BRECHT IN PRACTICE
Costume Design

A quick look at the act-by-act visual documentation reveals that the production didn’t opt for historically accurate dress. Although this decision was primarily the result of budgetary limitations, the costume decisions were nonetheless coherent in that they sought to suggest a past and link the different outfits to a system of representing class and gender. As is clear from the images and descriptions, below, the costumes across the four acts are held together by a network of similarities and differences. It is the audience’s job to connect these with the social concerns of the production itself.

The Upper Echelons

The highest status figures all wear waistcoats to indicate their social rank. The judges wear white cravats and chains to signify their position at the top of the scale. Reverends Parris and Hale are differentiated from each other by the colour of their waistcoats, and Parris shares the same colour waistcoat with landowner Thomas Putnam. The contrasting colours of the reverends suggests their divergent views, and the use of the same colour for Parris and Putnam suggests Parris’s social ambitions.

The Law’s Servants

The clerk to the Court and the village marshal both wear waistcoats, to connect them to their masters, and clean white shirts, an ironic contrast to the dirty business in which they’re involved.

The Farmers

The farmers Francis and Giles wear plain greenish brown shirts to suggest their agricultural work. Proctor wears a waistcoat in addition to suggest importance in the village.

The Wives

Both wives, Mrs Proctor and Mrs Putnam, share the same base clothes of a rustic skirt and a black shirt. This item differentiates these women from their female servants, below. Putnam signals her social superiority with her shawl while Proctor wears an apron to reflect her domestic role.

The Servants

The servant girls wear plain shirts and skirts, and walk in bare feet in order to indicate their youth and low status. The slave Tituba is dressed similarly, but wears a head scarf to mark her ‘exotic’ otherness.

 


BRECHT IN PRACTICE - Copyright 2017 © Prof. David Barnett | All Rights Reserved

David Barnett
Professor of Theatre
University of York

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