I know I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating (and I’m probably thinking of it because I’ve been on an old episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race binge, since I just discovered episodes available for free through my Amazon Prime membership).
Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.
Accessories change costumes into clothing.
Certain accessories are necessary for period costuming.
Certain accessories add to your character development.
Locally, many actors joke about wearing “ear bobs” because a certain director (okay, C. Michael Traw) insists that all his lady actors wear appropriate earrings.
He insists on this no matter how big or small the role is.
And he’s right.
Earrings set the period. Earrings make the costume look like clothing – you’re no longer wearing a costume – you’re wearing an outfit.
Things like earrings, brooches, bracelets, purses, hats, gloves, shoes, aprons, sweaters, shawls, handkerchiefs, etc. – all add to a woman’s appearance, and the fashion and custom of each period dictates (or at least strongly suggests) what the proper options are.
For men – cut of the suitcoat, color of the shirt, vest or not to vest, belt or suspender, shoes or boots, proper hosiery, headgear, ties, watches, rings, tie bars, hats, glasses, etc.
Just so many things to think about – and you, as the actor, need to think about it.
This is not just the job of your costumer.
You need to figure out what your character will need; and either provide those accessories yourself, or ask for them.
You need to look at the clothing of the period.
You need to carefully read your script to see what is needed and then plan for it.
You should discuss these things with your director (although, you will find some directors put their trust wholly in their costumer), your costumer and possibly your prop person.
The cool thing about appropriate accessories is they also can give you “business” to do onstage.
You’ll need to know what were the customs of the day – when did people remove their gloves or their hats? Where did they keep their handkerchiefs? When would a man remove his suitcoat and what would he do with it? Just little things, but they help create realism, because you are doing things that your character would have naturally done during that time period.
For example, playing Dolly in Hello Dolly – I knew I would need gloves in the Harmonia Gardens – I knew I had to serve up a meal; I knew removing and putting on gloves would be a problem – solution – black lace fingerless gloves. They looked elegant, they allowed me to use my hands without worrying about getting the gloves messy and without the need to remove them.
So, yes, C. Michael is right.
You need to have your ear bobs.
And everything else.