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Costumes Recreate the Fabulous 50’s in Maple & Vine
By Nancy Stetson
November 9, 2017
IT’S INDISPUTABLE: FROM THE ’50S ROCK. There’s just a certain appeal to the clothing, even for those who weren’t around in that era: the tailored suits, the sculptural silhouettes, the whimsically patterned fabrics. (The men looked equally dashing, in wingtip shoes and cuffed suit pants, funky patterned ties against crisp white button-down shirts and a triangle of white handkerchief peeking out of their suit breast pockets.) Audiences attending The Naples Players’ production of “Maple and Vine” feel as if they’re stepping back in time. The thought-provoking play is about a modern-day, 21st-century couple who meet some 1950s re-enactors who live as if it’s 1955. In fact, their entire gated community lives that way. They call themselves the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence.
The women cook from scratch or, in a pinch, heat up those new TV dinners. There are no cell phones or texting. People dial each other up on a landline or talk face-to-face. There’s no cable TV or internet. People read, play charades and dance together to music from the hi-. And of course, day and night, they all wear 1950s fashions. They look like characters in a Douglas Sirk lm. “I feel as if I walked out of the pages of Vogue,” says Jessica Walck, who plays Ellen, one of the re-enactors and head of the community’s Authenticity Committee (she’s also associate artistic director for the Players). “I feel like a 1950s advertisement, where the wife is drinking a martini and vacuuming the oor while wearing full garb! That’s the image I have in my head: the perfect wife. That’s what my character’s trying to be for (her husband.) It was a fun role to dive into for me.
The 35-year-old Ms. Walck has a special anity to the ’50s. She says when she was growing up, she and her mother loved watching “I Love Lucy” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” on TV. And many dresses in her closet today were inuenced by the era. “I always say my body was built for that time. My body was built for that silhouette,” she says. “I knew going into this show that I was going to feel beautiful.” When she put on her rst navy suit for the show, “I felt like Lucille Ball, who is an idol of mine,” she says. In any theater production, costuming and make-up really help actors get into character, and that was especially true for “Maple & Vine,” Ms. Walck says. “All the costumes help inform your body to fall into that posture in the ’50s way. You have to think about your posture and how you sit and how your legs are. “All the costumes immediately made me stand up straighter and made me feel more feminine,” she adds. More so than in other plays she’s been in, she says, her outts for “Maple & Vine “really helped the process.” For example, there’s the oral cocktail dress she wears for a dinner party scene — her favorite, she confesses. It’s slightly corseted, which helps her posture more. And underneath, unseen, she wears the undergarments of the ’50s, to create a more authentic look. A lot of the women of that time wore long-line bras that reached to their waist, she says, likening the bras, girdles and stockings of the time to “the original Spanx.” Women of the ’50s were “a whole different animal entirely underneath their clothing. That was how they kept those lines looking the way they wanted them.
poise that were so typical of ’50s women. “It feels fantastic to wear the clothes,” says Tina Moroni, who plays Katha. Her character, the only other woman in “Maple & Vine,” has a high-pressure job in today’s publishing world and joins the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence with her husband after they meet some members. “I think it was the gloves that changed the whole thing for me,” Ms. Moroni says about her costumes. “As a character, I just feel very put together when I have all those pieces. It’s very polished. The gloves, the hat, the undergarments, all the buttons, the shoes — everything, every bit of it goes toward a cumulative aesthetic that transports you right into that time period.” And she’s very fond of that era; it was one of the things that drew her to the play in the rst place, she says. Like Ms. Walck, she also owns a lot of ’50s-inspired clothing. She strategically wore one of her favorites to audition for the role. “I’m new to the area,” she explains. “I thought it’d be easier to imagine me in this part if you saw me in this clothing.” It worked. “When Tina came in to audition, she came in a dress that looked like the ’50s style, and as soon as everyone saw it, they said, ‘That’s the girl we want,’” recalls costume designer Jack Cole.
Like Ms. Walck, Ms. Moroni also sought out original undergarments of the time as part of her wardrobe for the show. “They hold you in a different way, and everything is meant to create that wonderful kind of hourglass shape,” she says. “It’s lovely.” The ’50s, she adds, were “a wonderful period for clothing. Jack really did his job with that one.” Her favorite outt Katha wears isn’t the glamorous evening gown or any of the form-tting suits she wears, but a housedress she dons for only a very short time. “It’s yellow and has a cherry pattern on it,” she says. “I love that one. “It’s indicative of all the romanticism we think about when we think of the ’50s. It’s so sweet, so prim. I love wearing it, but I think that’s the shortest period of time I wear a costume in the whole show.” Both actresses did have to make one concession, though: They wear pantyhose, which had not been invented when “Maple & Vine” takes place, instead of stockings. With the show’s numerous and quick costume changes, stockings and garter belts would simply have taken too much time. The man behind the outts Mr. Cole was very happy to be the costume designer for this show. At 69, he remembers the era rsthand and shared stories from it with the cast, including one about an older cousin, who was 16, walking down the stairs in a skirt that was sticking straight out, because she was wearing 15 petticoats underneath. And when the men in the cast said something about their pants having cuffs, “I said, ‘You have to remember, back in the ’50s, about 75 percent of the people smoked. You dumped your ashes in the cuffs of your pants … I used to see my dad’s friends come over, and that’s what they’d do, sitting outside on the porch. You’d ick them in, and then when you got off the porch, you’d empty your ashes into the shrubs. But you’d stamp out your cigarette butts in your ashtrays.’”
“Maple & Vine” is an unusually costume-heavy show. It has numerous scenes, and various clothing not only indicates different locales but also the advancement of time. “This play has more costume changes than some of the big musicals we put on,” Mr. Cole says. “Even the guys have a lot of costume changes, but especially the women.” The Naples Players’ costume shop has a wide variety of costumes, organized by decades, including a few ’50s outts that had to be reworked to t Ms. Walck, who is much taller than the previous actress who’d worn some of the clothing. And several outts had to be made from scratch.
“I came up with designs, what I wanted for the day dresses, and the costume shop made them,” Mr. Cole says. His creative process begins with an idea board. He looked online and perused pictures of ’50s clothing, hairstyles and accessories: hats, gloves, shoes. From that, he determined what he wanted in terms of color and fabrics. “You had to keep it simple,” he says. “You had cotton. You didn’t have all these polyesters. 3 Foods to Throw Away Cut a bit of belly bloat each day, by avoiding these 3 foods nucic.com Learn More Ad 11/10/2017 Costumes recreate the fabulous ’50s in ‘Maple and Vine’ | Naples Florida Weekly https://naples.floridaweekly.com/articles/costumes-recreate-the-fabulous-50s-in-maple-and-vine/ 5/6 Go To The Arts and Entertainment News Section “That’s part of the excitement, to nd something that ts with your image. I did drawings of every outt I wanted to do, and then I had to try and nd the fabric to t the drawing. That was fun.” The process was interrupted by Hurricane Irma, which stole more than a week from production time. Still, the show opened on schedule. Audiences are responding, and Mr. Cole is thrilled with the positive response. “People have commented on the costumes, the fabrics,” he says. “They can’t believe we found stuff that looks like that.” It was certainly a different era for clothing. “You had to look a certain way,” he says. “You had to be neat. There were no Casual Fridays.”
¦ ‘Maple and Vine’
Who: The Naples Players
When: Through Nov. 19
Where: The Tobye Studio at the Sugden Community Theatre
Cost: $40, $35 Subscribers, $10 Students/Educators
Info: 263-7990 or www.naplesplayers.org
Call the Box Office at (239) 263-7990, stop by in person during business hours, or buy online 24/7.
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