Friday, February 5, 2010

Gypsies and Nobles: Costumes for "Le Tzigane au Croissant d'or"

I thought it was about time I showed you all that I did while I was working with the Fantasia Theatre Troupe. My main project with them was their production of an original play, Le Tzigane au Croissant d'or, a story about Gypsies, French Nobility of the mid 18th century, murder conspiracy and a hidden child. Each actor plays at least two characters, so there were over 90 costumes to make and only two months to do it all. To manage, we reused some pieces that the Troupe already owned, including all the pants, some skirts, a couple bodices, and a few gypsy men's shirts and vests.

I was the Costume Designer, which means I designed all the costumes, but as this is a small troupe with little budget, I also had to measure all the actors, shop for fabric and notions, and sew many of the costumes. Thankfully, I had three talented seamstresses on my team (one of which you know - I hired Nancy-Raven for the project). One of them took on the task of making all the shirts, aprons, coifs and sets of pocket hoops, another made the gypsies' bodices and skirts and the third took care of the noble men's waist coat and jacket. I took care of the noble women's dresses, the servant girls' jackets and the Arabian salesman's costume. For the second year of the production, we needed extra costumes due to some changes in the distribution. I had to make three extra dresses and sets of panniers, one of which I made for a man, something I had never done before.

Warning: this post contains lots of pictures!

Le Tzigane au Croissant d'or by the Fantasia Theatre Troupe

Cédric de la Rivière and Ben Bedaine

I love both of these costumes. The butler's outfit is all in blue tones. As his name is de la Rivière (river). I was especially proud with my fabric find for his jacket as it closely resembles something worn by the character of King Louis in Sacha Guitry's movie Si Paris nous était conté (1956). As for the Arabian salesman, I was once again influenced by fabric. He wears a very square shaped coat (with hidden pockets for all the stuff he has to sell), a white belted tunic and a fez hat (which I made myself, although not in the traditional manner).

(By the way I loved his striped coat fabric so much, I bought myself enough to make myself a dress similar to the ones I'm about to show you. It is one of my projects for this year.)

To save money, considering the number of new pieces that needed to be made, we reused many of the fabrics leftover in the troupe's costume store. People who had been there awhile were impressed to recognize the material from a costume they had worn before used in a whole new manner. I was told later on that it was probably the nicest costumes they had ever had and yet it was one of the lowest totals for that department.

All of the Noble women's dresses were made using leftovers.

Duchesse Marie de la Gemmeraie

That is one of my favourite dresses.

Comtesse Béraude de Roussignac - 2007

This actress didn't really like the colour of her dress (I thought it looked nice - I especially loved the layered engageantes - and made the red in her hair come out), so when I had to make another plus size dress for an extra in 2008, we gave the extra the green and orange dress and I made her a new one which she adored. I even let her help me pick the fabrics.

Comtesse Béraude de Roussignac - 2008

See how much happier she looks?

Dame Barbe de la Rochelière

This is another favourite of mine. Can you believe I found this gorgeous fabric in their stash, unused? After the premiere, this actress came to me a said that in her 25 years career, this was the nicest costume she had ever worn. I was extremely touched and proud.

Chevalier Gontrand de Roussignac and Agnès de la Dauversière

Every story needs romance; this is the couple of lovers of this one. This white dress is the only one with a separate skirt. All the other ones have a faux-underskirt front panel to make changing from noble woman to gypsy easier, but in her case as she is the star of the show, her skirt was fancier to begin with, so in the two minutes she had to change from gypsy to noble, we just ripped off the bodice and shirt, drop the dress over her head and put her in a set of panniers (all the panniers were sewn on an elastic waist band to once again make changes easier on everyone).

Some noble women for the ball:

Marquise Anne de la Petite Bretagne

Princesse Margarita Castafiore

Dame Flavie de Lionne

Damoiselle Mathilde D'Aubray de Castellar

Damoiselle Cunégonde Loiseleur de Chasteuil

Some of the girls were so nervous in the weeks before the premiere that they lost weight, so much so that we had to take in some of the dresses bodice the night before.

Damoiselles Adélaïde and Françoise de Roussignac

As these two are supposed to be sisters, I decided it would be cute to have both of them wear the same main colour for their dresses. Besides, we had so much of that lilac satin!

Young Gontrand and his sister, Damoiselle Françoise de Roussignac

Kids in period clothing: they are so cute, and yet they felt so weird wearing these fancy costumes.

Now on to some more masculine clothes:

Comte Napoléon de Touraine

Prince Paolo di Conti

Marquis Germain De la Haye

Cadéland Barthomiat, Sieur de la Grande

Sieur Geoffroy de Montargis

Abélard Jobin

He is the evil apothecary. We used dark grey Ultrasuede for his jacket so he would look dusty. Inside, he has rows of small pockets where he can hide his bottles.

As for the maids, I was very happy to make them bedgowns, a typical 18th century coat especially popular with the lower classes.

Isabeau de Poulaillon

Gervaise de Poulaillon

Antoinette du Chanteclair

Finally, we get to the gypsies. Instead of a historical look, I went for a more Ren Faire style because I wanted to really differentiate them from the maids and this is a fairytale after all.

Rachel and Louloudji

Livia the Gypsy

I don't want to sell the punch, but Livia and Agnès are one and the same.

Roustido the Magician


So what does it all look like once the show begins? See for yourself!

The Murder Conspiracy

The Ball

The Fat Lady Sings

Prince Paolo di Conti and his wife, the Princess Margarita Castafiore

In 2008, the role of the Castafiore (in reference to the Opéra singer in Tintin) went to a man who happens to be an amazing Soprano singer (you can hear him sing on YouTube). I had to make him a dress that not only matched the personality of the character, but was also as low cut as the other women's dresses without making him shave his chest (hence the lace shawl), and equipped with a fake bosom. It was an interesting challenge, but it as also fun, and I believe he loved his dress.

At the Dauversière Party

In 2008, the hairdressing department replaced the henchman's ugly blond wig with a turban. Being a SCAdian came in very handy: I had seen men wrapping turbans on their head at Pennsic and read about them while doing research for the Ben Bedaine costume. I was therefore asked to wrap the black turban on the actor's head every night before the show as I was the only one who knew how (and I managed to do it really fast).

Dame Barbe at the Ball

Gypsy Camp

It was a lovely experience. I hope to work again soon as a costumer, whether in theatre, dance, television, movie, or maybe even, at the Cirque du Soleil! I love the creative process, working with beautiful fabrics and seeing the result on stage. I'm crossing my fingers for my dream to come true.

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