Prohibition Play – Part 1

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Prohibition. The time of dry laws and alcohol runners and gangsters and flappers. An exciting and scary time. When Eric told us he was writing a play on Prohibition, we were very excited. We were in the midst of the tour season, and while we did some research, we didn’t really have the time to do enough. This play was a practice in trial and error, and a lot of frustration. Everybody in the play had a thought on how their costume should be (at least to some extent), and there were a lot of strong opinions. Then there was the time issue. We had to have some of it done in time to do a photo shoot for advertising. The patterns we ordered ended up taking forever and a day to come, and we didn’t get them in time for this project. I ended up drafting some patterns out of a book. The patterns turned out ok, but we used the wrong material. Whoops! They didn’t hang quite right, and they puckered more then they should have. Live and learn! See above for the drafted dresses. The one on top turned out fairly cute, but it would have helped to be able to do a fitting for the girl it was for (who is notoriously hard to get in for fittings).  The purple one just wasn’t quite right. If we had had the proper fabric it might have turned out better. The girl it was for just felt like crap in it, and she was supposed to be this glamorous speak easy singer, so that wasn’t going to work. So after the photo shoot we started working on under-pinnings for the play itself. Under-pinnings for this era are stupid. Just go buy yourself a spanx slip and a non padded/lift bra and it will look better. Here is the brassiere from Reconstructing History. I didn’t have the right fabric on hand, so I made do. Again, a mistake.

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It turned out ok, but the girls were doing the Charleston, and she didn’t feel supported enough. So I made her this one. Which was too bulky underneath the dresses we ended getting for them.



Then there were these. For our girls that were a little more busty and curvy. Again. Spanx. Just buy the freaking Spanx. The line they give is much better. I am all for historical under-pinnings, and I was really bummed that these didn’t work, but Spanx.

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 So once I had those stupid monstrosity’s done we went shopping for dresses. It’s very odd for us to go shopping for costumes. We usually make everything in house (with the exception of some menswear) so we have this mindset that if we don’t make it, it doesn’t count as costuming. Boy, were we wrong. The play wouldn’t have ended up looking nearly as good if we hadn’t gone costume shopping. It was a very fun but stressful experience. I felt that as a costumer I wasn’t doing my job. And everybody had an opinion on which dress to get, and how it looked with spanx versus under-pinnings. And while they were right (we went shopping with all the cast that needed dresses), it was very humbling and a bit humiliating. This whole play was quite the learning experience, and I was very grateful especially for Mallory. She watches a lot of historical shows (at a lot more in that era then I do), and does a lot of graphic design for the farm, looking at fashion plates and such, and has a better feel for the era. I hate new eras. There is such a learning curve. But Mallory helped me put perspective on it, and went shopping with Abi and me (a bonus for Abi since they are besties:), and really helped us get some really good stuff. So thanks Mallory! You’re the best!

For the main dresses we went to Unique Vintage. If you get the chance, go!! It is awesome in there! Here are some of the dresses we got.


Photo by Mallory Drazin


Photo by Mallory Drazin

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Photo by Mallory Drazin

We had a dance number with three of the girls in the red dresses, and we used one of them for the waitress at the speakeasy (who was also in the dance number).


Photo by Mallory Drazin

We also got a dress and hat from Modcloth.


Photo by Mallory Drazin

Here are some of the headpieces, which have clips on the back, so we can change them out on the headbands without messing up anyone’s hair. The top pictures are before I decorated and the bottom pictures are after. The red ones were for the Charleston Dance scene with the red dresses. The other one was for the speakeasy singer who got the green dress.

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We also got some lovely shoes. Oh, American Duchess, how I love thee and wished I had bucket loads of money to spend on pretty shoes! These were for Erin, and I would steal them, but her foot is like 4 sizes smaller the mine. Damn.


In my next post we’ll look at some of the Menswear we got and some pictures of the play. Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “Prohibition Play – Part 1

  1. In the theater, the job of the costumer is to create an atmosphere for the audience that brings them into the play and wraps them in the magic. There is no way you should feel badly about not doing historical underpinnings. Whether you buy, pull, or make the costumes, it doesn’t matter as long as you create the right look. An exception would be if you were doing some kind of bedroom farce where everyone was running around in their underwear; then it would be the costume. If you can’t see it from the audience then it doesn’t matter. It is also very important that the actor feels that the costume enhances their character. So I’m going to go ahead and give this a win!

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