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How to design the perfect Dame costume

How to design the perfect dame costume

Pantomime Dames are rare and special creatures, they only come out at Christmas and appear in some of the most creative, outlandish and occasionally obscene costumes ever allowed to set foot on stage. A costume designers dream, they carry the show and are just as popular with boys and girls as with mums and dads.

I think there’s five main things you need for a fabulous Dame’s costume:

A Theme

Start with a theme and design from there upwards, even if it’s something like ‘cooked breakfast’ for Sarah the Cook or ‘Under the Sea’ for Mrs Smee. If you start with a theme, you can’t go wrong and you’re sure to design a cracker.

[bctt tweet=”If you start with a theme, you can’t go wrong” username=”jnpantoscripts”]

A Swish

Do you know what I mean when I say ‘a swish’? It’s got to move right. When the Dame energetically enters for the first time, that dress has gotta move, and it’s gotta move well. The movement of the dress helps with momentum and becomes part of the character.

[bctt tweet=”The movement of the dress helps with momentum and becomes part of the character.” username=”jnpantoscripts”]

A Character

Each dame’s dress should have it’s own character, it’s own personality. Is it big and ball-sy or is it glittery and glamorous? Is it for the tall ugly or the short ugly? Is the dame rich or poor, fat or thin, practical or material? All of these answers come from the text and the casting but they’re important factors to remember. Often the dresses will go on a journey, as each entrance comes the dame has moved on a bit, and eventually we get the finale number which is always the best.

[bctt tweet=”Is it big and ball-sy or is it glittery and glamorous?” username=”jnpantoscripts”]

An Entrance

It’s often said that the best dames have a dress for every entrance, and it’s true. Though being a great dame isn’t all about the dress (see below), if you can take the dresses and build on the humour and larger-than-life pantomime quality then the audience will be putty in your hands.

[bctt tweet=”It’s often said that the best dames have a dress for every entrance” username=”jnpantoscripts”]

A Laugh

Let’s not forget the all important laugh that each dress should get. It should be funny that there’s bloke wearing a dress on stage, but crucially this should not be the only joke! Many amateur dames feel it enough to just put on a silly voice and act up in a dress, but that’s not how it works. Use your voice and the comedy will come from the unnatural bass quality of it. Sure, edit your tone in particular situations but you must ensure the comedy comes from spot-on delivery of jokes and comic routines not just from the dress.

[bctt tweet=”Let’s not forget the all important laugh that each dress should get” username=”jnpantoscripts”]

Visit my Pinterest board of excellent Pantomime Dame costumes for inspiration.

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