Ageing techniques for theater costumes

THE AGEING OF THEATER COSTUME

MANUAL TECHNIQUES, ARTIFICIAL DEGRADATION AND SCENOGRAPHIC INTERVENTIONS

 

THE HISTORICAL COSTUME

It is essential for a costume designer who wants to follow directorial directions of a naturalistic and credible production to start with a historical – philological research prior to the creation of scenes and costumes. Usually, the authentic ancient costumes are not wear by actors because the risk of damage due to the actor’s movements is too high. Some very rare exception, nevertheless, are possible. The original dresses, however, are very precious for the costume designer because are an evidence, tangible examples of what needs to be recreated. In order to make contemporary costumes look older we adopt a series of procedures that donate the sought-after antique look to the costumes, giving them that dusty patina that is usually caused by wear and time

AGEING TECHNIQUES: BRUSH

An efficient system to get costumes dirty is by drawing patches and falsely worn spots: in this case we will use a dark gray paint or the same background color of the costume, in a darker/ lighter shade, to hide the details that are supposed to be worn. We use fabric colors, wood stain and wash resistant paint to create stains, rings, marks and patches of moisture and mold.

SEWING METHOD: TEAR AND DARN

An accelerated degradation technic, if we need to get the appearance of needy characters or tough jobs workers. A rip, a visible mend or a patch over the costume is sufficient to symbolize the poverty of the character and to underline the progress damages of a worn dress.

DISCOLORATION: BLEACHING AND FADING COLOURS

Faded colors are the most effective result to give the costume an ancient and dusty appearance; effect achieved removing chemically the original color from the fabrics, or by bleaching the brightness and saturation of the colors. The so-called aging processes on theatrical costumes’ surface could be more or less visible, depending on the stage lights. Whitish tone lights or fully enlightened costumes emphasize the effect.

“RUIN” THE COSTUME: STROKE AND UNSTITCH

To give a realistic look, we can materially “ruin” a costume. One of the faster systems to worn out textiles is to rub the garment with a cheese grater to turn strategic points (elbows, cuffs, back of the neckline, knees) looking like these would really be, after long time wearing. This technique works on common use fabrics such as velvet, wool, cotton, while it’s pointless on modern stretchy fabric or on the tulle of a tutu. A further touch of antiquity can be accomplished by pockets and hems partially unstitch (we talk about jackets, shirts, trousers and skirts).

NATURAL MATERIALS

An effective aging method, indicated above all for liners, is to wet garments with tea or coffee. The result is a yellowish opaque tint that improves the result in term of ageing appearance; the thin outer layer convert natural colors to a less bright white tone.

 

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