itsjusttheatre: musings from a community theater costume shop organizer

Archive for March 2013

maidenform_brassiereOne of my organization problems at the costume shop is what to do with undergarments.  Over the years we have accumulated a number of bras, panties, pairs of socks, slips, and other unrecognizable things – some used as costume, some donated, and some left in dressing rooms after the production is over (I don’t ask).

We have a lovely piece of furniture which I think was a display unit in a department store in a previous life.  It has drawers where merchandise was stored and has worked quite well for some time as the place where the undergarments of all descriptions have been stashed along with the small stuff – jewelry, glasses, spats, suspenders, etc.  However, time has taken its toll and things have gotten crammed in, mis-organized, and generally the drawers aren’t working anymore because we can’t find what we need in there.

I can’t keep it all – what to keep?

First, we don’t (as a policy) provide undergarments as part of a costume.  UNLESS, the undergarment IS the costume.  That covers repro things like corsets, petticoats, etc.  But I don’t remember ever providing a bra to an actress (or actor for that matter).  So clearly the bras can go.

Coincidentally, as I have been considering what to do about the undergarments as a storage issue we are in rehearsals for Harvey by Mary Chase.  Set in the mid 1940’s, our director has commented to me that he wants the “bullet boob” look to better show off the vintage clothing we are using as costume for the female characters in the show.

That sent me to the Internet to discover how to get a 1940’s silhouette using 2010’s undergarments.  I found several blog posts and websites that discuss the physics of taking something round and making it bullet shaped.

Adventures in recreating the 1940’s bust silhouette informed me that the bust line silhouette of the 1940s was not as “severe” as the bullet look of the 1950s.  She (the blogger)  discovered the common feature of 1940s bras is a horizontal seam runs from left to right cutting the bra in half from top to bottom.  You can see that seam on the illustration here.  Apparently the seam does the trick.  Problem is that we (21st century girls) don’t wear these kinds of bras.  We wear bras with no seams, basically I think because we wear mostly knits and visible undergarment seams of any kind is a fashion no-no these days.

However, they still  make these horizontally seamed bras (for the vintage dressers and the grandmas).  You have to look around.  The blog post from “Adventures in recreating the 1940’s bust silhouette” speaks of several manufacturers, but I have focused (considering our small town) on what we can get (and try on) here in town.  The Bali Flower bra and/or the Playtex 18 hour Original Comfort Strap bra seem like likely contenders.

Did I mention that I am one of the cast of Harvey?  I am off to shop.