A word of warning: any historical costumiers or cultural purists may want to look away at this point - because these cheerfully flout any kind of rules!
The Wardrobe Coordinator gave me the fabric, trims and stills from the 1956 movie to go by (and how wonderful, incidentally, is Yul Brynner?!), but gave me a surprising amount of leeway to interpret those, given she hadn't seen any of my work before. I've been trying to copy some Google images of those stills, but my computer's having a hissy fit, so no go, I'm afraid. Here are my pics, anyway (with some suitably "kingly" poses from my very obliging man) :
I was given the blue sparkly velour and narrow gold trim to make a fitted, quite severe top for the king's first scene, but it looked a bit bland on its own. So I added in the buttons and chain, as per the movie version, which also had what was either beading or embroidery all over it. I found these tiny gold spacer beads on ebay and sewed them on at 1" intervals all over. It took about three weeks of evening sewing (or, three series of Spooks and one of Miranda).
I was very much hoping it didn't look a bit insignificant on stage (the beads are only about 3mm) but it worked beautifully! They really gleamed, rather than sparkled as sequins do, and the whole effect was of impressive richness, but intimidating severity, which is exactly the impression the king is supposed to give in that first scene. (This is what I love about costuming - it's not just making fun stuff, but making fun stuff that helps to tell the story!)
. This was for the scene in which the king sings "A Puzzlement", where the audience gets to see past the imposing facade to the doubts he's wrestling with underneath. Therefore the jacket is much less sleek and structured (and much more revealing!). The coat was already made, but it was long, voluminous and had a mandarin collar. I really didn't want all his costumes to look like different colour versions of the same basic outfit, so I removed the collar and cut a new one. The (sublime!) movie version is I think made of an amazing embroidered silk, because it's cut almost as a swing coat, but drapes quite softly. I tried, (oh, how I tried!) but that cut simply wasn't possible with this polyester brocade. So I shortened it to hip height (that much I could emulate) and slimmed it down and shaped it a bit. The ribbon looked a bit "cheap" on its own, so I sewed rice beads on to it. Progress shot below!
Once they were all on, the beads gave it a fantastic texture; on stage that jacket looked encrusted with gold embroidery. And it was quick to do - two evenings only! This was the outfit that was used for the promotional photos for the show.
I have to confess I went way off the brief for this one! The jacket was premade, but long, with gold lame shaped fused on all over it. Took a while to scrape those off, I can tell you! So, I did the alterations as necessary - length, shaping - then sewed the ribbon on to cuffs, collar and hem. And it looked a dull version of the blue one above. I wanted a bit more drama to this one, because this is worn in the scene that is the climax of Act One. I found this black, red and gold oriental brocade and appliqued it onto the sleeves and "yoke", then sewed soutache braid over the edge to neaten it.
I was going to leave it at that, but when I'd taken the blue costume in to the coordinator, (she loved it!) she told someone standing nearby how my husband had talked about the "Swarovski crystals" I'd sewn over other costumes. (Note: as previously mentioned, they were gold beads. Not nearly as impressive sounding!) She was so excited, I didn't like to (i.e. was too embarrassed to) put her straight. I didn't want the rest of the costumes to seem anti-climactic, so I immediately called a jewellery making-friend, and.....
Yay! Swarovski crystals!! And man, do they sparkle under stage lights!
And this is my favourite: the banquet scene costume!
Now this could well be my favourite refashion ever too, because this was a quilt cover and sheet. It's a burgundy-based gold damask. The only thing was, the damask part must have been sewed in panels originally because when I got it it was in three pieces each about 2m long and 50cm wide. Since it was a directional pattern, this meant a fair bit of problem-solving to get it to make a jacket. (And this is why there's a "belt" section!) I had neither the time, budget or, let's face it, skills to do the utterly sumptuous embroidery of the movie version (look it up - it's so perfect it made me weepy...), so I compromised with a kind of glittery abstract lace or mesh. I sketched some designs and then cut them out of this lace/mesh and sewed them onto the jacket with gold metallic thread. They actually looked like embroidery! Then to give it texture and sparkle I sewed on topaz Swarovskis and outlined the designs in gold bugle beads.
Can I be a little self-indulgent for a moment and say I was really happy with how this one looked on stage??
This costume was for the scene in which the magnificence of Siam, everything that is most inspiring and impressive about the country, is on display. Anything less than a "gasp" reaction to this costume would have undermined that. And it worked! It really did. :) He looked like shards of light were shooting out from him!
The one thing I'm not completely happy with (and I know they were inescapable, but still...) are the fabric joins in the sleeves and the upper back. I matched the pattern pretty well, and you can't tell on stage - I checked - but it still irritates me that they're there. C'est la vie, I guess...
So there you have it, the king and I! And all the visual proof of why I didn't finish any of the projects I planned to do before MMM kicked off. Never mind, I'm making up for it now. Amazing how being limited to own-makes motivates one to sew, huh??
How is MMM treating you? I've loved the first week, but I think I'm going to be stretched for choices pretty soon! How about you?
PS: One more little piece of self-indulgence to share: my man has been nominated for an award for his performance! And I'm so proud of him I can hardly stand it... :)