Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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A Tonic to the Imagination: Costume Designs for Stage and Screen by B. J. Simmons & Co., 1889-1959
Home Costume Designs Introduction Index of Designers
Index of Designers

Percy Anderson (1851-1928).
Costume design for Chu Chin Chow, 1916.
Norman Williams as Abdullah.

For each production, this index includes the name of the costume designer credited in the program, as well as the names of other artists whose signature or mark appears on renderings in this exhibition. Employees of Simmons often copied a set of designs for use in Simmons' studios, and much of the Simmons archive consists of what are referred to as costumier's copies. This practice allowed the designer of record to retain the originals. While some costumier's copies are obviously traced, most were freely drawn by what was clearly a talented staff. The best of these house artists could transfer the credited designer's ideas to paper with every detail in place, while at the same time adding notes about costume construction, even incorporating features of the actor's face for a realistic touch. It is unclear how quickly this process took place; probably the renderings took shape over a period of weeks leading up to dress rehearsals.

The encyclopedic knowledge of theater required for this type of work speaks volumes about the unique position that Simmons occupied in London theater. This knowledge was partly codified in the firm's voluminous costume design portfolios and in meticulously maintained scrapbooks which recorded much of their output, but much of this expertise vanished forever around 1920, the end of Simmons' peak period of quality and productivity. A remarkable body of work was created by the staff who worked at Simmons from 1890 to 1920, and by designers such as Percy Anderson and Attilio Comelli who were frequently associated with the firm during this period. Later employees were unable to match the stylishness and correctness of these artists, even with the assistance of the resources mentioned above, supplemented by a large in-house research library and a geographically arranged index to world fashion, not to mention a warehouse full of the actual costumes which were rented out to amateurs after their initial use on the professional stage. Probably, the death or retirement of key designers and/or staff in the 1920s sparked Simmons' slow decline. The firm closed in 1964, having operated for more than 100 years since opening as a family-run outfit in 1857.

Anderson, F. Richard (died 1935) -- see Comelli, Attilio

Monogram of
Percy Anderson,

Anderson, Percy (1851-1928)

          Caesar and Cleopatra, Savoy Theatre, 1907

          Chu Chin Chow, His Majesty's Theatre, 1916

          The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria, Savoy Theatre, 1889

          A Midsummer Night's Dream, His Majesty's Theatre, 1911

          Richard II, His Majesty's Theatre, 1902

          Trelawny of the "Wells," Court Theatre, 1898

          Trial by Jury, Princes Theatre, 1920

Armstrong, John (1893-1973)

          I, Claudius, motion picture, 1937

Armstrong, John (1893-1973), and Oliver Messel (1904-1978)

          The Scarlet Pimpernel, motion picture, 1939

Bakst, Léon (1866-1924)

          Hullo, Tango!, London Hippodrome, 1914

Beaton, Cecil (1904-1980)

          Quadrille, Phoenix Theatre, 1952

          Quadrille, Coronet Theatre, New York, 1954

Bianchini, Charles (1860-1905)

          Joan of Arc, Théâtre du Chatelet, Paris, 1891

Calthrop, Dion Clayton (1878-1937)

          The Critic; or, A Tragedy Rehearsed, His Majesty's Theatre, 1911

Comelli, Attilio (1858-1925)

          Aladdin, Drury Lane, 1909

          Cinderella, Drury Lane, 1895

          Elektra, Covent Garden, 1910

          Lucia di Lammermoor, Covent Garden, 1902

          Rose Marie, Drury Lane, 1925

          Tosca, Covent Garden, 1914

Comelli, Attilio (1858-1925), after F. Richard Anderson (died 1935)

          Ben-Hur, Drury Lane, 1902

Comelli, Emilio (active 1890s-1920s)

          Hamlet, Covent Garden, 1910

Conway, Gordon (1894-1956)

          Aunt Sally, motion picture, 1933

          The Constant Nymph, motion picture, 1933

          The Sign of the Sevel Dials, Cambridge Theatre, 1931

Furse, Roger (1903-1972)

          Henry IV, Part I, New Theatre, 1945

          Henry V, motion picture, 1944

Haffenden, Elizabeth (1906-1976)

          Beau Brummel, motion picture, 1954

          Ben-Hur, motion picture, 1959

          Man and Superman, New Theatre, 1951

Hammond, Aubrey (1893-1940)

          The Circle of Chalk, New Theatre, 1929

          Such Men Are Dangerous, Duke of York's Theatre, 1928

Harris, George W. (1878-1929)

          A Midsummer Night's Dream, Drury Lane, 1924

Hurry, Leslie (1909-1978)

          Venice Preserved; or, A Plot Discover'd, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 1953

Macquoid, Percy (1852-1925)

          The Merchant of Venice, His Majesty's Theatre, 1908

          Romeo and Juliet, New Theatre, 1911

Messel, Oliver (1904-1978) -- see Armstrong, John

Milner, F. C. (active ca. 1906-ca. 1935)

          The Devil's Disciple, Savoy Theatre, 1930

Moiseiwitsch, Tanya (1914-2003)

          The Critic; or, A Tragedy Rehearsed, New Theatre, 1945

Partridge, Bernard (1861-1945)

          The Admirable Crichton, Duke of York's Theatre, 1902

Rice, Peter (born 1928)

          The Doctor's Dilemma, Saville Theatre, 1956

Ricketts, Charles (1866-1931)

          Attila, His Majesty's Theatre, 1907

          The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, Haymarket Theatre, 1910

Rumbold, Hugo (died 1932)

          The Critic; or, An Opera Rehearsed, Shaftesbury Theatre, 1916

Signature of
Sers, 1899.

Sers (active 1878-1924)

          The Follies: Pélissier's Potted Pageant, Apollo Theatre, 1910

Sharaff, Irene (1910-1993)

          The King and I, Drury Lane, 1953

Shaw, Byam (1872-1919)

          Much Ado about Nothing, His Majesty's Theatre, 1905

Shelving, Paul (1889-1968)

          The Apple Cart, Queen's Theatre, 1929

Stern, Ernst (1876-1954)

          Macbeth, Winter Garden, 1945

Zinkeisen, Doris (1898-1990)

          The Way of the World, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 1924

Unidentified costume designers

          Bury St. Edmunds Pageant, 1907

          Canterbury Coronation Pageant, 1953

          The Devil's Disciple, Savoy Theatre, 1930

          French Peasant Tableau, India Office, London, 1939

          Julius Caesar, Lyric Theatre, 1912

          Pageant of Fair Women, Queen's Hall, London, 1917

          Pelléas et Mélisande, Covent Garden (?), date unknown

          The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty, Savoy Theatre, 1908

          The Scarlet Pimpernel, Strand Theatre, 1928

          The Sign of the Cross, Lyric Theatre, 1896

          Trelawny of the "Wells," Globe Theatre, 1926