The Costumes of Wicked: Transporting People to The Land of Oz
“Wicked” is one of the standard-bearers of modern Broadway. For its 18 years on the stage of the largest venue on Broadway – The Gershwin theater, the show keeps a seemingly undying presence with popularity as high as in its first days. The story is popular due to multiple reasons, but the signature trait are the costumes of Wicked. They easily transport everyone to the Land of Oz. See more on them below.
Tony Award-winning designer Susan Hilferty, the mastermind behind the surreal dresses of Elphaba, Glinda, Mirrible, and the rest. Her idea was “chunk of earth had been lifted off and sent out into the universe”. She states that her responsibility was to create a culture, no just costumes. That is why she based her vision on the Edwardian costumes that were actually trending in the Edwardian Era, just as the book was published.
The two main protagonists – Elphaba and Glina differ completely in their personalities. So, their costumes should be completely different, too.
Susan Hilferty decided to base Elphaba on the ground. Despite being of very high birth, Elphaba was dressed in a very humble, grounded manner. She said:
“If you look at the Elphaba dress up close, you’ll see that it’s not black. It’s actually filled with color. The color that I was responding to was from looking at stones in the earth and gems. The design of her dress is layers that are built with over 40 yards of fabric that are stitched together to have a continuous sense of being from the earth. It’s created to look like the lines you would see in a chunk of earth.”
If Elphaba is the earth, then Glinda is air. So, her dress must match her light and bubbly persona.
Her signature blue dress is based on a famous Dior gown from the 1950s, adding additional glamour to the spectacular dresses of the show. Glinda’s sole purpose is to defy gravity and to look the part.
When talking about her dress, Susan often uses the word “bubble”, drawing inspiration from a bubble machine that was created by The Wizard. Clever!
As a strict state official, Madame Morrible had to be dressed the part, too. The color that dominates is red, a symbol of passion and strive. The inspiration for her dress was drawn from the academic dress from Edwardian times. At a point, her look was compared to that of Queen Elizabeth.
In canon she has the ability to transform, so she often enough changes dresses. At a later point, after Elphaba goes rogue, she starts wearing fur and feathers. This marks her transition (or should I say – reveal) as the villain of the show.
A brave and rather careless lad, his costume highly resembles a military uniform of a middle-ranking officer like a captain. Let’s not forget that he is a prince, a real royalty, and many times the young heirs were subjects to military education. The green color used initially is inspired by the earth and can be considered a nod to Elphaba’s dress.
“Wicked” is a mesmerizing show. The sheer size of the production, combined with the huge venue, as well as the pure theatrical value of the play like scenario, acting, and music make up for the grandest thing to ever set foot on Broadway. The fantastic costumes of Wicked transform the talented human beings into fantastic creatures of another dimension.
The costumes of Wicked are fascinating! But are they among the best on Broadway?