Historically Accurate Spring Awakening. 

Followers of my blog with know that  I’m a huge fan of the rock musical Spring Awakening. The musical which came out in 2006 was based on a play written in 1891 and first performed in 1906. 

The play is set in Germany at the turn of the century which is one of my favorite eras for fashion.  The score takes a leap of 100 years and is very 1990s/early 2000s indie rock. The costumes tend to look like things purchased from Urban Outfitters. 

I’ve found a photograph from the original 1906 production of a costume worn by an actress named Camilla Eibenshütz playing the heroine, Wendla Bergmann.  It’s a sort of sailor or “middie” outfit common in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Wendla is supposed to be fourteen and an outfit like this would be something appropriate for a girl in her early teens. 


Some other examples of these “middie” outfits. 

In the 2006 musical version, Wendla is first seen wearing a sort of teddy garment which is supposed to underwear. At first, I thought it was meant to be a chemise but then I noticed the shorts. 

I think this outfit is supposed to look like the “combinations” undergarment worn in this era. 


Wendla then puts on her “fairy queen” dress. It is short and childish and inappropriate for a blossoming young lady of fourteen. 

She then puts on a more appropriate blue dress. 

The other girls wear similar dresses 

In the original play, the opening scene takes place on Wendla’s fourteenth birthday. Her mother gives her a long dress because the clothes she has previously been wearing have become indecently short.  Knee length dresses like Wendla’s fairy queen dress would have been considered inappropriate after the age of four. 

Fourteen would be the age when girls would start wearing long dresses (a couple inches above the ankle) and their hair in half up-does. The girls in the back of this picture would be about that age. 


Wendla’s final outfit is a nightgown which looks pretty period accurate. 


 It kind of reminds me of this one
In the recent Deaf West production which will be coming to Broadway, Wendla, played by Sandra Mae Frank, wears an outfit with a distinctly 1930s feel, a floral print shirtwaist dress with a peterpan collar.   


Shirtwaist dresses were popular during the turn of the century

But also during the 1930s 

In the end,  Spring Awakening is a thoroughly enjoyable musical that doesn’t let stuffy nineteenth century values, or stuff nineteenth century fashion, get in its way.  


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