London West End Musicals

Getting to know you: A look at the costumes in The King and I

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Getting to know you: A look at the costumes in The King and I

The King and I has now closed in the West End. Why not read more about what it takes to become a West End costume designer with us?

Set in 1860’s Siam, The King and I tells the story of an unconventional relationship between East and West. Centering around the relationship of King Mongkut and Anna Leonowens, a newly-hired governess to look after the King’s children, the pair have to deal with their many differences. These differences create a unity between the pair, forming a great admiration for one another.

In order to create a wardrobe that married Eastern and Western styles together, costume designer Catherine Zuber thoroughly researched specific fabrics, colours and read into what people would have worn to produce a stellar wardrobe that perfectly captures the time period. In fact, Zuber won the 2015 Tony Award for best costume design for her work in The King and I. To get a closer look at the level of details in the outfits, here are some original sketches of outfits you can see in the show that were drawn up by Zuber.

A behind the scenes look at The King and I 

King and I Sketch
Sketch by Catherine Zuber

To bring this sketch to life, the dress was created with heavy bamboo and sprung steel to form hoops that allow Kelli O’ Hara to glide across the stage. But that’s not all! The dress also has steel weights sewn into the bottom that stop the skirt flying up and revealing the magic of how the dress perfectly sits. Thanks to the iridescent fabrics, the dress catches the light with each movement, making her look regal yet strong. This dress really showcases the mix of older dress styles with newer fabrics and constructions to create an iconic outfit.

More costume sketches showcase the level of detail that has gone into making every outfit. From villagers to royal princes, The King and I shows Siam at every level.

 

King and I - villagers
Sketch by Catherine Zuber
King and I - princes and princesses
Sketch by Catherine Zuber

 

 

King and I - Prince Chulalongkorn
Sketch by Catherine Zuber
King and I - palace guards
Sketch by Catherine Zuber

 

 

King and I - royal princes
Sketch by Catherine Zuber
King and I - royal wives
Sketch by Catherine Zuber
King and I - Anna and princes/princesses at school
Sketch by Catherine Zuber
King and I - royal singers
Sketch by Catherine Zuber

 

Life’s best live, so instead of studying these sketches in detail, why not experience The King and I at the London Palladium? With only a few shows left of its limited engagement, why not treat yourself to an adventure in Siam before it’s too late. Fall head over heels for the grand outfits and bask in the lavishness of Siam’s wealth. Guaranteeing an unforgettable live experience where the costumes take centre stage, take your seat and whistle a happy tune at the Palladium with The King and I.  Find out even more about London theatre costumes with our quiz.

Photo credit: Sketch by Catherine Zuber.