March 19, 2013


Probably the most popular or at least well-known scene from "Singin' In The Rain" is the scene where Don Lockwood sings.  In the rain.  Am I right?  Even if you have never seen the movie or the play, you know the song.  

Here is our cute Don Lockwood, he let me quickly shoot this pic between scenes.    He is such a great kid - and he had CRAZY costume changes for his character.   I  never saw anyone work harder!

Google images:  from the 1956 movie with Gene Kelly.  His classic belted grey flannel suit  is iconic, to be sure.  What's funny though, is that if I wanted to get good pictures for design details, I could not get them very well from this scene.  But what I discovered was that those original costumers played a cute trick on all of us.  This suit is worn by two other characters before Don's rain scene.  The director Roscoe Dexter wears it and the producer R.F. Simpson wears it.  (It must have been a super popular style and they all wanted one...)  Anyway, I got the best details from those characters.  Don't believe me?  Go watch it for yourself!

There were no versions available of this suit jacket anywhere, online or otherwise, so I knew I would have to create it myself (so sad... ;).  I found a suit at the Goodwill for $10.99 that was huge so I could alter it down, and use fabric scraps to construct the important details.  This suit would be getting wet at least 7 times, so I made sure it was not made of wool, or it would definitely be ruined by all the water.  I tried it on our actor, and made the markings I needed.

I first hemmed the suit pants to fit our actor and cut off the excess, then pieced them together into a long strip.  This would become the belt.  Not shown, but I actually cut it in half again longways, and sewed those strips together to make a really long skinny strip.  Then, I cut an identical size piece of dark grey denim, and sewed it to the back to create my stiff belt.  You'll see more of this in a few steps.

I cut off the sleeve hems and removed the buttons.  I will make cuffs from these pieces later.  Then I turned the center front under.  To make a new center front that not only fit better, but was now higher, to look more like 1920s.  I folded under the hem to make it a little shorter and hit the right place on our actor's hip, to look "right".

Before I officially cut anything off, I soaped (my version of chalk is soap chips) out my character "lines".  These were details that would have been part of the original coat pattern but I had to "apply" them to make it look like it was done that way.  I made sure the new bottom hem was going to be perfect, and that what I cut off would be a wide enough piece to create those said chest pattern details.  I checked that my belt piece would go around and overlap like I wanted it to.  Yep - check.  Now to cut everything off.

Here you can see the hem cut off - I serged that edge and turned it under, then topstitched it down.  The sleeve cuffs are attached and topstitched at the edge to keep them standing up (Yah, it's not pretty construction that I normally do, but it's costuming, you can get away with that...)  The new center front line is stitched in place.  I pressed the new collar roll line so it looked more natural to be higher.  

Then I added the belt.  All important for the right "look".  You can see I backed that strip I cut off earlier from the hem, with a stiffer denim.  I created a nice pointed end for the belt overlap and that is where I started my wrap around the jacket waistline, leaving a little hanging off, to start.  I just pinned it every few inches, then when I got around to the other side, I tucked it under the center front and stitched it down.  

Here are those details finished.  Also, I added buttonholes, then buttons later.  And remember when I had the bottom hem folded under and said that I would use what I cut off to make those "details"?  Well, that narrow cutoff piece became these cool strap-things that flow from the shoulder into belt loops - cool huh? 

I don't know why but this upside-down view helps us see the details better.

Whaddya think?  Not too shabby a transformation for a Goodwill suit, eh?    

And he is just a marvelous Don Lockwood - he does the suit proud!

Let's see him in action, singing in the rain...

No wonder Kathy Seldon found him irresistible, right?!

{FYI, I was the Costume Director for Ponderosa High School's "Singin' In The Rain".  This play was directed by the fantastic Geoffrey Reynolds - look for us on Broadway one day ;) ;) }

Thank you for joining me on my costume journey...stay tuned for more!

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