It’s time for the second installment of taking a look at the costumes for The Little Mermaid. Last week I outlined some of the major players. This week we’re going to look at some of the other characters, as well as Ariel’s human dresses.
Ariel’s Human Dresses
All of Ariel’s human costumes were designed to call back to her ocean life. Her main human dress had a pattern on it that reminded me of something that might grow underwater. I also changed the color from the original pink to a light blue, partially to fit that theme and partially because I never liked that Disney drew Ariel a pink human dress with that bright red hair! For the most part, the dress was a design of my own, with elements that were reminiscent of the cartoon. I used three different patterns to create it, mashing them together until they were what I wanted.
Ariel’s wedding dress was made with seashell print lace shower curtains! Real lace with seashells was ridiculously expensive for three dresses that needed nine years each, so we got creative! The shower curtains ended up working perfectly. I know the audience couldn’t necessarily see the prints on her dresses, but I always feel these details are important to be there anyway. I always discuss these costuming choices with the actors so that they understand why I took their clothing in the direction I did, and I like to think that it helps them develop their character a little bit.
Technically our script only had Eric proposing to Ariel at the end of the show, and didn’t have their wedding. But I have wanted to make a wedding dress for years, and so I asked if we could make the ending look like a wedding ceremony. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making the wedding dress, and hope to make more in the future!
Eric was a minor challenge for me. I spent countless hours trying to think of how to make his costume look like Eric, but not be the exact one from the cartoon. In the end, I used most of the elements from the cartoon anyway: white shirt, red belt. Most people don’t even notice the boys’ costumes unless they are particularly significant, and so I decided not to fuss too much about Eric after a while.
I actually put together three costumes for Eric. There was his “sea Eric” costume, which he wore when he was on his ship. Then there was his “land Eric” costume, which he wore in Act II when most of Eric’s action takes place on land as he finds Ariel and shows her around. I also had “wedding Eric,” which was a store bought Prince Charming costume so that he would look just a tad more royal for the wedding scene at the end.
Grimsby & Carlotta
Grimsby and Carlotta were fine example of costume recycling. Every single part of their costumes was something we had in storage in the costume room from last year’s Beauty and the Beast. The jacket was worn by the Beast wore it when he turned into a human. The pants belonged to human Chip. The jabot and cuffs were part of the Beast costume and the Cogsworth costume, and the wig was originally bought for Lumiere but we never ended up using it. Carlotta’s dress was originally made for one of the Narrator’s of Beauty and the Beast. Very little alteration was needed for either, which was an added bonus.
King Triton essentially needed to be a boy in a skirt and a commanding presence at the same time. I designed his merman tail to be different from the girls. I can’t honestly say that I had any real logic to this other than the fact that Triton was male and the mersisters were female. This tail didn’t involve any wires or tricks, but it was fairly tricky to get it to fit the right way and still allow for the actor to move around stage as needed.
The costume started with an insane wig and beard set. I call them insane because they tangled like crazy and after a while it got harder and harder to tame it down. Truth be told, eventually we just stopped trying because I was worried that brushing it out would essentially make him bald. From the wig and beard, we build the costume. It ended up being a mermaid tail that we made paired with a muscle suit leftover from the Beast last year to make him look muscular. To try to semi-hide the fact that Triton was wearing fake muscles, I purchased a Roman armor-like thing to cover it up, as well as cuffs to hide the difference between his hands and the suit.
This show was a challenge because of the large ensemble, all of whom needed different costumes. There were sea creatures, there were lagoon animals, there were sailors and there was a set of princesses who vie for Prince Eric’s attention.
One of my favorite creations was the Seahorse. I used the same bodysuit/hoodie pattern that I used for Flounder, Scuttle and the seagulls (as well as tons of other animal creatures, which you will see in a moment). However, I had to improvise a little with this one, as the Seahorse also needed a snout and the seahorse tale. Originally I was going to put the curled tail in the front, but after some discussion with the other adults involved, we realized that it might look too much like a penis, and so we put the tail in the back. I ended up just free forming the tail and the snout, using my logic and hoping for the best. They both worked out!
I showed off the fish heads in the last post, but most of the other characters involved with “Under the Sea” got a store-bought costume. Because they were going to be in the background of a large production number and not wear the costume elsewhere in the show, I decided it would be okay to purchase the jellyfish, starfish and sting way costumes. They blended in seamlessly with the rest of the crew. However, once again I don’t have great pictures of those costumes during the show, as the children in them were often in the background and blocked.
The lagoon animals were perhaps the most irritating project of the whole show. I decided that there would be frogs, turtles, ducks and flamingoes. I used the exact same hoodie pattern again – it turned out to be a fantastic all-purpose pattern! Each lagoon animal had a different color, or combination of colors to represent their specific character. Each also had their own specific characteristic beyond color: the turtles had shells made from fabric-covered aluminum pans from the grocery store, the frogs had frog eye headbands, the ducks had bills that I purchased, and the flamingoes had separate hood pieces with beaks. Though it was, at times, frustrating to deal with the sheer volume of the costumes, I did have fun piecing these together to give the scene the right effect.
The princesses who vie for Prince Eric’s attention were played by the same girls who played the mersisters, at my request. There were six of each, so it made sense and I had a costuming idea that would make my life – and theirs – easier. For the princesses, they kept the same top on, and added a coordinating skirt that could be pulled on right over their mermaid tail if they wanted to. It allowed for a small amount of work on my part, and an easier costume change for them. Plus, I had fun deciding which color each girl’s dress would be.
Last but not least, we have the sailors. There were a lot of them, but their costumes did not take a particularly long time. I used the Edie Top pattern from Sew Over It, and got some inexpensive striped knit fabric, and quickly whipped up the seventeen tops that we needed. For the bottoms, we bought sweatpants, and to top it all off, a sailor hat. Perhaps they were not the most authentic looking sailors in the world, but it did the job!
The Little Mermaid really was fantastic all-around, and I am very much looking forward to getting started on Frozen!