Role explain the costume – style/colour/fabric/purpose

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Stereotype Victorian Melodrama Roles and Costume circa 1880-1900


Explain the costume – style/colour/fabric/purpose

How costume was influenced by: fashion of the time/customs, values, beliefs of the society

The purpose of the playwright

Handsome hero

Cane, gloves

Morning coat waistcoat [light colour, embroidered, trousers[not matched]

Silk top hat,

Square toed black leather shoes

Status – well educated, university training in a profession but still lives at home, father dominant


Kind to his mother, follows society rules but more flexible as a new colonial society

Common Villain

  • Lined fustian jacket

  • Cotton shirts

  • Worsted [wool]stockings

  • Hobnail boots

Show social class/status

NZ produced wool – home-made stockings

Physical labour – been a sailor, uneducated

Look poor, rough, threatening

Exotic Villain

Black cape

Cane, gloves

Jacket, vest, trousers[not matched]

Bowler hat

Middle class but aspirations to change his status- wears evening cape in black silk but a lower class bowler hat: shows he is an outsider

Cape concealing – symbol of distrusted aristocracy. Typical villain clothing

Overbearing father

Cane, gloves

Frock coat, Vest

trousers[not matched]

Silk top hat

High-collar shirt

Cravat [old-fashioned]

Black oxford lace-up shoe

Status – expensive fabrics, formal dress shows importance, wealth. Head of family so could not be frivolous or fashion chasing

Family roles: father knows best – plot twist shows hypocrisy

Vulgar rich

Drawers=long under-pants

Lace morning cap or more elaborate evening cap

Petticoats- calico & cambric

Outdoors- very frilly bonnet

Jewellery – pearls, matching bracelets, brooches, rings

Voluminous shawl

Black – mourning

Chatelaine,Mourning brooch

Show how factory machinery had made elaborate clothing [lace,frills, buttons, bows] cheap and accessible. Upwardly mobile- how servants could become business owners

Comic effect and also to show her vulgar ambitions

Lace/ribbons became cheap/popular when machine made

Servants:{Poor but honest}

Starched, white cotton aprons and caps, wooden clogs and, patched, cut-down darned clothes darned

Ladies maid – couldsew, care for clothes, better clothes but modesty required – dark colours & narrow skirts.

Dirty jobs to do-keep dress clean [few clothes as washing difficult]

Many servant types from maid of all work to expensive French maid.

Must be subservient – curtsey, bow, speak little

Music hall actress

{Miss Yolanda }

Flounced skirts, corset

Printed muslin

Bare shoulders in evening dress

A performer – so costume is risque, provocative – shows legs, ankles. Bright colours

Show her as a moral woman despite her occupation

Invalid mother {Mrs F}

Full skirts- many petticoats and/or a crinoline; tight corset;

Clothes cover her head to toe

Lace cap- married women only

Gloves at all times to protect skin [fair skin shows status]

Black for older women


Extreme modesty– covering the body; corsets make her frail & fainting; shown the confined and controlled life of upper-class woman

Cover to maintain fair skin

Fainting- tight corset, physical and social constraints

Heroine {Miss Anne}

Cotton undergarments

Long heavy skirts

Apron- embroidered or of rich satin fabric [at home]



Well-brought up middle class girl, polite and decorous

Status and role of women,

Respectable spinster

{Miss Prim}

  • Gowns

  • Petticoats/shifts/

Chemise of cotton or flannel

  • Handkerchiefs

  • Neckerchiefs

  • Stays

  • Black worsted stockings

  • Bonnet

  • Narrow skirt

Social role of women- education becoming respectable job but must dress modestly and “know her place”

Rational Dress reform

Temperance Society

Morality & modesty

The entrepreneur

{Mr Harry Fortuso}

“Oh the would be swell…with their trousers cut so tight/ a short flash coat in light tweed

Bowler hat “a black bellhopper tile”

Waistcoat-bright colour elaborate, embroidered

winged collar shirt and big knotted tie or even a bow tie

Exotic hairstyle- moustache/ sideburns/fringe beard

A cane [really smart]

Men’s cliothing had its fashions- bright waistcoats, ties.

Opportunities in trade/ colonys to become wealthy.

Young, thrusting entrepreneur


  • Crinoline- a cage shaped petticoat stiffened with steel wireBodice –dress top- tightfitting, waisted

  • Corsets- to achieve a fashionable tiny waist tight corsets were worn; made of whalebone or steel in fabric casing, laced tight, made breathing difficult

  • Sleeves: many styles of sleeve: pagoda, puff, gathered, plain, cuffs, legofmutton

  • Bertha – a soft collar of lace or transparent fabric worn over an evening dress

  • Trim: fringes, braid, piping, bows

  • Pastel shades, dove gray, white for young women/ Black for older women/ mourning

  • In 1856 anailine dyes were invented and colours became bright.

  • Evening fabrics: silk, velvet, brocade, taffeta

  • Day fabrics: cotton, muslin, linen, gingham, wool/cotton mix

  • Parasols,Gloves,mittens,Hats

  • Fichu- a small, modest shawl, triangular, lace or net to cover a low décolletage

  • Voluminous shawls & coats [pelisse] in silk/indian cotton. Goat fleece[angora]

  • Chartalaine – attached to waist- keys, scissors, watches, thimbles

  • Men’s watch on chain, with extras, eg: cigar cutter

  • Mourning jewellery – brooches with the deceased’s hair/picture

  • Hairstyles: only unmarried girls wore their hair loose, married woman wore hair up

  • Stockings: White or pale Silk stockings expensive/ cotton- middle class/home-made knitted wool stockings [working poor]

  • Bonnets/ Hats/ Caps- [for married women] lawn, lace, embroidery; morning caps worn all day; evening caps- more decorated; black ribbons for mourning {must cover head in public]

  • Vest = waistcoat

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