Costume Musings: Clue

CLUE: First. I watched the movie. It was painful.. I am a little embarrassed about that, most folks LOVE this movie. But. I am not a slapstick comedy person and this was slapstick at it’s finest. The dialog DID make me laugh-out-loud though, and of course it made me reminisce about long ago family games playing endless games of CLUE. With that under my belt, I signed on and Sherry agreed to help me costume CLUE, but could not be the “lead duck,” so I was in charge. Responsible. I was assured this was nothing like HONK, there would not be lightening-fast costume changes, for the most part each character stayed in the same costume the whole play…..Professor Plum was always Professor Plum.

Movie aside, it was easier to visualize each character after reading the play, then sitting in on the first read through. Also, surprisingly, I realized I knew a lot of the actors. If they had not been in a play I had previously costumed, I had seen them in other productions…. and Mr. Wadsworth the butler? I was his fifth grade teacher. Colin aka Mr. Boddy? Same thing, I remember him as a sixth grader at Valley Park. I had taught beside Lori/ Miss Scarlett for five years. I had a sense of what they would bring to the play as characters.

Following the read through, I had a brief conversation with Keith, set designer who said he was going “Dark. Wood paneled. Gothic Manor House.” And that I could reach out to him at any time to coordinate/costume/set/time period/ ect.

Armed with this info: The movie, the play, the read through, the cast list and the vision for the set design, I started the process for getting organized. I built a trusty dusty spread sheet, created a Pinterest board with sub board categories for each character and shared everything with Sherry.

Before pulling one thing from the costume shop, I researched. I researched a lot. I researched how wide men’s ties were in the 50’s. How many buttons a suit jacket had. Did they mix and match slacks and suit jackets. Colonel’s badges. What a 50’s cop might wear, What type of dress a woman would wear to a fancy schmancy dinner party?

Armed with my new knowledge I shopped in the FCP costume area. I had measurements, jacket sizes, inseams, neck/sleeve, shoe and hat sizes. I was slightly disappointed. For the guys I got basic shell ideas, I was able to pull suit jacket, but no pants, ties too wide, shoes not shiny enough. And unlike other plays, my husband’s clothes were not going to fit anyone.

After taking a looong look in the evening gown area, I realized quickly I would need to special order at least two dresses. We had Tiffany try on a couple gowns, and the instant… the exact instant she put on a blue floor length gown she became Mrs. Peacock. I saw it. Amanda saw it. Tiffany saw it. The pictures I took show it. But damn!! The dress was just a *little* too small. Amanda used her internet shopping skills (pretty great skill to have, huh?) and found a twin dress, a little darker and richer in color and got it ordered! I went home and started on Peacock’s hat. It needed to be annoying to Peacock, floppy, feathery, in her face, but not a distraction to the audience. In the end, that hat owned Mrs. Peacock, it was perfectly annoying. Fluttery and feathery.

For the second character, Miss Scarlett, I found a ruby red dress on a site called Eshakti. In one sentence…. At Eshakti you can pick out a dress you like, custom order things like neckline, skirt and sleeve length, with your exact measurements. (It was a magical site and I spent HOURS on it, even ordered a dress for a black tie event I am going to in April). I coordinated with Lori. No, not sleeveless please. Yes, she was OK with a plunging neckline. Maybe she should wear a crinoline under her skirt? Long black gloves? Cigarette holder? Sherry’s grandmother’s vintage necklace and earrings? All perfecto!

Finally. Armed with that super rich peacock blue, and the stunning, glossy ruby red A-line dress, the gothicness of the set, I felt like the costumes were becoming cohesive. Professor Plum got the darkest purple vest under a gray blue jacket. Mr. Green had a dark green argyle sweater (how sweet is this, argyle sweater was his idea, and his mom sent it to him?), Colonel mustard, dark rich gold/yellow. Everything had a jewel tone aspect to it.

Sherry, for most of this was shooting me suggestions (Purple vest. Yes!!), showing me things in the mustard spectrum, but mostly she was working on two major – MAJOR projects. Both had to be built from the ground up. The sexy french maid, Yvette, and Mrs. White’s black velvet cape –with the required brilliant white lining.

You would think, “Sexy french maid. Easy Peasy.” It was not. Most searches turned up SEXY french maids – butt cheeks, bosoms and all. Or worse even, flimsy, halloweeny, shiny cheap-o costumes. So Sherry and Hannah (Yvette) worked together to find a base dress…. and I will say it here…. as short as possible because Hannah has legs-for-days and we wanted to showcase them. Sherry sewed a teeny tiny little apron, added bling and that maid outfit, short skirt, crinoline, fluffy bloomers and all will take your breath away.

Meanwhile the dresses showed up for Peacock and Scarlett. And while they both fit, neither fit well. Enter the fabulous Pam Duran! Seamstress and generally magical human being. We met. We measured. Pam assured us she could fix all problems. She took the dresses and one week later, they were back and fit like a glove!

Everything was clicking along, even the couple of actors who had to switch costumes. Amanda from Cook, to Cop, to Shadowy twin of Scarlett, to Singing Telegram girl. Sherry was checking things off her list and starting to focus on the next play she had agreed to do at the High School. That was when I learned something about costuming….

“If you carry it, it is a prop. If you wear it, it is a costume.”

Apparently when you wear a wig that has a lead pipe coming out of your head, it is a costume.

If you have a to wear a knife that is sticking out of your back, it is a costume.

If your wig needs to be bloodied with stage blood, or you need blood spatter on your cook’s costume? It is a costume.

The knife. Oh my god, the knife. I almost cried. I could not make it stop-looking-floppy. Then my husband came home from work and said, “Screw it into a piece of wood.” He fixed it in about 4 minutes. It works like a champ.

The next night Scott came home. “I have to make a lead pipe come out of Colin’s head. Can you put on this wig and roll around on the carpet honey? I need to see how it moves.”

“Ummmm. OK, can I change out of my work clothes first?”

“OK, now fall forward, straight forward.” Scott falls forward.

“Now, pretend someone is rolling you over on your back.” Scott rolls over.

“Perfect, the pipe can go right here… hold it. Hold it. Don’t move it.” Scott holds the pipe in place and carefully gets up.

“Hold it there… for just a minute while I hot glue it on the wig…..”

Scott looks at me…. “NO!”

“Come on, it will be fast.”

“Absolutely not. You are not hot glueing on my head.”

This conversation goes on longer than it should have. We end up putting the wig on a mixing bowl and glued it there, but not before Scott had to go through all the motions once more because he dropped the pipe when he was being a baby about the hot glue… sheesh!

The only other snafu was stage blood. I was SOOO nervous about ruining the dress, I eye-droppered that stuff on slow and steady! I did it first thing on the Saturday of “Hell Week” so it would be dry before I went in home. At the end of the day? Wet. Still really wet and sort of faded and pink. I packed my blow dryer for the next day and read up about stage blood. Apparently, it is not really for “painting” it is meant to ooze and stay “realistic and wet.” You know, like the old SNL skit where Dan Akroyd plays Julia Child and cuts off his hand – blood spurting everywhere. (CLICK HERE to watch this genius skit) That is what kind of blood it was.

The next day the cook’s dress was essentially dry, but the blood had washed out to the prettiest pale pink. The lead pipe/wig was STILL damp though. I took inventory and headed to Walmart where I looked for puffy paint. I had learned when reading about stage blood that you can order, “Bright Arterial” red blood, or “Dark Venous” red/brown blood, so I bought the only red puffy paint they had which was more “Fire Engine” or “Cherry Kiss” lipstick red. I picked up a brownish one mixed the two and created my own “Dark Venous” and painted the lead pipe/wig and knife/cook’s dress. Adding some batting, I even created a little brain spatter and gore. Two hours or so of blow drying later and they looked pretty damn good! I may or may not have had too much fun with this part of the project.

Aside from one or two little opening night 911 situations, everything else went off well. I still have not watched the play. Not a single rehearsal, aside from the initial read through. I did tour the set which was AMAZING. The reviews from opening night are coming in and it sounds like people LOVE it. I cannot wait to watch tonight. I know I will love the play so much more than the movie, because, you know…. slapstick is fun when people you know are doing it.

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