Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Drawing of the Day: A Costume Design by Victor Stiebel, 1928

Costume Design
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Victor Stiebel was one of Britain’s best-known fashion designers of the mid-Twentieth century. While attending Cambridge, he designed costumes for many university productions and continued to produce stage dresses for several theatrical leading ladies after opening his own couturier house in 1932.

Here, we see one of Stiebel’s most engaging costume designs. The face, with the heavily emphasized, khol-encircled eyes, follows the tradition established by silent-screen star Theda Bara, who popularized the word “vamp” (a contraction of the word “vampire,” which she played in one of her films) to mean a predatory female.

This drawing shows a full-length female figure with black slicked-back hair which ends in kiss curl on the left cheek and with a deep black band around neck. The rather ghoulish figure wears a black fitted dress, the left shoulder bare, with a short bell sleeve. The left side of the skirt ends in a short tail while the right is split on the right hip. The dramatic slit is covered with layers of narrow fabric strips.

A rather theatrical adornment, on the shoulder is a bold corsage of orange, carmine and purple flowers. While, at the hip are one purple and one orange flower.

The costume seems designed entirely to emphasis onto the eyes and blood red lips. Not for one moment, does anyone doubt that this is, indeed, a vamp.

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