but please respect the copyright of the photos, and do not reproduce in other forms without permission. 

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