INsite Magazine

Monday, October 5, 2009

History Sold at the Hippodrome Costume Sale

Saturday (10/3) at the height of the midday heat, a mob formed in front of the Hippodrome Theatre. Hundreds of people formed a line that snaked around the columned facade, all the way around the building to a small, inconspicuous side entrance. There, eager shoppers descended into the newly renovated basement to purchase pieces of theater history at the Hippodrome’s costume sale.

The Hipp’s costume sale lasted from noon to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, attracting more than a thousand visitors during its two-day run. Jewelry, wigs and accessories were sold for as little as five cents, while iconic pieces from some of the Hippodrome’s most successful plays were on the market for thousands of dollars. Everything from corsets to kimonos, vintage military uniforms to sparkly platform heels sold out over the weekend sale. Even a jacket worn by the actor Ed Harris in the film A Flash of Green was up for grabs.
Moderate prices and high quality attracted both theater aficionados and those simply wanting to dress up. Other local theater programs came to scout clothes for their own upcoming productions. Shirley Regis, who works for Shands at the University of Florida, searched for a new Halloween costume on Saturday.

“I love fabric, I love fashion and I love theater,” Shirley says. “Put it all together and I love costume sales.”
On Saturday, prospective buyers had to be let in only a hundred at a time to prevent overcrowding, as hordes of shoppers in the basement below quickly snatched up costumes. The chaotic atmosphere Saturday was replaced by a calmer Sunday. The sale had been so ransacked on Saturday that the Hippodrome decided to sell an extra five racks of clothes the next day.

“We thought we’d just have some people dribbling in,” says Hippodrome general manager Rocky Draud. “This is fabulous. We had no idea there would be this many people.”

Unlike the last costume sale two years ago, this sale was a fundraising effort in response to the economic downturn. Rocky says, “We lost a million dollars in funding and grants, so we are scrambling to make up for that.”

The sale was possible thanks to the sacrifice of costume designer Marilyn A. Wall. A two-time Emmy award-winner, Marilyn has worked with the likes of Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Bill Clinton. The costumes sold this weekend represent a large chunk of her life’s work.

“With the tough economic times, I thought, ‘What could we do to help?’” Marilyn says. “So I went deep into the closets and found costumes from the last 35 years.”

Though the sale was bittersweet, Marilyn attended, aiding customers and prowling the racks wearing a long green dinosaur tail. Many customers recognized her designs from Hippodrome productions ranging from Macbeth to M. Butterfly. Some even stopped to ask her for an autograph.

“It was really sad to see some costumes leave,” says Marilyn. “But I always think that clothing and fabrics carry a history of who made them, who touched them, and the words and the story behind them. I believe each next actor adds a history to the garment, so I’m glad the costumes are leaving the basement and getting a new life.”

—Story and photos by Allison Griner

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