Best Foot Forward

02 August 2019

Cultural Studies | Theatre

This blog includes temporary free access to wardrobe notes from Hamlet (dir. Giles Block, 2000). Click here or on the images below to view these notes for free until 2nd of September 2019.


I am continually losing socks. There is no rhyme or reason to it. I don’t think I can even blame the washing machine because occasionally I will notice in the evening that, while I may have started my day with two socks on, I am now definitely only wearing one.

For that reason and because I used to work as a theatrical costumier, the wardrobe jottings for a production of Hamlet in the Shakespeare's Globe Archive, directed by Giles Block in 2000, struck my interest. It contains preliminary costings from Original Knitwear, a company who have made silk stockings for the Globe since its opening in 1998.


 Image © Shakespeare's Globe Archive and Jenny Tiramani. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Image © Shakespeare's Globe Archive and Jenny Tiramani. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.


At £110 per pair for silk seamed stockings and £135 per pair for woollen seamless stockings, for something at least partially hidden by shoes, it begs the question; what value do we place on ‘authenticity’ within theatre? Or more simply; why pay £135 for socks?


Peacham Drawing. Public domain, accessed via Wikimedia Commons
Peacham Drawing. Public domain, accessed via Wikimedia Commons

There is only one surviving illustration of potential Shakespearean costume (the Peacham drawing which can be found in the library of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat House), which does appear to show a mix of costumes including hose. While there are portraits and a limited number of items of renaissance clothing remaining in museums such as the Fashion Museum in Bath, we are still left with a restricted indication of what Shakespearean costumes would have looked like.

To combat this lack of information Jenny Tiramani (Master of Clothing and Properties for this production at the Globe) travelled to Denmark to study Danish Renaissance clothing, researching at Rosenborg Castle and Fereriksborg Castle. The costumes were then constructed using Renaissance cutting and making techniques. For any other theatre spending £135 on a single pair of stockings would be questioned immediately, but the Globe places emphasis not just on theatre in education, but theatre as education. Recreating design and costume forms a part of their research programme, research that is used and tested in action and not just as a museum exhibit. Actors feel the restriction of the clothing and the wardrobe department is able to see the cost and wear involved in using these items during a five-month run.

 Still, given my track record with socks, I’m not sure I’ll be picking up a pair of £135 woollen seamless stockings any time soon.

Coriolanus (2006) [235], 2006, Reproduced with kind permission of Shakespeare's Globe Archive © John Haynes Further reproduction prohibited without permission



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About the Author

Dot Kelly

Dot Kelly

Since joining Adam Matthew in July 2019, I have enjoyed exploring all the different material in the collections. My academic background is in Theatre Studies, with particular interest in contemporary comedy.