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Theatre costume

Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1958 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    M Berman Ltd (costume maker (theatre))

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the British Theatre Museum Association

  • Museum number:

    S.1443&A to B-1984

  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 105, case 10 []

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.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1958 (made)


M Berman Ltd (costume maker (theatre))


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

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]


Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes


Theatre and Performance Collection

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