For whatever reason, two of the most challenging costumes came to me immediately. Mrs. Potts was one of those. As soon as I knew we were doing Beauty and the Beast I knew I wanted to fashion a oblong teapot, and I knew I could do it with hoop skirts. The original intention had been to construct them myself, but they weren’t very expensive so ended up buying two and working with that.
I found the fabric I wanted at Materials for the Arts. I can only describe is as an “aged velvet upholstery fabric.” Whatever it was, it was perfect and looked just like an old teapot to me and I prayed there would be enough for both Mrs. Potts and Chip.
The first step was the fitting. I had to see which hoops I was going to cut and what would crate the bell shape that I would need. Along with this I had to test the fabric to make sure I had enough. Thankfully I did, because I was dead set on this fabric.
Things looked good at this point so I decided to go ahead and cut the hoop skirts to the desired length and we created the little ball shape that we needed.
Having measured the skirt (but still completely winging it at this point so I still wasn’t convinced it would work), it was time to cut large panels of the fabric. At this point I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to make Chip matching, but that turned out not to be the case in the end.
Once the plan of attack was laid out, it was time to cut the bodice. I got more and more excited about the fabric the more I cut it. Once cut, I quickly sewed the bodice together, having to go over seams multiple times in some cases because the fabric was so thick and I wanted to make sure it was durable.
The skirt was just two large panels of what I had leftover, fabric-wise. We made sure we had enough and moved forward. Though you see gathering stitches in these pictures, I ended up doing an elaborate pleating system as this fabric was IMPOSSIBLE to gather enough. The bodice and skirt got attached, and it was time to figure out the remaining little details.
Originally, the plan had been to create some sort of elastic ruffle at the bottom to create the illusion of a teapot stand. I ended up taking more extra hoop steel and using this as the base for the bottom of the teapot. I used a different fabric for the ruffle, and sewed it onto the hoop steel, then attached it to the skirt and cinched the whole thing in with elastic. I took the same fabric I used to the ruffle and made one sleeve for the handle. For the spout, I used the main upholstery fabric. Sleeves attached, and then was just a matter of adding a few little lace trim details and Mrs. Potts was done!
For Chip, I had no idea what I was going to do for a very long time, and so I just avoided it until shortly before we had dress rehearsal. I had let some ideas stew in my head for a while, and by the time I got to it, I knew more or less the process.
The first step was to create the pattern. I measured it out, and then tested it with some scrap fabric. I got the size wrong a few times, so thankfully this was a really quick project and allowed me some time to test it over and over again.
Above you can see the basic idea behind Chip (this is still the prototype). I was also trying to account for the fact that it needed to stand up, which it definitely was not in this picture.
I finally got it down, and turned to the real fabric. I used the upholstery fabric as well as some vinyl as an inner layer to create more stiffness.
It worked perfectly, and then it was a matter of cutting a head hole, creating a handle and creating a way for it to stand up. Truth be told, I didn’t get it to stand up until right before it had to go onstage. Turned out to be a simple matter of creating a duct tape layer that would sit on the actress’ head and keep it up. All in all, it ended up workout out really nicely.
The other aspect of the Chip costume was the cart. The Broadway version has Chip as just a head, and this is what I wanted to do. To make a long story short, the director and I worked together on a couple versions of the cart before finally using a shopping cart with a PVC piping frame around it, which I then covered with an ornate curtain to look like a tablecloth.
And, finally, the finished product: