Stitched Up

How did I not know that you could hire costumes from the National Theatre? How? Actual honest-to-goodness proper costumes wot the National have used in productions.

This is fantastic news.

I love theatrical costumes. Maybe it stems from the time I was in a school play, aged about 9 if I remember right, and had to wear a ridiculous Victorian bathing costume on stage. I tell you, I loved that costume more than anything (particularly the little mop cap). It was cheap and itchy, and had been run-up on one of the teachers’ sewing machines, but it was so very, very important to my 9 year-old self that my parents had a hell of a time persuading me I couldn’t sleep in it.

There’s something so contradictory about a stage costume: there you have all this research, this attention to detail, this authenticity – all sewn up in something that by its very nature is artificial. Even its name gives it away; a costume is a thing of artifice, a disguise, a socking great con.

The RSC used to have their London base in the Barbican Centre while I lived there, and my route from our building to the library took me past their wardrobe department. When they were in the middle of a production, you could look through the windows and into what had to be the world’s greatest dressing-up box: racks of glorious costumes, row upon row of wigs – and the hats! You’ve never seen hats like them, I promise you.

There was magic in that room. Hats, and magic.

So maybe it’s the memory of watching the RSC do their backstage thing, or maybe it’s that bloody Victorian swimsuit, but I’ve never quite got over the idea of theatrical costumes. I enjoy a nicely turned-out TV show too, and will pay particular attention to coats (Don’t ask me why – I obviously have some kind of coat fetish. Give me a nice worsted, and I can die happy. Anyway, moving on…) and as a result, I can tell you that women draw the short straw when it comes to a nice coat on the gogglebox. However, I do seriously lust after the Belstaff coat that Benedict Cumberbatch wore in the recent BBC series of “Sherlock”, and would certainly not turn my back on Peter from “Fringe”‘s natty little pea-coat.

And all this got me thinking: let’s imagine the National’s wardrobe mightily expanded, and you could hire any costume you’ve ever seen – from any play, film, TV show… whatever. You can have anything, for one particular event, be it wedding, funeral, job interview, award ceremony… you name it.

Any costume, one night only.

What would you pick, and why?


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