Page To Stage: The Costumes Of Sherlock Holmes
For this version of Sherlock, we pushed the year forward to 1898, after Conan Doyle first "killed off" his legendary character. Having become irritated that Sherlock was his only literary success, he felt that killing him off in a tumble over the Reichenbach Falls would allow him to bring new stories and characters to his vast fan base. Time would prove him wrong and he would eventually rewrite Holmes back to life.
The changing of era meant we were pushed firmly away from the heavy bustle dresses of 1870 and into the beauty of the Belle Époque with its nipped waists and Dana Gibson ideals. The 1890s saw huge amounts of colours and pattern and accessories, stripes and plaids came through on both men's and ladies clothing, ribbon bows, pleated chiffons and lace and feathers adorned both costume and head gear, and ladies adopted the top half of the masculine silhouette with fitted waistcoats, dickies and jackets with pocket watches.
The silhouettes I used for the ladies wear became exaggerated version of fashionable modes of the day. Bella Spellgrove's theatrical take on a girls walking costume has something of the romantic Shepherdess to it with its ruched bustle drapes and ankle length skirt. Mrs Hudson's pleated dickie, and delicate leg o' mutton sleeves are teamed with a corset disguised as a waistcoat to give her the appearance of the Gibson Girl.
Our ensemble girls, all three of them, show three distinct, popular styles from the 1890s. They also show the fashion for teaming strong colours: blue and white stripes with pink drapes, red orange and purple, and orange gold and brown. Audiences went to the Music Halls to escape the drabness of reality and the costumes surely would have caused much excitement to both sexes!
The fabrics are sumptuous and you'll notice, especially on the ladies ensemble, there are small amount of contrast fabrics, these would have been rich expensive fabrics bought or cut down from older outfits, hence the sparing use of them! The trims are beaded and sequinned to reflect the colours of the sets and the glow from the footlights.
The men are just as colourful. In a period of time where only black brown and navy were worn during the day, with maybe a break into fawn for the slightly more flamboyant (!), I really went to town with the theatrics. All of the boy’s suits and outfits are based on the fashionable cuts of the time with some older styles thrown into the Baker St Irregulars to show their eclectic nature.
I suppose I should start with the Great Detective himself?
Sherlock Holmes was the hardest character to get right. I wanted to keep the well-known elements of his popular dress, the Deer Stalker, the Norfolk Jacket and Inverness Cape, as well as injecting some of the Musical Hall into it.
Within the concept of the show, the performers took on ‘stock type’ roles of the Music Hall. The actor playing the role of Holmes was the "Serio" or serious actor, and so I wanted to keep elements of that in at all times. Therefore he is the only character with grey tones. But lustrous grey, elephant and dove figure hugely in this costume, and its cheeky check pattern certainly raises the game of a seemingly sombre outfit to fit with his counterparts. The dash of colour comes with the shot cravat and quilted smoking jacket that teams him nicely with his counterpart, Bella.
Dr. Watson (centre) takes on the role as ‘Chairman’ of the Music Hall, and Inspector Lestrade, as the comic. Both wear versions of the Sack Suit, a typical everyday suit worn by all classes. The bold yellow and green plaid of Watson and the blues and reds of Lestrade (left) both compliment the characters greatly, adding a touch of wit to their onstage personas. The shirts and their collars formed a huge part in telling us the status of the characters as well, with Sherlock in a wing collar, Watson in a flat and Lestrade in rounded "penny" collar, you could see the class distinctions.
Watson's suit especially was commented on by many, and proved a firm hit. The burgundy trim, bow tie and green velvet double breasted waistcoat really went all the way in making him the man of the moment!
The Baker Street Irregulars wore a variety of coloured tatty open weave shirts in a mixture of styles and so conveyed the rag-tag nature the bunch. Due to the mischievous nature of the trio it proved hard to match the colours, textures and cuts to blend and suit, as well as stand out! We have a mix of cutaway frock coats and blazers, waistcoats of all different styles and trousers to match! From neck ties to bow ties and caps to bowler hats, all finished off with a pair of dirty hobnail boots that were constantly being repaired, the BSI were by far the most complicated group to costume!