The Costumes of 'Cabaret': A behind-the-scenes look at dressing the part

Costumes of Cabaret, Associate Prof. Kaoime MalloyUW-Green Bay Theatre and Music are joining forces to present the popular musical Cabaret on the mainstage of the Weidner Center April 20-21. And while the actors and musicians have been busy preparing for the show — Theatre’s first Weidner mainstage production in more than a decade — Associate Prof. Kaoime E. Malloy has been toiling for months to make sure they look their best on stage. Malloy is hand-making the bulk of the show’s costumes (108 at last count), an arduous process that involves thorough research, planning and lots of know-how. From concept to completion, here’s a look at the costumes of Cabaret.

Associate Prof. Kaoime E. Malloy
‘Cabaret’ costume designer

“Every show requires a certain amount of research, and we have been doing an incredible amount of it for Cabaret. We’ve sort of immersed ourselves in the cabaret culture of Weimar Berlin, as well as the actual artistic culture of the time period. …
You always have to sort of immerse yourself in the world of the play to figure out what’s going on and to sort of think about how the character’s reacting and what they’re specifically trying to accomplish through the line of the play.”

At last count there’s at least 108 costumes in this show. … We have everything from lingerie and underwear for the people in the Kit Kat Club all the way to really fine 1920s fashion — sometimes extreme 20s fashion, because Sally is meant to shock every time she’s on stage — as well as period suits. There’s also some Nazi regalia that we have in the show … and a gorilla, so there you go.”

“Every show has its own challenge. Sometimes there (is) trick clothing, sometimes people have to bleed on stage, sometimes clothing has to light up. Every show there’s always something that you have to solve, costume-wise.”

“(There’s) always a new challenge — like this show, Sally’s got to crack those eggs on stage, to drink the prairie oyster, so we have to have inside of her coat, (which) is back behind me, the pocket has to be lined in plastic — so that if those break, there’s not a problem with that … With quick changes, too — there are a lot of fast changes in this show, so everything has to be rigged to facilitate that process with the dressers.”

“The vat room is mainly for immersion dyeing. The vat is actually a steam jacketed soup kettle from a kitchen manufacturer. It’s not the only type of dye that I work with and the only technique that I work with, but it’s probably the bulk of what we do for Theatre, is changing things from one color to another. We also do a lot of distressing of garments, which is going to happen in this show as well. … I know that if I go out someplace and I can’t find exactly what I want, there’s always a way to accomplish that via painting and dyeing.”

“I think what I like most about theatre is that my job constantly changes. … There’s always something to fall in love with, with every show.”

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