As I begin to work on As You Like It, my mind naturally turns to costume design. I was a costumer in college and still get a thrill whenever I see a period garment. I know more about women’s underwear 1550–1920 than anyone should.
Back in the last century, I trained a couple generations of amateurs here in Newnan to draft their own patterns and build their own costumes. (Thank you Holkeboer, Hunnisett, Waugh, Hill & Bucknell, and Arnold.) The biggest costume show I ever did—by far—was 1995’s Winter’s Tale, when I finally succumbed to costuming Shakespeare in period-appropriate dress.
Boy, was that a mistake: WT covers the gamut of society from the royal court to the poorest of shepherds, and it jumps sixteen years, so we went from high Elizabethan to Jacobean, still covering the entire gamut of society. Altogether we built 60+ costumes, ruffs, corsets, and all.
One night in rehearsal, we hit V.1 and as the Gentleman announced the arrival of Florizel and Perdita, I realized with a shock that I had done something I had said I would never do: make it necessary to costume a character who is seen once for thirty seconds. Oh well. It was a gorgeous show.
The good news was that by 1995 we didn’t have to draft our own patterns. There were beginning to appear accurate period patterns that you could buy. It was like magic.
[Quick story: my son was seven at the time, and I drafted him to play Mamillius, the little prince in Act I who dies offstage. My mother made his costume, but refused to attach the codpiece because Baptist. Before one of the dress rehearsals, I was pinning the codpiece onto his breeches and he balked. “What is that?” I explained that it was exactly what it looked like (i.e., a penis sheath) but that at the time of the play it was mere decoration. “Do the other actors who are male have one?” (Yes, my kid talked like that.) I assured him they did, and that seemed to satisfy him. Then he lit up: “I can use this in my scene! ‘No, my lord, I’ll fight!’” and wagged his little codpiece. I suggested as his director that he not do that onstage.]