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Fabulous Stage Costumes from Times Gone By…

Historical stage costume

Historical stage costumes are by their very nature fabulous. Rarely understated they needed to communicate the nature of a character as soon as they step onto the stage. Some are ridiculous intentionally, some not (I fear poor Andreas Dippel was supposed to look heroic but fell rather short of that), and some are simply wonderful like the gold-breastplated Brunhilda and Bertha in Ondine.

I have no idea why that lady is dressed as a chicken – I really hope it wasn’t from a rendition of Swan Lake but I applaud her pluck (see what I did there?). Which of these is your favourite?

Above: Mizzi Hajos, Hungarian-born American stage performer, 1914.

Historical stage costume

Fanny Davenport looking rather swashbuckling, late 1800s

Historical stage costume

Kate Josephine Bateman, late 1800s

Historical stage costume

884 photograph of Toole in the the title role of F C Burnand’s burlesque ‘Paw Claudian’

Historical stage costume

Coquelin aîné (Benoît-Constant Coquelin, 1841-1909) as Mascarille in Molière’s Les Précieuses ridicules.

Historical stage costume

Cabinet Card photo of stage and screen actress Louise Beaudet in harem costume

Historical stage costume

Theatre actor Max Devrient as “Zawisch” at the Burgtheater in Vienna, late 1890s

Historical stage costume

Gerda Grönberg in 1894

Historical stage costume

Andreas Dippel in the title role of Wagner’s Siegfried. 1898

Historical stage costume

Lillian Nordica as Brünnhilde in Richard Wagner’s The Ring, 1898

Historical stage costume

Enrico Caruso as Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca, 1902

Historical stage costume

Geraldine Farrar as Elisabeth, 1920

Historical stage costume

Norwegian revue artist Lalla Carlsen performing a cabaret at the Chat Noir theatre in Oslo. 1920

Historical stage costume

Marian Seldes, as Bertha in Ondine by Jean Giraudoux. 1954


French operatic baritone Jean Périer (1869-1954) as Pelléas in Claude Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Early 1900s


Image source and copyright: 1, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, This media file is in the public domain in the United States.

2, 7, 13, This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

3, This work was published before January 1, 1923 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 91 years or less since publication.

4, 6, This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.

12, This is a press photograph from the George Grantham Bain collection, which was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948. According to the library, there are no known restrictions on the use of these photos.

14,  This image is in the public domain in Norway because the Norwegian Copyright law (§43a) specifies that images not considered to be “works of art” become public domain 50 years after creation, provided that more than 15 years have passed since the photographer’s death or the photographer is unknown.

15, As the restrictions on this collection expired in 1986, the Library of Congress believes this image is in the public domain. However, the Carl Van Vechten estate has asked that use of Van Vechten’s photographs “preserve the integrity” of his work, i.e, that photographs not be colorized or cropped, and that proper credit is given to the photographer

2 thoughts on “Fabulous Stage Costumes from Times Gone By…

  1. skincarenut

    I’ve seen the chicken costume in various poses and other similar costumes as well – seems it was a popular theme ‘suit’ for a time as were other ‘bird’ suits – there’s some outrageous ones done as renditions of ostriches which were very popular for a time as curiosities and many ostrich farms were around as well then (the ostrich eggs remained a popular gourmet food for years) – they had ostrich rides even at some of the amusement parks and ostrich farms.


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