Ever since I saw Gone with the Wind, I’ve fantasized about wearing one of those magnificent Scarlett O’Hara dresses, all petticoats, frills and flounces, sweeping down the super-wide gilded staircase of Tara, my southerner’s mansion, and making that bounder Rhett Butler give a damn.
Well, with the help of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s wardrobe department and a lot of imagination, that fantasy was pretty much realised, though I had to make do with the fire escape steps and gritty northern warehouse instead of Tara. Rhett didn’t turn up, but Elvis, an astronaut and a big red bird were fine substitutes, kind of.
A few of us from Photocamp Leeds had arranged to visit the playhouse’s dressing-up department to seek out photo opportunities. Personally, I just wanted to try on as many outfits as time permitted and hang the snapping. Within minutes of hitting the aisles filled with racks and racks of costumes sorted by periods and genre, the petticoats were found and StripeyScarlett appeared.
Now I know that Scarlett wouldn’t have worn her jeans under all those layers of clothes, but modesty dictated that the jeans remained on in the all-too-public wardrobe. In my excitement to become Margaret Mitchell’s heroine, I’d already cast off my teeshirt somewhere near the Restoration rack, which had raised the eyebrows of a passing squaw. She’d been rummaging in the Wild West area and caused a rather mature Dorothy in gingham to click her ruby slippers together and declare to no-one in particular that she wasn’t in Kansas any more. And I’m not even going to speculate about the conversation buzzing between the female King Lear and Tarzan who were lost in the Classics section.
As I squeezed my skirts between the racks, I marvelled at the transformation of grown-ups into giggling girls and boys. We’d given ourselves permission to have fantastic fun while the Wardrobe Master was rendered speechless at the clash of costumes.
The StripeyScarlett was the first of the try-ons. I couldn’t resist a Victorian wedding dress, which looked like it had been worn by Miss Haversham, then forward 100 years for a 1920s evening dress, still with the jeans on. The matador outfit wasn’t really me, though I enjoyed swishing the cape, but my favourite was the sequinned coat, which, rather imaginatively I thought, I wore with a guards’ bearskin. There’s definitely going to have to be a return trip, I have my eye on the bishop’s outfit and the ostrich leggings, covered in real feathers, a fine ensemble. And I haven’t even started on the shoes and hats. Oh happy days!