The musical Chicago portrays the sensuous and glamorous yet gritty lives of those living in the Windy City during the Roaring Twenties. A story of murder, adultery, booze and jazz, its themes seem to match the common perception of the lively flapper or vaudeville performer. Upon observing the costume design of the musical, I noticed the wide range of costumes—for men, women, daytime, nightlife, even underwear!


Roxie’s silver dress


Roxie’s silver dress

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Many of the costumes, specifically female costumes, are much more revealing than what would have been acceptable during the twenties. Take, for example, Roxie’s extremely short silver dress in the scene where she sings “Roxie” [see above]. At the time, dresses were cut off at or just above the knee. Any higher was scandalous. Of course, this particular outfit may have shown more skin for the sake of a vaudeville performance, for which costumes had more freedom in terms of how much skin was shown. [For photographs of vaudeville players, see above.]

Velma Kelly in the "Cell Block Tango" scene

Velma Kelly in the “Cell Block Tango” scene


Twenties lingerie styles

Roxie wearing twenties-style lingerie

Roxie wearing twenties-style lingerie

Furthermore, the “Cell Block Tango” scene portrays the six murderesses in racy black lingerie. Lingerie during the twenties was certainly much more conservative, and no doubt the lingerie designs were meant to be so stylized, in order to extend the personalities of the murderesses. A previous scene of Roxie in her nightgown is a much more accurate portrayal of common twenties lingerie.

On another note, men’s fashion is portrayed quite accurately. Richard Gere sports a boxy-looking suit, more well-fitted and comfortable than the suits of the Edwardian era.


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