10 Shows with Incredible Costume Design

  • Holly Lucas

Costume designers and wardrobe teams work tirelessly behind the scenes of every production to help create a series of iconic outfits that will hopefully last the test of time. Here are some of my personal favorites.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

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Having taken part in this show before, I know the extremities of the costumes required for

Priscilla to have the full impact. The outfits are colourful, sparkly, some of them huge (gumbies, I’m looking at you), and some of them very skimpy (how can you pop ping pong balls covered up, eh?). The three main drag queens have an astonishing amount of costume changes in this show, and that alone should be applauded. It really is something to behold. One set of costumes that really stand out are these giant green cakes. I distinctly remember trying my hardest not to trip over in that scene so have blanked out most of what went on, but I hear from the audience that they look amazing from the front! And don’t even get me started on the finale; komodo dragons, koalas, kangaroos...

Phantom of the Opera

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If you’re looking to be dazzled this is the musical to see. The costumes are simply extravagant in every way. The Phantom feels quite basic in comparison to the wide array of costumes the other characters and ensemble get to wear, male and female alike. I love some of the enormous dresses the ladies wear, Christine in particular presenting us with Beauty and the Beast inspiration on occasion, but my favourite I think are the ballerina’s costumes in the Hannibal sequence. There’s something about the way the material of the skirt moves that is just mesmerising to watch. 

Beetlejuice

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The gothic vibes are very real in these amazing costume designs by William Ivey Long. The iconic striped suit has been revamped for the Broadway production and Lydia’s little black dress with biker boots is a style I’d like to wear in everyday life to be honest. You’d think it would be an overload of black and white after a while, but those occasional grim tinges of green and purple that appear give us just the break we need. Plus I love Halloween, so this is everything I could possibly want. 

Grease

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This musical had to be in here really. It has such iconic costumes and who wouldn’t want to don a T-bird’s leather jacket? Firm favourites include Rizzo’s unbending pencil skirt, Sandy’s transformation outfit (the red shoes!), Patty Simcox’s Rydell High cheerleading gear and of course, the infamous Pink Ladies jackets. For anyone who loves that 50’s style, it’s every vintage lover’s dream.

Moulin Rouge

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If you didn’t know Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 classic is now on Broadway, where have you been? As you can imagine, the costumes dazzle us in shades of lustrous red to match the incredible set design. Santine wears a gorgeous velvet number at one point that I can’t stop looking at, never mind the can can dancers and corsets at every turn. A special mention must go to the ringmaster costume of Harold Zidler. We really should wear more red tailcoats…

Lord of the Rings Musical

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Potentially a horrifying thought for J.R.R.Tolkien lovers that this indeed became a musical, but my goodness have you seen the costumes? The fellowship of the ring look particularly at home in their outfits reminiscent of the films, and Gollum in his pitiful grey rags with heavy make up are quite terrifying, but the real star for me is Galadriel. The detail on her golden dress is quite stunning in comparison to Arwen’s gown and a bit of a scene stealer. Whether these get to make a reappearance is another matter entirely...

Shrek the Musical

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I love every costume in this show. The characters are all so fantastical that you really can’t do them half-heartedly - you’re meant to have an ogre, a donkey and a dragon for pete’s sake! The film classics are always excellent to behold; it can take 2.5 hours for Shrek to be ready, and Lord Farquaad seems to have a different outfit every time he’s on stage. But actually some of the ensemble costumes are just amazing; Pinocchio and his expanding nose, Peter Pan, the Wicked Witch, Wolf and my possible favourites, the three bears and the three little pigs. The performers are probably melting inside but they look great!

Something Rotten

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The battle of the wide Elizabethan pants, bustles as big as a bus, feathered hats and ruffs galore - that just about sums up the Shakespearean delights you’ll find in this musical. It really doesn’t hold back with the period costumes which ultimately helps transport you into this immersive parodical world. Plus there’s a song about omelettes that involves the cast dressing up as enormous eggs. If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand. If you haven’t seen it, I swear it does make sense in context…

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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For any Harry Potter fans out there this is the pinnacle of the wizarding world and you will ultimately find yourself geeking out at every turn. Whilst this show may be considered as having quite everyday wear in comparison to others, seeing those sweeping school capes and watching how they use them so effectively to compliment the production is brilliant. I can’t really divulge too much on this one - #keepthesecrets and all - but trust me, it’s worth it.

Every Disney Musical Ever

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Disney really just know how to make it work, no matter what show it is they’re putting on. They tend to stick to the iconic film costumes, which will always be a sure fire hit, but somehow take it to the next level - I mean, have you seen Elsa’s costume change in Frozen?! The list is potentially endless, but some firm favourites include: 

●      Aladdin - primarily for the incredible ‘Prince Ali’ song where the ensemble complete an inordinate amount of costume changes. 

●      The Lion King - still going strong and how could you not appreciate the incredible masks and puppetry on show. Whilst I love the big animals that appear there’s something truly beautiful about the lion costumes.

●      Beauty and the Beast - it’s not just about the big yellow dress or the singing wardrobe. ‘Be Our Guest’ looks amazing from start to finish - I insist they give us more of those plate costumes please.

There you have it - our top 10 shows with the BEST costumes. Which ones are your favourites?