Sometimes a musical leaves you with a tune you’re humming for weeks afterwards. But sometimes, you’ll remember a costume look for the rest of your life. Here are our favorite truly iconic costumes that, in some cases, became even bigger than the shows they were in.
The Glinda bubble dress
Wicked costume designer Susan Hilferty had the unique challenge of creating costumes that reminded audiences of The Wizard of Oz, but that also placed characters in the musical’s much darker story. This enormous flouncy gown for Glinda’s entrance at the top of the show is all overstated femininity, while putting Glinda in blue instead of the pink she wears in The Wizard of Oz signals that we’re in for a very different story – and avoids any copyright violations. You can even buy the Glinda dress for American Girl dolls.
Honorary mention: The Fiyero Pants. Father/son duo Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit are among the many Fiyeros who have donned the vaguely Edwardian white jodhpurs that Fiyero wears to the Ozdust Ballroom.
Mark’s Sweater in Rent
The blue sweater with the red horizontal stripe – we immediately associate it with Rent’s Mark Cohen, and Anthony Rapp’s original 1996 performance in the role. (Add the black-and-white striped scarf and a mic taped to your cheek and you’ve got a great Halloween costume.) Costume designer Angela Wendt described the sweater as “not too flamboyant but still interesting enough,” for Mark to wear for the entire show. It might be the most comfortable costume in the show, compared to Roger’s rockstar leather, or Angel’s Mrs. Claus drag look, but also the most memorable.
Morales’ long sleeve color block leotard in A Chorus Line, tied with Cassie’s bright red leotard and skirt
A Chorus Line happens in real time over the course of a cattle call audition, and the performers are in one costume over the course of the show. The differences in each auditionee’s choice of dance garb telegraphs so much information about each character. Cassie’s red leotard, with its long sleeves and skirt, is far less utilitarian and more elegant than everything else onstage, immediately commanding attention, and creating unique stage pictures for Donna McKechnie’s virtuosic number “The Music and the Mirror.” Diana Morales, originally played by Priscilla Lopez, wears a jewel-toned sweater over her leotard and tights – equal parts practical and vibrant.
Dolly Levi’s Red Dress
The Hello Dolly revival did not directly draw from the original Broadway production, but there was one visual that the show would simply be incomplete without – the red ensemble Dolly wears to descend the staircase into the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, which she also wears for the titular song. The v-neck bustled ballgown would be memorable enough, but Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Bette Midler, Donna Murphy, and Bernadette Peters all also donned a 2-foot-tall red feathered headdress.
The Phantom Mask
A plain white mask that covers the right half of the Phantom’s face for most of the show became synonymous with Phantom itself, eventually serving as its key art and Playbill cover. It’s maybe the simplest costume on this list, and arguably the most powerful.