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Theatre costume

  • Date:

    1960s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    [Theatre costume] Satin, bugle beads, mother-of-pearl, artificial jewels, felt and wire
    [Theatre costume] Felt, bugle beads, sequins, mother-of pearl and wire

  • Museum number:

    S.955 to B-1984

  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, room 105, case 11

  • Image unavailable

Cabaret costumes are among the most intricate and lavish of all theatrical costumes, successors, in ingenuity and style, to pantomime costumes of the late 19th and early 20th century. At that time whole scenes were devoted to parades of costumes on a theme, like flowers, styles of porcelain, sweets or countries. In the 1960s the idea of parading spectacular and imaginative costumes continued in nightclub floor shows, though on a smaller scale.

This costume was worn by a showgirl at Murray's Cabaret Club, an intimate London nightclub situated in Beak Street in Soho.Murray's opened in 1933 and finally closed its doors in 1975. The founder, Percival Murray, established it as a respectable restaurant and club and it had a strict membership and admission policy. Royalty and film stars were regular patrons. The club was known for its floorshows which featured showgirls in elaborate, if brief, costumes.

This incredible costume is a triumph of the maker's art. It is dominated by the daffodils on the bra, headdress and skirt, the three-dimensional structures completely covered in subtly shaded bugle beads. They completely overshadow the exquisitely worked decoration on the skirt. Not surprisingly, the maker once worked for Norman Hartnell, who famously created dresses for the present Queen, including her exquisitely beaded wedding dress and her magnificent Coronation dress.

The beads make the headdress extraordinarily heavy and many wonder how on earth the showgirls kept them from slipping off. They are, in fact, perfectly balanced, and if the wearer holds herself correctly and walks tall, the headdress will remain perfectly in place.

Physical description

[Theatre costume] Half skirt to right hip of cream satin decorated with large three-dimensional daffodils completely covered with yellow bugle beads, two at waist and one to front at knee level, the daffodils of six petals with a crystal hanging from the tip of each petal. Behind the daffodils are stiffened tendrils covered in green bugle beads. The skirt decorated in patterns of mother-of-pearl sequins and crystals, and edged with 'flowers' formed of novelty petal-shaped mother-of-pearl sequins. The skirt attached to a 'foliage' G-string of green bugle beads on green felt.
[Theatre costume] Bra formed of stiffened leaves covered with green bugle beads with gold sequin spines, and lined with green felt. At centre front a three-dimensional daffodil covered with yellow bugle beads; from right cup are three scallop-edged bands of off white felt decorated with mother-of-pearl sequins, attached to a single band to fit around the neck.
[Theatre costume] Close fitting headdress topped with a large three-dimensional daffodil covered with yellow bugle beads, each petal tipped with a hanging crystal, and tendils covered with green bugle beads.

Date

1960s (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

[Theatre costume] Satin, bugle beads, mother-of-pearl, artificial jewels, felt and wire
[Theatre costume] Felt, bugle beads, sequins, mother-of pearl and wire

Dimensions

[Theatre costume] Height: 100 cm approx., measured flat
[Theatre costume] Width: 28 cm width of stiffened leaves
[Theatre costume] Height: 46 cm, Width: 38 cm, Depth: 30 cm

Object history note

Murray's Cabaret Club was an intimate London nightclub situated in Beak Street in Soho. It opened in 1933 and closed in 1975. The founder, Percival Murray, established it as a respectable restaurant and club and it had a strict membership and admission policy, though this did not stop notorious gangsters the Kray twins from frequenting it. Royalty and film stars were regular patrons. The club was known for its floorshows which featured showgirls in elaborate, if brief, costumes. Many of the girls were classically trained dancers.

Descriptive line

Daffodil costume worn by a showgirl at Murray's Cabaret Club, London, 1960s

Exhibition History

Theatre and Performance (Victoria and Albert Museum, Galleries 103 -106 01/01/2009-31/12/2009)

Materials

Plastic; Cotton (textile); Satin; Felt; Mother of pearl; Sequins; Wire; Bugle beads

Techniques

Sewing; Beading (process)

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes; Hats & headwear

Collection code

T&P

Qr_O167983
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