Theatrical costume: How to grow a garden on a cape
The cloak of the host turned out to be one of the most interesting costumes for our workshop The Crutch and the Bicycle. The artist’s desire was for the host to look like the person out of this world: a little cosmic, comprising fairytale and nature in his look.
The requirements for the final product were rather vague: dimmed color, raincoat fabric covering the face, three-dimensional texture on the inside with the addition of reflective elements. And of course, more pockets. And even more pockets.
The sketch wasn’t detailed enough because of strict deadline and we had to improvise. In order to help us, the artist selected references, mainly the works of well-known craftsmen of manual carpet weaving.
It was clear that we wouldn’t weave a full-fledged carpet in two weeks, and the budget most certainly wouldn’t allow it. Besides, a carpet is nothing like a cloak, it can weigh a ton, it doesn’t get tossed or fumbled, it doesn’t require washing. With the thoughts of how to find the right balance between “to spruce everything up with rags and threads” and “manage to complete at least something on time”, we got to work.
All the tricky and confusing things came up at the stage of the draft. We scraped the bottom of the barrel, selected materials and fabrics and made a piece 50*50 centimeters with a big variety of textures that are easy to make but look very good. There were parts of knitted sweaters, rugs, tie-dyed canvas, parts in various weaving techniques.
We decided to make the best use of canvas because it suited the concept perfectly, was easy to sew, it filled a big space, and certainly was extremely cheap. Besides, we added some three-dimensional elements of carpets and torn rugs. To tell the truth, the idea of using every imaginable material and upgrading the carpet for a couple of months seemed quite enticing. We painted the canvas and the washcloth (an amazingly usable thing for such purposes!) a few different shades.
We had to do it three times because of the different fiber content and the initial color of the fabric. The use of periwinkle, khaki, and emerald paints resulted in many different dimmed shades on different fabrics that matched each other perfectly. We found a cotton net for weaving, painted it the matching color, and used it as a foundation for weaving. The biggest “bushes” are half double crochet, and the light green ones (kind of looking like spinach spaghetti) are weaved in classic carpet technique. Grey “lichen” is single-crocheted and looks amazing! Thanks to the texture of the yarn.
When we placed the carpet on the cloak, it became clear that there shouldn’t be any big elements in the place where the actors back were supposed to be, otherwise it could be very hot and uncomfortable for him to wear the cloak. Besides, that particular part of the costume was invisible to the audience. However, we found ourselves walking on the wild side, bringing color and textures to the lower part of the carpet.
A small lake appeared almost at the very end. We came to the rehearsal with the cloak almost ready, intending to find out how it would look like in the spotlight and figure out what would our next move be. Suddenly, one of the actors asked: “Where is the lake?”, hanged the cloak and pointed the finger at the spot: “This is where the lake is supposed to be! This is a map, isn’t it?”
“What the heck is he talking about?”- we thought to ourselves, rolling our eyes (that was the time that we got sick and tired of the bloody carpet).
“It’s genius!”- exclaimed the artist – “It definitely should be right there! Girls, go and make the lake!”
We got lucky. According to the playbook, the characters of the play went to the lake. It was a three-meter-long veil made in the technique of hot batic, it was also painted by us. There was a small piece left, and it fitted the cloak perfectly. On that stage, we added two inside pockets to the carpet and to the cloak, and a huge pocket disguised as a bump. You can’t go wrong with pockets. The actors were content.
The only thing left was to finish the carpet and figure out how to attach it to the cloak. From the very beginning, we thought that they should be separate. First of all, the budget suggested two things, and we needed to provide something as a second article of clothing (you can’t get anywhere without it). Secondly, it makes the storage, washing, and ironing easier for the costume designer. Placing the zipper on the perimeter – as they do it with coats with removable lining – seemed like a great idea. Sadly, it turned out to be impossible to find a two-piece stopper for the rolled zipper. The longest readymade zipper was not long enough.
That was why it all came down to the buttons – oldies but goodies – that we painted metallic silver. And these are the photos of fabrics that we had to choose from making the upper part of the cloak. They are different, I swear.
As it always happens, there was no photo of finished work on the actor but at least, we had a photo of our carpet used as a map in the background. We like to think that it fitted the story well.
Text and photo: the workshop The Crutch and the Bicycle, the cloak made by Anastasia Mavrina, the carpet made by Natalia Bushmina. The play “The Muff, Half of the Boot and Moss Beard” for the theatre by the Narva gate, St. Petersburg. Premiered in the November 2018. The stage designer Elena Sokolova.