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Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Glasgow, Scotland (made)

  • Date:

    1958 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    M Berman Ltd (costume maker (theatre))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    [Theatre costume] Wool and mohair with lace trim and silk bands edging lower edge and back
    [Theatre costume] Wool and silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the British Theatre Museum Association

  • Museum number:

    S.1443&A to B-1984

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The role of Paola in Duel of Angels was created by the noted French actress Edwige Feuillère, for whom the celebrated couturier Christian Dior created the costumes. By 1958, when the play was presented in London, with Vivien Leigh as Paola, Dior was dead and so the costume was recreated by the London costume firm Bermans without the benefit of Dior's overseeing.
Dior cleverly retained the characteristics of the period in which the play was set - 1859 - while reinventing the period style in terms of his own New Look and the 1950s. There were indeed similarities between the looks, the fitted bodices and wide full skirts, but Dior incorporates touches that could only be of the 1950s - like box pleats in the skirt. Rather than create the tightwaisted look by full-length corseting or Dior's 'waspie' corset, the shaping structure is built into the jacket itself, using interlined seaming and some light boning, so that the illusion of the corseting is maintained while leaving the actress in relative comfort.

Physical description

[Theatre costume] Fully fitted front fastening jacket of carmine wool and mohair. The jacket fastens edge to edge at bust level, with false buttonholes and self-covered buttons to either side of the V neck to shoulder height; the deep V neckline is trimmed with ivory lace; to the back is a bold, collar. Full length sleeves trimmed with self covered buttons. The lower edge is boldly curved and from the sides and around the back are bold satin bands in sand and beige silk, horizontally pleated to centre back where they cascade free to floor level. Lined with cotton and boned with petersham waistband fastening at the front.
[Theatre costume] Full length skirt of carmine wool and silk, the voluminous fabric double box pleated into a hip basque.
[Theatre costume] Small natural straw hat trimmed with beige and reddish net.

Place of Origin

Glasgow, Scotland (made)


1958 (made)


M Berman Ltd (costume maker (theatre))

Materials and Techniques

[Theatre costume] Wool and mohair with lace trim and silk bands edging lower edge and back
[Theatre costume] Wool and silk


Height: 200 cm, Width: 150 cm, Depth: 150 cm

Object history note

Christian Dior designed the costumes for the original Paris production of Jean Giraudoux's play Pour Lucrèce , which was produced at the Apollo Theatre, London in 1958 as Duel of Angels in a translation by Christopher Fry. The costumes were recreated by Bermans after Dior's sketches.

Descriptive line

Costume worn by Vivien Leigh as Paola in the play Duel of Angels, Apollo Theatre, London, 1958

Exhibition History

Theatre and Performance (Victoria and Albert Museum, Galleries 103 -106 01/01/2009-31/12/2009)
Showbusiness (V&A 01/01/1983-31/12/1983)
Objects (V&A 01/01/1978-31/12/1978)
British Theatre Museum exhibition (Leighton House 01/01/1975-31/12/1975)
As Worn By.... (Guildhall, Salisbury 01/01/1975-31/12/1975)
Costume Exhibition (British Theatre Museum 01/01/1967-31/12/1967)

Labels and date

Costume for Paola in Duel of Angels

Christian Dior designed this elegant costume for Vivien
Leigh in the style of his New Look, which revolutionised
fashion in the 1940s and 1950s. While the costume suggests
a 19th-century style, the tightly fitted and boned
jacket, emphasising the waist, has all the trademarks of
the New Look.

Play by Jean Giraudoux, 1953
Apollo Theatre, London

Silk, net, wool and lace
Designed by Christian Dior (1905–57)

Given by the British Theatre Museum Association
Museum no. S.1443&A, B-1984
[March 2009]


Silk (textile); Wool (textile); Lace; Straw; Net (textile)




Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes; Hats & headwear

Collection code


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