The Truth Behind Cabaret Costumes | Nashville Rep


Trish Clark | Nashville Rep's Beautiful Cabaret Costume Designer

Nashvillee Repertory Theatre is known for incorporating the tiniest details of truth into everything it puts onstage, whether it is set, props, acting, lighting, or costumes. You can always trust a Nashville Rep production to be as close to history, the period, and the script as possible. Trish Clark shares some details and inspiration behind her designs for her Cabaret costumes.

When you think of the show, Cabaret, you might think of sophisticated and classy costumes, like Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey's film version, or you might think of the gritty costumes from Alan Cumming's 1998 Broadway Revival version. In many ways, Nashville Rep's stage production of Cabaret more so can be compared to the revival, but ours has a little more history to it.

Trish Clark, Costume Designer, and our costume crew put in a lot of research prior to even picking up a pencil and sketch pad. So, let's dive into the realistic history of Weimer Republic, Berlin, Germany where our beautiful musical takes place! Did you know that normal people, like shop girls, were prostitutes as well as cabaret girls? 50 thousand prostitutes walked the streets of Berlin looking to exchange a good time for a few marks--illustrated in Cabaret by Fräulein Kost always looking for a sailor or two to pay her weekly rent. This was a time of starvation and sex. Berlin residents could barely buy food, which is why most of our cast looks like they need a hamburger or four!

Designing cabaret costumes for starving prostitutes meant that each one needed to have distressed and worn clothing. They could barely buy food, so they would have been out of style lingerie and costumes. Trish and the costume crew built all the Kit Kat Girls' underwear sets and distressed them to make them appear dirty, worn, and out-of-style by a few years (which they are). The Kit Kat Girls do not have any costume changes because the costumes they are wearing are "their" actual underwear sets. They are too poor to purchase new bras and panties, so they wear those night after night. An interesting fact-- they didn't have elastic back then, so the costumes do not have elastic either! We're serious about our details.

Not only is our costume crew great at keeping to the history books, er... costume books, they are amazing at using actual 1920s building techniques! Trish often used 1920s books to inspire her to create underwear and Sally Bowles' costumes. She even made up patterns as she went along if she couldn't find anything in her books.

If they're poor, why does Sally have amazing costumes and clothes?, you might be asking, but you have to remember, "...She is from England, yes, England." Her money went further when she arrived in Berlin, and Sally sees herself as more of a cabaret "star" than any of the other girls. She splurged a little on her costumes and her glorious fur coat. Just think about it this way-- at one point, the clothes were nice, but like much of Berlin and the Weimer Republic, nice was a long time ago and the value of their money keeps going down. Berlin is falling apart as new leadership (Nazi) is taking over.

One of Trish's goals for the Kit Kat Girls' costumes were to make you feel like at any moment those poor girls' costumes could fall off. What did you think of the costumes? If you haven't seen Cabaret yet, you have until March 16th, 2013! Get your tickets today! More information at

Read more blog posts about Nashville Repertory Theatre's 2013 production of Cabaret here.