Dressing Evita: Diary of a Costume Assistant

evita

Photo credit: Footlights

I’d been in plays, dance shows, fashion shows but I never had the opportunity to work on a show’s production team. When I heard that Footlights were looking for a costume team, registering my interest with the society was a decision that required virtually no thought at all. My love of fashion and curiosity of theatre production led me to what would later have me waking up in the middle of the night, panicking about Tango dresses. And so it transpired that four students from Languages, English, Geography and Business with a mutual respect for vintage clothes found ourselves thrown together to dress the Evita cast. With a total of fourteen costume changes for first lady Eva Perón, I wondered if we knew what we were letting ourselves in for.

Evita follows Eva’s rise to fame in Argentina, spanning from the thirties to fifties. It was Dior’s first collection, referred to as the ‘new look’, that leads to our memory of the forties being dominated by swing skirts, tailored jackets and shoulder pads, and not forgetting flamboyant hats and seductive diamonds as well. Dior wanted to place emphasis on the female figure and Eva Perón herself was no stranger to Dior. Post-war, the confidence of women fighting for their place in society grew and their clothes had to reflect this. Outfits were tighter, fuller and more flamboyant than ever. The revival of the French fashion industry enthralled the international fashion world.

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Photo credit: Pinterest

Our first task as a wardrobe team was to plunge into Footlights’ costume collection. Catherine Loader, Jasmine Prasad, Pyone Pyone and I spent a morning amongst the mass of Copa Cobana skirts and West Side Story shirts. Some pieces proved useful. Those ugly cords, which I have to admit the boys slightly cringed whilst trying on, look great for their lower class roles. Whilst no one was keen to part with those red silk oriental-style pyjamas we couldn’t use everything. We were going to have to do some hunting around so we hit the charity shops.

I have to laugh at number of times we have spent dashing in and out of every charity shop in Exeter. The odd looks you get for revisiting the sale rail for the third time that day and the banter you develop with all the shop assistants as the weeks go on. With the revival of the seventies being dominating the high street, we’ve been extremely lucky with the abundance of treasures we’ve found in charity shops. An evening gown here a sharp suit there. And don’t even get me started on the hats. It all adds up and soon we had enough to start dressing the cast along with some pieces that they offered themselves.

The last month has been a flurry of altering that skirt and adding pearls to that dress. The closer the show opening got, the more intense it’s felt. Yes you’re so excited to see Eva’s ball gown (no spoilers) but it hasn’t even arrived yet, and you just want to sit down on the pavement because you’ve been walking around town for three hours looking for a dance shop that doesn’t exist and you’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel your feet or have a coherent thought about anything other than leotards. N.B. The dress did arrive and Catherine was so happy that she ‘nearly kissed the postman’.

Show week has finally arrived. After all that worrying about Argentine officer uniforms and aristocrats, our costumes have been out on stage. The feeling backstage last night was amazing. Everyone was so excited to have all their hard work showcased on stage. Working in a production team really shows you just how much effort every single person puts into a show. Footlights have an incredible cast to the stage and AV team. Their committee have put so much into this show, I can’t begin to imagine how proud this week is making them. I am so happy to have been able to be just a small part of this production it’s something I’ll definitely never forget. Although I’ll be glad for the Tango dress nightmares to end.

Hattie Cotmore

Razz has reviewed Footlights’ Evita. Click here to read the review.

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