Julie Taymor's Tempest Costumes : Yes, Those Are Zippers You See

I had no idea what Shakespeare in Studs was when it came through my newsfeeds so I skipped it at first. Turns out it’s a Wall Street Journal piece on the costume design for Julie Taymor’s upcoming Tempest movie!
When the initial images were starting to circulate and they ended up on one of the computer-geek boards I frequent, it didn’t take people long to say “Zippers? Are those zippers I see on those costumes? Pretty sure they didn’t have zippers back then!” (Bonus points to the guy who responded, “You do realize that there’s magic and fairies in this too, right?”)
The zippers were deliberate. A lot of thought (and not a lot of budget!) went into the costumes.

The film had a limited costume budget, a relatively small $200,000. Ms. Powell sewed zippers on costumes herself during filming on the rocky Hawaiian island of Lanai. “I don’t always do that,” she says, “for anyone who’s reading this and wants to hire me.”

13 thoughts on “Julie Taymor's Tempest Costumes : Yes, Those Are Zippers You See

  1. Ooh, that is interesting. After the trailer, it looked like the setting would be vague, and this confirms it. But I'm okay with that when you're doing Tempest. If it works in space (Forbidden Planet) it will work in "contemporarfied" Renaissance garb. And Elizabethan punk definitely sounds like a niche fashion movement waiting to happen.

  2. Harsh, JM. How would you costume the Tempest?

    I don't think the production intends to be making a huge statement with the costume design, I think it's just a fun little touch. With the talent represented in this cast, I hardly think most audiences will be overly concerned about the costumes.

    I think in past you've said you enjoy using original practices. Aren't anachronistic costumes part of that whole package? Or is it just the zippers you object too?

  3. Ms. Taymor once again identifies herself as the queen of "creating" lazy, ill-defined esoterica. Personally, I prefer not to have to refer to fashion magazines in attempts to get "meaning" out of what Shakespeare is saying.

  4. For my high school production that just ended, I chose to make the costumes Victorian/Edwardian. All of the royals are clad in a red/black motif, with Ferdinand and Sebastian wearing ceremonial military uniforms, and Alonso wearing a tux complete with sash, medal, etc. The ladies (Antonia/Gonzala) wear bustle dresses. You can actually check out photos here:


    It's still an evolving thing. We take it to competition in two weeks!

  5. Alexi, I have no objection to statements.
    What do zippers "say" thematically? If nothing, then that's exactly what they're worth. Or are we supposed to figure out Taymor's statements for her?

  6. Zippers were considered 'of the devil' when first made.
    Why? You could get in and out of your clothes too easily to ….well…. obviously, be very naughty.
    Zippers on all of the court might signify the 'devilish' intrigue and endless jockeying to destroy in the search for power.
    Prospera's cape is quite amazing, too, fellow Shakespeare geeks.
    Here is a link.

  7. "Zippers on all of the court might signify the 'devilish' intrigue and endless jockeying to destroy in the search for power."

    They might. Then again, they might not.
    That's great analysis…but…
    Since they weren't invented for practical use until 1913, where they fit in is anyone's guess. At the moment, they serve the very useful function of distractions. Maybe they'll hand out in-depth program notes at the theatres.:)

  8. When is the "back then" that people are referring to in the original story?

    It doesn't seem to me that this Tempest is set in Elizabethan times.

    There were no tolling clocks in the days of Julius Caesar, either; perhaps we should pillory Old Will himself for that and other equally egregious anachronisms of which he's guilty…not the least of which would be his penchant for contemporary costumes.

  9. I think utility has a lot to do with Shakespeare's anachronisms, Ed. Show me the utility of zippers on Elizabethan costuming and I'll be glad to place Ms. Taymor in the same category as Shakespeare in that regard. Judging from her other efforts, she seems to be more about throwing in things for cheap shock value. But she always seems to succeed–here we are discussing her potential "genius". I'll waste no more time doing THAT, henceforth.
    I'm with Clive Barnes on this type of in-ven-ti-on:

    "There is a kind of decadence in such gimmickry, as every director tries desperately hard to put his [her] fingerprints all over the play, encouraging audiences to say, 'How clever!' rather than 'How true!'"

  10. But I don't think it is Elizabethan costuming; I guess that's my point, JM.

    Because it may resemble or incorporate some aspects of the Elizabethan style doesn't mean Taymor is going for a particular place or time.

    Now, no one I know has seen the movie, so I don't know if there's a title card or something else to indicate something like"Somewhere off the coast of North America, 1612."

    But if modern styles grafted to Elizabethan styles will help an audience to grasp a character's purpose, I'm willing to give it a look before deciding whether it's just "stunt costuming" or doing something just because you can.

    Forget the fashion magazines and let's just see what the effect is. If it's laziness, I'm with you, but there may be more there.

  11. I swear, I never know what will generate controversy. Zippers on costumes? Posted on the weekend, no less? I would have counted this post as fodder, just resyndicating somebody else's story. Who knew?

    Let's go talk about the business of Shakespeare over on the other post 🙂

  12. Hey, if you can't talk about the effects of zippers on The Tempest on the Shakespeare GEEK site, where can you?

    Or is this now "Shakespeare for Cool Kids"?

    Hee hee 🙂

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