As Les Miserables needs no introduction I'm just going to get straight to the costumes!
A lot of the costumes from this show were adapted from eBay and charity shops, althouh I did make most of the skirts from scratch. Surprisingly, the costumes of the era were more modern than I thought and by choosing vintage looking items in natural fabrics like cotton and linen, I was able to evoke the look of early nineteenth-century France.
Most of the chorus had multiple parts so we needed costumes that would work as villagers, inn customers, everyday folk around Paris and students at the barricade, but could also be made to look ragged for the poor in scenes like At the End of the Day.
I limited the amount of black as this looks flat on stage, and needed to avoid modern colours - especially white - as these are not authentic for the period. So I went for muddy shades - lots of beige and brown - but livened it up with some orange tones such as tan and ochre, and some grey-blue-greens. It was quite hard to find these colours so I dyed quite a lot of items, mixing up shades or adding a touch of brown or denim blue to give the effect I wanted. For the really poor clothes I used dip-dying and over-dying techniques to created an aged look and dirty hems.
The lovely thing about natural linen or cotton is that it goes soft and crumpled if washed and tumbled dried at high temperatures. And anything with silk in was even better - I found a linen silk mix curtain fabric in a remnant bin that made fantastic rag shawls once boiled and dyed.
While I had made some really rough layered and bulky skirts for the younger cast who were mostly just in the poor chorus, I used more gentle gathered and A-line shapes for a lot of the older girls that gave a more elegant silhouette. And I trimmed some of them with upholstery braid and ribbons to create more of a class distinction.
This really helped me get a different look for the women who worked in the factory with Fantine.
Although the skirts were all different colours, I managed to source lots of shirts and blouses with a fine pinstripe - and dying them all the same blue colour and adding blue aprons created the uniform look I wanted.
The one thing I couldn't get the girls to do was put their hair up in era appropriate buns or wear caps!
The Old Button is more than happy for you to use these costume ideas as inspiration for your own production.
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