Chicago Lead Costumes

Aug 17, 2021 | Dance Costumes, Theatrical Costumes

Roxie and Velma both wear flapper dresses as their main costumes in “Chicago”. We wanted to have the two of them coordinate in these costumes, but to have Roxie look a little sweeter, while Velma looked more mature, and darker.  Just like with the ensemble Opening Number dresses, I started with inexpensive purchased beaded/sequined dresses – A black one for Velma (similar to the dress I used, which has been discontinued), and a bright blue one for Roxie. The key was to find two different dresses for the two actresses, and to find dresses that were decorated front and back. (Beware when buying this type of dress – some of the cheaper versions are only decorated on the front side, which does not look authentic, especially for lead actors.)

Both of these dresses were too long for active dancing, so I shortened them both by removing a few inches from the length. Here’s how I did it:

  1. To preserve the fringed hem, I carefully removed and preserved the bottom fringe layer. 
  2. Then, working with just the outer layer (not the lining), I cut 6-8 inches off of the next section. The two dresses I used were both very easy to work with because they had a line of sequins at the right place that provided a natural line to make this cut. (see picture above)
  3. Now, working just with the lining, I cut off the lining the same length as the new cut edge of the outside layer, and sewed the two layers together at the bottom. Depending on the design of the dress, you may be able to find a “ditch” between the beading that will allow you to sew this by machine, but it will usually need to be done by hand. On these two dresses, neither required a new turned-under hem because the fabrics were knit and wasn’t prone to raveling.
  4. Next, I took the fringe that I removed in Step 1, and sewed it (by hand) back to the new bottom edge of the dress.
  5. I added a second layer of purchased fringe, to double the thickness of the bottom fringe. This was necessary for modesty, since with the new shorter length, the fringe served as part of the skirt, and not just trim.
  6. Both of these dresses had side zippers, which really served no purpose since these were wide-neck stretch dresses. Because the zippers were at risk of breaking during strenuous dance moves, I removed them and sewed the zipper seams closed.
  7. These new shorter dance dresses required briefs, which I found here for Velma and here for Roxie.
  8. Our Velma had heavy dance scenes, including some acrobatic tricks, so I added a square of velcro to the each side of the briefs and the inside of the dress, to keep the dress in place during the tricks.
  9. We added fancy gloves to complete both of these costumes.