{Costume Design Archives: Little Shop of Horrors}

It’s time for another edition of my own costume design archives. Today I’ll be taking you through my design and thought process for Little Shop of Horrors.

We did the show in 2008. This spring, it will be twelve years since it debuted, and we still have some of the costumes up in our costume room. Others have been donated or have fallen by the wayside over the years. In fact, most of them have gone missing since they were created but truth be told, I’m not too disappointed about this. Looking back on my sewing skills from then up to now, these costumes looked pretty good on the service, but were a mess on the inside!

Our main goal with Little Shop of Horrors was to make it look as campy as possible. Our director thought of it as a cartoon, and everything was supposed to reflect that. Do I think I did that necessarily? Maybe in certain areas. However, my focus was on making sure that the doo-wop girls could get easily in and out of their multiple costume changes as the show progressed. So that’s as good a place as any to start with this, I suppose!

The doo-wop girls are a juxtaposition of skid row poor and glamorous girl band. They appear in both outfits at various parts of the show. Their “poor” outfits were easy: a simple circle skirt and a blouse (purchased from a school uniform storm and modified to have velcro for ease of getting in and out). However, they appear in a multitude of scenes in which they need to be glamorous, and of course I wanted them to have different costumes for these scenes.

The solution was to make them a basic black dress with velcro sewn into the waist. Then they had skirt additions they would stick onto the velcro. Using this method, they had three different costume changes surrounding one dress. I was particularly proud of the ribbon versions they wore on the end (which I remember modeling after dresses I saw in That Thing You Do!). I cannot for the life of me find any pictures of their third skirt, which was basically just silver fringe, but here are the opening and closing numbers:

It was one of my better costuming ideas, I think, yet not one that I have repeated since.

While we’re on the topic of better costuming ideas, this suit saw the birth of what we call “the Mushnik suit.” The reason is simple: it was made for Mushnik. It was the first time I ever attempted to make pants without elastic, and for a first try, they were pretty good! So goo, in fact, that we still have these pants and they have consistently appeared in many of our shows! I may have to find a way to incorporate them into Frozen Jr. this year.

The suit consisted of the pants, a vest and a jacket that I managed to perfectly cut out of a relatively small length of fabric. I remember being so proud of myself when I realized I could actually get all the pieces out of it!

For the dentist, I made one of the stiffest leather jackets in history. Looking back on it today, I have no idea how this kid moved around in it, particular with his character being so physical. I have no idea what it was made of; I think it was a vinyl. It did the job though and looked like leather. The best part was the back of it, which I sadly don’t have any pictures of. It was a handmade giant tooth emblem that we sewed on.

Audrey was all about the leopard. Everything about her was meant to scream tacky at all times, even after she is no longer on a relationship with the sadistic dentist. Because leopard is not at all my own personal style, it was really fun to make all these ridiculous get ups for Audrey, right down to her fur trimmed sheer robe.

Her nightgown mirrored the doo-wop girls and had a detachable ribbon skirt that turned it from nightgown into a wedding dress.

Seymour was a lot of fun to dress, albeit very simple. I found him an actual vintage shirt at one point and paired it with jeans, a baseball cap and the signature broken glasses. The look was completed with a sweater vest so that he could actually make it to two looks: one with the sweater and one without. I was really proud of the final look:

For the second act, I simple took away the glasses and gave Seymour a different plaid shirt. I will admit it was definitely more of a “phone it in” moment rather than a significant costuming decision. You can see the shirt in the photo above with Audrey in her wedding ribbon dress.

It’s so hard to believe that I didn’t Little Shop of Horrors so long ago, and that now I’m on my thirteenth show! I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of them as time goes on!

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