Introduction: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Costume
First published in 1886 as a cheap paperback or 'shilling shocker', The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a Gothic novel written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, was an overnight sensation. The idea of a seemingly respectable, gentle-man who could transform himself into an evil and depraved monster, by drinking a potion caught the fancy of a society whose shiny outward veneer often belied the poverty and corruption beneath. There was also the growing interest in the works of Sigmund Freud and the German folklore ideas of the dopplegänger and the condition of split personality.
The book and the play adapted from it became even more famous, notorious even, when in 1888 the Jack the Ripper murders began in London's Whitechapel. The actor-manager Richard Mansfield, who was playing the lead role of Jekyll/Hyde at The Lyceum Theatre, was actually named as a suspect in a (badly written) letter sent to the City of London Police in October 1888:
‘I should be the Last to think because A man take A dretfull Part he is therefore Bad but when I went to See Mr Mansfield Take the Part of Dr Jekel and Mr Hyde I felt at once that he was the Man Wanted … I do not think there is A man Living So well able to disgise Himself in A moment …’
The letter created such an uproar and speculation over the play and in particular the transformation scene that Mr Mansfield was forced to close it down.
My idea is to split myself in half to create a costume that shows both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the same time!
A dark suit,
2 shirts one old one new-ish
2 pairs of shoes (as above)
2 waistcoats one flamboyant and one dark and refined
A piece of silk-like black fabric wide and long enough to make a cravat
Sheep's wool or false hair (wig and beard)
A large heavy stick
A light elegant cane
A faux pearl bead
Your imagination knows no bounds! Things you can put in the pockets to further develop the characters
Mascara or black vegetable dye
Brown eye pencils
Rouge, lipstick or beetroot and cocoa to make the ruddy and dissolute complexion of Mr Hyde
Arrowroot flour to make the pale academic complexion of Dr Jekyll
hair cutting scissors
Sewing Machine (optional but useful)
Needle and thread
Step 1: PLANNING & CREATING THE FACE(S)
If you have a beard then it's an idea to plan this costume in advance, so you can grow it on. With me, my dedication to be the perfect Mr Hyde is such that I've grown on my eyebrows too!
RECIPE - MOUSTACHE WAX
Take equal amounts of wax and coconut oil.
Melt the wax in a glass jar or jug by placing the container in a bain marie or tray of hot water.
Remove the jug from the hot water and add the coconut oil.
Mix well and allow to cool.
TWO FROM ONE
Start by parting the hair down the middle and then using the eyebrow pencil mark a pale line down the centre of your face, this will give you a datum from which to work.
WHICH SIDE FOR WHOM?
In line with Victorian and much earlier associations, including divination and fortune telling, the left side was associated with someone (or something) threatening or evil. The Latin word sinistra literally meant 'left' but even the Romans saw something unlucky in the left side and later when the word sinister was derived from it, 'left' took on a new and darker meaning, so much so that right up until the middle of the 20th century teachers and parents often forcibly trained left-handed children to use their right hand.
In the old folkloric spirit therefore, I'm putting Mr Hyde on the sinister side but you choose, just make sure you don't mix the two up as you create your costume.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU DR JEKYLL
BEARD: neat and trimmed..
MOUSTACHE: luxurious but neat and well clipped. Using your finger tips, lightly coated in moustache wax, make a slight but subtle curve upwards to the end.
EYEBROW: fine and well defined
HAIR: brushed back and neat but still retaining a hint of the mad scientist.
COMPLEXION: Due to many hours of research to find the serum to create his inner Mr Hyde, Dr Jekyll has a pale and tragic countenance, thanks to arrowroot in my case!
PLEASED TO MEET YOU MR HYDE
BEARD: Mr Hyde should be very hirsute and have a touch of the werewolf. In line with the fashions of the period, which were for large sideburns, I thought Mr Hyde would go overboard and have exaggerated facial hair. I had some real hair I had kept back from a hair cut and stuck it on with moustache wax but I think a false stick-on beard, trimmed to make sideburns would stay on longer!
MOUSTACHE: should be fuller and if possible, using moustache wax train clumps of hair over the mouth in a sinister manner. If you have a long side to your moustache, then use some of the wax on the finger tips make an exaggerated upward curl to the end to give a touch of swagger to the whole creation.
EYEBROW: full, unkempt and basically mad. I used my home-made moustache wax and then applied black mascara on top of that - two coats!
HAIR: Mr Hyde, who is in evening dress, ready for a night on the town, should have his hair slicked back with coconut oil.
COMPLEXION: add a touch of rouge, lipstick or beetroot on the nose, cheeks forehead and around the eyes. I used beetroot which worked really well, just applying it straight form the cut half of beet. Then by scraping up some of the juice with my thumbnail I could make 'broken veins' all over my nose and cheeks. I then used cocoa and a little coconut oil to add shadows under the eyes.
IN ADDITION: use sections of false hair or wool to add extensions to your Mr Hyde beard, moustache and eyebrow to complete the wolf man effect.
Step 2: PLANNING & CREATING THE CLOTHES
I used costume source books, in particular Fashion by Dorling Kindersley and looked at old photographs and various Victorian costume sites (of which there are many) on the internet to give me some idea of the fashions of the period, both in clothing and facial hair!.
Apart from the suit, I'm taking two sets of clothing and basically fusing them together into one.
If, like me, you want to keep the clothes as wearable afterwards, rather than just as the costume, then there is some folding and hand-sewing involved. If not then the garments can be cut in half and then can be machine-sewn together up the centre back.
Most of the sewing however, apart from the cravat, which I chose to make from scratch by copying a vintage one, is sewing on additional buttons. This is to get each side of the costume to line up with the other. If you follow the old tradition of men's clothes buttoning on the left then this also allows for adding some more flamboyant touches and development of Hyde's character through his costume.
Step 3: CRAVAT, SHIRT & WAISTCOAT
As a key piece of costume in that it holds the collar and the illusion of the two characters together this needs to be made first.
I've luckily got an old cravat as a model, but it is a very simple design and easy to make. You will need to cut three long rectangular strips of black fabric, measuring approximately 6" x 20" (15cm x 50cm) trimmed to a point at one end.
DR JEKYLL'S CRAVAT: Pin two of the fabric pieces together with the best or 'right' sides innermost and machine-sew around both the longer sides leaving the short side open. Tie off the threads and then turn the fabric inside out and using an iron press into shape. Turn under a hem of ½" or 1cm on each of the non-sewn edges and then sew this up on the machine and tie off the threads.
MR HYDE'S CRAVAT: Fold over the short and non-pointed end of the remaining single piece of fabric to make a seam which will have the strength to support the press studs.
OPTIONAL FOR BOTH: I'm using the pattern of my old cravat and pleating my fabric to make a more structured shape but this is not necessary.
FINISHING BOTH: Sew on the press studs (snap fastener) or velcro so that they (it) will fasten the two halves of the cravat securely together.
Put on the shirt and with the collar in an upright position, in the fashion of the 1860s, place the cravat around your neck so that the joined pieces are at the back and then tie a secure double knot in the front. It should feel comfortable but firm.
Remove the cravat by undoing the press studs.
FINISHING DR JEKYLL'S CRAVAT: Make a half bow on the Dr Jekyll side and sew it firmly in place. Now use the pearl bead threaded through and secured with some cotton thread and sew it onto the bow. The pearl represents the fashionable stick pin of the period.
FINISHING MR HYDE'S CRAVAT: Now work on Mr Hyde's side of the cravat so it looks as though it has been pulled about and that he has been in a fight! I cut into the length of the fabric at the pointed end with scissors and then tore it with my fingers, to give a ragged disheveled look.
In the novel, such is the spiritual weight of Mr Hyde's degradation that he becomes physically smaller and shrunken-looking. To achieve this I've chosen his shirt to be bigger than Dr Jekyll's and luckily I have one of my wife's cousin's old dress shirts which she is turning into nightshirts, so she has already removed the collar and cuffs. This is ideal for Mr Hyde!
As the dress shirt has no buttons then I am adding some half pearls that I'm sure will suit Mr Hyde.
If you want to keep both shirts to use normally then you can fold in the backs and hand-sew them together. If not then cut off half of each shirt and machine-sew them together down the centre back to create one shirt. Leave enough room at the neck to allow the shirt to be pulled over your head unless your buttons, unlike mine, line up and you can actually undo them to put the shirt on.
The collar on Dr Jekyllk's shirt will be in an upright position and held in place under the cravat.
Mr Hyde has no collar and his frayed-topped shirt will show below the level of the cravat.
It will be pretty amazing if both sides of your waistcoats line up on the button holes, so be prepared to sew on a new set of buttons - this also gives you the opportunity to make the Mr Hyde waistcoat all the more spectacular.
As with the shirts, if like my own, your waistcoats are still in use, then fold them back and hand-sew them together up the centre back, if not then proceed as for the shirts and cut off the excess fabric to make one complete waistcoat.
Step 4: SUIT, SHOES, SOCKS & ACCESSORIES
I'm using one jacket but with Mr Hyde's side, I'm firstly rumpling up his half and then when it's on, I'm pulling the shirt sleeve further through so the frayed edges will show and also the top of the shirt is pulled across the top of the jacket in a dissolute manner.
On Dr Jekyll's side the jacket is neat and well fitted, with just the regulation amount of shirt cuff showing!
I have narrowed the bottom of the leg of the Dr Jekyll side of the garment to make a fashionable 1860s' cut.
SHOES & SOCKS
Mr Hyde has my oldest dullest pair of boots and a bright sock.
Dr Jekyll is as usual shiny and smart with sombre socks.
DR JEKYLL: carries my best watch which is actually not old enough but I think it looks good.
He is reading a collection of poetry 'The Lady of the Lake' by Sir Walter Scott and he holds an elegant cane in his hand.
MR HYDE : has a rumpled oversized carnation in his buttonhole. He has all kinds of odds and ends in his pockets including a miniature bottle of spirits, a young woman's photograph and a racing paper. He carries a heavy stick or cudgel.
Step 5: SMILE AND SNARL PLEASE
I decided to show the two halves of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as if taken for a carte de visite in a photographer's studio. This was an extremely popular practice at the time, with 'cardomania' mirroring today's social media crazes. It was fashionable for visitors, friends, neighbours and relatives to swap or send these so-called visiting cards and the small size of the portrait meant they were both inexpensive to produce and cheap to send through the mails.
I just needed to make sure I had my camera on a tripod and used a remote cable release. This way I didn't need to worry about accidentally knocking the camera and spoiling the doppelgänger effect.
I had great fun making and wearing this costume - I hope you will too!
All the very best from Andy and .........
Second Prize in the
Book Character Costume Challenge