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Theatre costume

Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1960s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Museum number:

    S.955 to B-1984

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (possibly, made)

Date

1960s (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

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

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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