“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” -Mark Twain
Today I went in for my “muslin fitting” for the costume I will be wearing this summer running around Edith Wharton’s The Mount Mansion grounds, playing Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Shakespeare & Company. The role was written for a man but I will be playing him as a female dressed in a tailor-made 1830’s riding habit!
I have always loved playing dress-up, part of why I enjoy acting so much. When I get the perfect costume, combined with a great role, it can transform me into a fantasy world where I get lost. I suppose it’s a lot like writing and how you can disappear into a book both as the author and as a reader. Just add an outfit to that and BAM you get the full sensual experience!
But back to my fitting…a “muslin fitting” is the first draft of the costume, made out of simple white muslin by the draper. My draper this year at Shakespeare & Company is named Toby and she is a wizardess. Govane is the brilliant designer of the costumes and decides what the look of the show will be and what she would like the characters to wear, and then she gives the job of creating them to Toby.
Toby made a paper pattern and then a mock-up of my beautiful dress in simple muslin, called me in to try it on so that she could make any adjustments to get it to fit my body perfectly. I felt like a princess, standing there while two ladies pinned, tucked, snipped and gorgeously hand-crafted my long dress.
Toby will make changes to the paper pattern after seeing what changes needed to be made to the muslin mock-up. The muslin dress will be consigned to a hanging rack and re-used or made into something else delicious by another designer. After the paper pattern is tweaked to her heart desire the designers and stitchers will make my costume out of the chosen fabric. I wish I had taken a photo while it was on me, but I was too embarrassed to be so excited. I felt like a 10-year-old wearing one of my mother’s golden gowns and shuffling around in her high-heeled shoes and posing in front of the full-length mirror.
This will be my very own dress, at least while I’m on stage. I kept wishing I could wear this style every day and felt the familiar tug of being born in the wrong era. I have always LOVED the tight-waisted, tight-fitting bodices that flounce into full, poofy skirts. But alas, unless you are an actor, you don’t get to wear these styles today. So yes, I am feeling very lucky, and this summer as I am sweating in the humidity and heat in my 1830’s riding habit, I will remember this day and wonder WHAT WAS I THINKING!?
Toby said that she will be working on my dress for the next few weeks and then will call me in for another fitting. She showed me the lovely peachy-red fabric that it will be next time I see it and I modeled the matching hat and tried on the darling brown ankle boots they pulled for me.
I also get to play Titania, the Fairy Queen, and had a fitting for that as well. They are recommissioning that dress from a previous queen and will reconstruct it to fit me.
But the riding habit will be all for me from scratch and somehow that’s decidedly special. Maybe I was born to be a princess or was in a previous life? But whatever the reason, I am delighted to to be dressed up and grateful to have seamstresses sewing my clothes! Cinderella makes a comeback to the Ball!
“I thank God I am endowed with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat, I were able to live in any place in Christendom.” –Elizabeth I