Imagine you were going to act in a play and your character was a very bright, flamboyant type of person. Would you dress them in black? Or that you were going to direct a play and the main character was socially withdrawn and depressed. Would you dress them in bright airy colors? The answer to these questions is no. Costuming is a theater convention used in developing the play’s atmosphere. The costumes in the play Hedda Gabler by Henrik Isben play a very important role.
Costumes play many different roles in theater. Their functions include establishing a time and place, establishes a characters social and economic status, identify occupation, showing lifestyle, indicating gender, and reflecting age (Brockett 393). Costumes may also be used as a symbol or metaphor (393). If a character is a rich socialite who is destructive in his or her personality, they may be dressed in flamboyant colors during inappropriate times throughout the play. If a character is dealing with the death of loved one such as a boyfriend or girlfriend, he or she may wear dark somber colors. The person responsible for costumes in a play is the costume designer.
The costume designer must remember a few basic things about creating the costumes of a play. These basic things are the overall theme of the play and how the costumes fit into the play, the type of theater it is, and budget (Smith 13). A costume designer must look at the play he or she is going to dress and decide the overall color themes in the play and what characters are more important than others. The main character must be dressed differently than the other characters. This difference could be the tone of the colors in the play. An example of this that if a character was in prison and the uniforms were dark blue, the main character’s costume would be a lighter shade blue. This difference gives the audience direction where to look and who to follow during the course of the play.
The type of theater of in which the play is being performed can dictate the expensive of the costumes. If the play is for a repertory theater production the costume designer is freer to do what he or she may want. A repertory theater is a smaller theater with more limitations on it. The costume designer must work for the overall theme of the play and how his or her designs fit into the mood (21). In a regional theater there are many different productions going on at once demanding many different designs for the designer (31). Other types of theater are the non-professional such as high school plays, college plays and Community Theater. Most of these productions are put on with volunteer actors who do not get paid. The costume designer must in these types of productions improvise on many of the costumes.
In the play Hedda Gabler the costumes are from the Victorian age during the late 1800s. During the late 1800s women’s dresses changed as they adopted a more masculine way of dress, which included a skirt, jacket and shirt-blouse (Hansen 149). The new dress made women’s bodies have a “S” shape to them; the fullness of the figure was concentrated into the bust and backwards behind the hips (149). In Hedda Gabbler, however, Hedda the main character is out of the ordinary to her time period. She is a more free spirit, which calls for a less restrictive costume.
A flowing costume, which moves gracefully with a bright color like a bright blue, suits the character better. In the first scene where the audience first meets Hedda she is dressed in a “loose-fitting morning gown,” which would be suited with the bright blue dress. Her accessories should show that she comes from a wealthy background, somewhat of a white-collar upbringing. In relationship to the other characters in the play, her costumes should stand out.
The other characters in the play should be dressed in standard period costumes. Hedda’s husband, George Tesman, is dressed in “comfortable indoor clothes.” His clothes should consist of dark colored trousers and a dark “lounging shirt.” His is middle aged so he should not look old and be dressed in a tailored suit. George’s out fit can be accessorized with a watch on his wrist. He should be somewhat average looking. George is the not the main character and is there to show what Hedda’s character is like.
Miss Juliana Tesman is a more conservative, old character in the play and should be dressed as so. Tesman is characterized as wearing a “gray walking-costume.” This description again makes sure that her dress does not take attention away from Hedda. Because of her age, Miss Tesman would be more likely to wear the more ideal form of dress. She would wear the three-piece dress in a gray color, a bonnet and carry a parasol.
I choose the costumes I did based on three main factors. These factors were the type of theater Hedda Gabler would be performed in, the accessibility of costumes I could find, and my budget. When I started to gather costumes and information on the late 1800s I decided that I would produce the costumes in respect to a college theater. I was not looking for Broadway quality because of my accessibility to costumes and budget. I found Hedda’s blue morning dress at a church rummage sale for a dollar. When putting on a play at a college theater many times the actors themselves must supply their own costumes or the costume designer must find inexpensive ways of getting the necessary costumes. The budget of college theater plays is limited to whatever the producer and director has left over from other expenses.
Hedda’s costume in Hedda Gabler indicates her place in her society and social environment. She is less conservative, free, and independent. The costumes in the play sever to highlight her personality while also defining the other characters. Costumes play a very important role in theater productions and intertwine with many other conventions to make the production flawless.