The Violet costume. This was probably the thing I was most worried about when we decided to produce Willy Wonka. Here are the steps I took and how it turned out.
Items you need:
- Largest Blue Maxi Dress you can find. It’ll be best if it’s sleeveless & has an empire waist (Mine was a 3XL from Target),
- White Long-Sleeved Shirt
- Thick Elastic Belt (I used a red one)
- Inflatable Suit with skin-toned arms and legs
- High White Socks
- Bike Shorts
- Blue Jersey Fabric
Once you have all of the parts, this costume is really all about the assembly. The one thing I did beforehand was cut a slit up the back of the dress and sew in a triangle-shaped piece of blue jersey fabric so that the dress could really grow big. Without it, the suit only inflated a little under the weight of the dress and didn’t have much impact.
Assembly (or rather, getting Violet dressed):
- First start with something non-bulky for Violet to wear as a base.
- Put on the inflatable suit and hook battery pack with on/off switch to the top behind the neck.
- Put on long-sleeved shirt, bike shorts and socks and stuff the inflatable suit into them making it as flat as possible.
- Put on maxi dress, cinch it in with belt and adjust fabric.
*Notes: High socks are important to keep the inflatable suit from extending out and being see when the dress lifts up.
First, the actor needs to find a time offstage to take off the bike shorts holding the suit down under her dress.
The actual inflation part requires some trial and error during your run thru. I found with my Violet/dress/suit combo it too 30 seconds to inflate. I had Violet’s mom discretely switch the suit on which is why you need the easy access on the neck for the battery pack is so important. Violet and/or her mom then popped off the belt which allowed the dress to expand.
I had toyed with the idea of cutting a hole in the dress for the suit’s fan but decided that it would bug me to see it during the whole show so I left the dress in tact. Just left on its own, the dress prevents the suit from inflating but I made it part of my actress’s blocking to pull at the fabric of her dress like she was getting uncomfortable with her skin expanding. With 3 or 4 good pulls of the dress away from the fan, it inflated perfectly!
*Note: Sadly there was one show where the suit didn’t inflate due to the fan piece falling off inside. We found it was just screwed on very lightly with a round plastic piece. A little hot glue made sure that never happened again. Lesson learned.