Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: A 17th Century Re-imagination

Betsy Gachagan
Design for Theatre

College
Maynooth University

Contact
betsygach@gmail.com


Betsy Gachagan

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: A 17th Century Re-imagination

As part of our work experience, the Costume Students in Inchicore College FE collaborated with Shakespeare director Paul Meade, in the production of Twelfth Night. We parted from the Restoration Period as our visual inspiration for the costumes. The fashion during the Restoration was extravagant and intricate. Men wore wigs, high heels, cravats and highly decorative cutaway coats with swords. Women’s fashion changed drastically from that of the Puritan ethic, now exposing more of the chest, as the neckline lowered and widened, creating a horizontal emphasis at the dropped shoulders. The sleeves shortened and became looser, now showing more of the arm, and were composed of cuffs, and slits and ties that showed the under sleeves. The body was highly corseted and the bodice ended up in a peak at the centre front, and was rounded high up at the waist, where it joined the very full skirts. The farthingale was used to create the structured shape, with satin petticoats that would add to the voluminous silhouette. I mainly focused and designed for the character Olivia, a young woman in mourning. I researched about the regulated mourning culture of the 17th century. It was worn for long periods of time, and divided into two stages of mourning. I designed the costume for Olivia taking into consideration mourning fashion of the time, her high societal status and her mental state. In order to fulfil the director’s vision of Olivia, I designed a mourning dress that was both formal and youthful, to show Olivia as a young female still open for love among her grief. The color palette was mainly black, so I looked to incorporate fabrics with different textures to create more depth. I used a black striped french needle fabric for the gown, a silk linen fabric for the petticoat with a gold embroidery pattern, which I covered with black silk organza for the petticoat and sleeves details. I also used black lace for the flowy under sleeves, to create a sense of movement and femininity. I finished the bodice with a black piping detail along the upper part of the bodice, with gold lace, and created a belt by braiding the pipping, to attach her matching purse. The costume consisted of a boned bodice, with approximately 40 pieces of boning, a farthingale and overskirt. The overskirt consisted of three panels of black fabric, and a silk linen front panel to cheat the illusion of an underskirt, gathered at the waist by the method of cording. Because of the extremely fast changes during the performance, I decided not to make use of a petticoat nor a corset, because of the extra layers. A zip was used for the bodice at the centre back for practicality, and hooks and eyes were placed all along the bodice and skirt to keep them all continuously attached together to create the silhouette of the period.