PCS Blog

Fashion in the 1640s

Posted by Lindsay Pfeifer | 14 April 2015

If you haven't seen Cyrano and all of its glorious costumes yet, you're missing out. The history behind the play is rich and interesting enough, but factoring in the clothing trends during that time period adds a whole new element.

Cyrano de Bergerac was written in 1897 and takes place in France in 1640. This time period can be classified by the replacement of the ruff with lace or broad, linen collars. Waistlines continually rose for both men and women, and full sleeves, tall or broad hats and hose were popular in style. The silhouette was softening and broadening during this time and sleeves were extremely full. Poets and artists during this time wore dark colors, open collars, doublet robes, and a sort of disheveled look.

    

In women's fashion, collars were worn with kerchiefs similar to the linen kerchiefs middle-class women wore in the previous century. More often than not, the collar and kerchiefs were trimmed with matching lace. The long tabs attached to the bottoms of the bodices were replaced by a longer, streamlined look. A smoother figure became fashionable. The waistline was at a normal height at the back and sides with a lower front. Hair was worn in loose waves past the shoulders on the sides with the rest in a bun high on the head.

  

For men's fashion, waistlines were higher and sleeves fuller as well. Body and upper sleeves were sometimes slashed to show the shirt underneath. Doublets were full and unfitted and occasionally opened at the front below the high waist, again to show the under shirt. Soldiers like Cyrano wore leather jerkins for a short period of time before falling out of fashion. Hairstyles were growing longer during this period, and long curls were deemed fashionable. It eventually led to the ascention of the wig years later.

Similar to Cyrano's nose, the costumes in Cyrano must be created with careful craft and intention. We talked with Costume Shop Supervisor, Mike Floyd, to find out what exactly went into the costumes.

What challenges were there in regards to the time period when creating the costumes?
 
Deb (Costume Designer Deborah Trout) tried to evoke the period without being a slave to it. We’re not trying to recreate the period exactly because the script is rather theatrical and the production wasn’t striving for strict realism.
 
As you’ll see, all the guys are wearing denim and waxed canvas breeches and/or pants. In fact, two guys are just wearing jeans in the show. Deb could have made the show “period accurate,” but she deliberately didn’t due to the cut of the script, the number of actors, the conceit of the casting and translation, and the man hours and small budget we had to work with.
 
So the challenge was getting the number of costumes needed and trying to create a world that mashed a contemporary view of what the clothes could be theatrically.
 
How long did it take to create all the costumes? How many people were involved?
 
We started to work on the costumes on February 7th, and finished the day of opening (April 4th)… so two months. We had the help of 18 other individuals who worked as drapers, stitchers, first hands, and craft assistants, just to name a few.
 
How much was created in-house versus owned or rented?
 
We built the following: Cyrano’s doublet, hat and breeches; Christian's doublet, hat and patterned shirts; Roxane's fuchsia dress, pale coral dress, boy disguise (breeches, cape, two cotton shirts, and hat), and corset; De Guiche’s breeches and cape; Le Bret’s cape and hat; Darius’s 2 linen shirts, breeches, Ragueneau hat, Ragueneau apron, and his cape as the soldier; Gavin’s breeches, 2 linen shirts, soldier cape, andLigniere hat; Chris’s breeches, De Valvert hat and 2 linen shirts; Damon’s green bodice, breeches, Bellerose tabard, soldier cape, leather breastplate, feather crown, organza hood, two linen shirts, and the Bellerose hat.
 
We rented clothes from the Alley Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Guthrie, Seattle Opera, Seattle Rep, the University of Washington, and ACT in San Francisco.
 

Cyrano runs through May 3 with performances every evening at 7:30 p.m. excluding Mondays.

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