Every Thursday, the Comédie-Française puts stage costumes up for sale

Since January 18, the Parisian theater has been offering around 30 second-hand items a week.

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On Thursday, February 1, shortly before noon under the arcades of the Palais-Royal, a small group awaited the opening of the Comédie-Française store. Every week, the institution has put on sale around 30 costumes worn on stage. “We have to make some room,” said Martine Villemot, who is in charge of sales, and with good reason: Over 50,000 pieces are kept in the institution’s storerooms.

Chain mail, capes, doublets and coats were arranged on three racks between the back of the store and the theater’s entrance hall. “We choose costumes that we’re sure won’t be reused,” said Anne Marret, general secretary of the Comédie-Française. “The pattern structure and all manufacturing techniques are archived. We can remake them identically if need be.”

A few minutes after opening, the entrance hall was transformed into a fitting room. Edson Dos Santos, 38, a drama teacher from the Paris region, was trying something on in a corner. For a play he’s putting on with his students, he wanted to invest in “a colorful jester’s costume, like Sganarelle or Scapin.” After a conclusive fitting, he left with a burgundy outfit, designed in 1990 for an actor in Molière’s Médecin Volant (The Flying Doctor).

Ephemeral thrift shop

Each piece has been made-to-measure. The label attached to the garment indicates the name of the play, the costume designer, the character who wore it and the performance date. Villemot also provides information on the physical measurements of the actor for whom the garment was designed. Sandra, a 52-year-old insurance employee, had just bought a stage costume for her husband: “I’m confident that the size will fit him, as the actor who wore it is stout, and the costume has some room to move.”

This Thursday, the wardrobe of Molière’s characters was in the spotlight, with a number of garments from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Middle-Class Gentleman): a chocolate cotton twill coat, short wool crepe tunic and silk velvet leotard. A hanger held a heavy cape worn by an actor playing Hamlet in 1995.



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