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Friday, April 5, 2019

The Vibrant Colors and Surprisingly Conservative Cuts of the Costumes in Pepperland

By Susan Yung

Pepperland (coming to BAM May 8—11) found its musical inspiration in The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but rather than taking her cues from the iconic album’s cover, Elizabeth Kurtzman, the show’s costume designer, looked to an earlier era for its fashion. We asked her why you won’t find any feathers, satin, bellbottoms, or Nehru collars on the performers.

Photo: Gareth Jones

Why did you choose the style of everyday clothing, and did you consider using military uniform details along the way? 
Mark wanted simple shapes, styles more reminiscent of the early 60s. We never set out to recreate the album cover, nor were we interested in being faithful to the styles of 1967. Military jackets were not even discussed. No feathers, no satin. The clothes were meant to create the spirit of an earlier time, and The Beatles in general.

The cuts are on the conservative side—no bellbottoms or Nehru collars. Can you talk about that? 
I did lots of research on the early 60s. The cuts WERE more on the conservative side. Nehru collars and bellbottoms felt a little later to me. I was struck by all of the different suits the Beatles wore in A Hard Day’s Night, which I think I have watched at least 100 times. Everything is cut on the smaller side. They always looked great. Even their long hair is cut on the conservative side. The screaming girls all wore very trim skirts and coats, and flat shoes that they could run after the band in.

Photo: Stephanie Sleeper

How did you pick the palette? 

Color in fashion went crazy at that time. I think it’s because of all the synthetic fabrics that were being developed, along with the desire to make a big splash. Specifically, I have always loved the images of the mural that was painted above the Lord John boutique on Carnaby Street in 1967. I pushed that palette around quite a lot, and came up with what you see on the dancers. Not quite neon, but happy and exciting.

Pepperland will be at BAM May 8—11.

Susan Yung is senior editorial manager at BAM.

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