Adding a flash of dramatic colour

Joan O’Clery reveals her designs for Major Barbara, in this excerpt from the play’s programme.

The costumes in Major Barbara provide us with a manifestation of some of the main themes of the play. Set at the time it was written, 1905, we are reminded of the physical division between rich people and poor people; between affording heat or being bitterly cold; of keeping dry or suffering the rain. In fashion history terms, the early years of the 1900s were a transitioning time that fell between two distinct styles; at the end of the Victorian ‘Bustle’ skirt era, but just before the loosening of corset ‘stays’ and the freeing up of dress that rapidly took hold less than a decade later, around the time of the First World War and women’s emancipation.

Corseted and dressed in silk satin and fine lace, we meet Lady Britomart, a representative of the Empire, who sits, within Paul O’Mahony’s majestic set design, beneath a golden statue of Britannia. To suggest her status further, I chose a rich blue fabric with white lace detail for her Act 1 dress, so, as she sits on her red leather sofa, the colour symbolism of her British stature is complete…

… Discover more from Joan O’Clery in the Major Barbara programme, available to purchase in our online shop.

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