Dress Up and Coffins

Rachel Hampton

As a very fashion-minded person and an enthusiastic character designer, you can imagine my delight when we got to enter Stratford’s costume warehouse – and it was positively massive. Our tour guide provided the very Canadian analogy that the warehouse was roughly six hockey rinks large with a mezzanine for even more space. Rows and rows and rows of costume pieces, organized into specific categories by type of clothing and era the design would fit in and subsequently further organized by color from dark to light. The warehouse uses a very in depth system for sorting and cataloging – necessary, for the clothing pieces are still in use and even up for sale or rent to the so-inclined.

Though anything on the racks was meant to remain untouched on the tours and so it’s hard to inspect them in detail, there are curated outfits or pieces of outfits removed from the hangers and set up in displays to be appreciated fully. These displays varied from selections of impressive hats to gorgeous, intricate dresses.

Impressive hats

And as promised, gorgeous, intricate dress

The warehouse does keep some outfits from local productions to be stored and retired from use. One of these well-preserved outfits was one of their displays when we went down (pictured below). This particular beautiful outfit was worn by Ms. Lucy Peacock (who magnificently plays Maria in Twelfth Night and Agave in Bakkhai this season) in a past production of Wanderlust at Stratford. It sits proudly in the waiting area as one of the first things tour-goers can inspect.

The warehouse is also home to props, though. Those were much more hands-on for the tour and offered the oddest halls one would ever walk down. Our tour guide kindly warned us after an aisle of coffins that there was a corpse at the end (fake, of course,) in case that could be disturbing to some. She was certainly not lying, but those weren’t words I’d imagined hearing at any point. He was, of course, accompanied by a bear very close by. It was certainly a roller coaster.

Coffin aisle

A good bear friend

The props were also quite interesting for the creativity and industry that they often seemed to require. A trophy shown in the beginning of the tour was built of various objects like spoons and a baby pacifier, none of which were obvious at first glance. Portraits later on in the warehouse were made of the actors in their given plays by printing photographs and blurring and altering them to look like paintings.

Both the costumes and the props showed immense workmanship and ingenuity. It made it all the more clear going through the warehouse why Stratford is known for the sheer quality in their productions.