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Panto Costumes

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It’s December already, Christmas around the corner and in the UK, the Annual Panto season has started – oh no it doesn’t we hear you cry! It seems that although some of the American trends at this time of year (black Friday for example) are being introduced into our culture, somethings like Pantomimes have yet to make their way stateside.

We thought that we would take this opportunity to have a look at Pantomimes, how they originated and what they have become and more importantly take a quick look at the costumes today.


Pantomimes are a type of musical theatre, nowadays based on Fairy tales (Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk to name a few) but its origins are based on the 16 th Century Commedia dell’arte. Characters were usually based on stereotypes for example a foolish old man.

Today’s pantomimes or pantos as they are more commonly known, are something that the whole family can enjoy. Stories that children are familiar with, jokes targeted at the adults that go over the children’s heads and audience participation by the bucket load.


What is always impressive are the fantastic costumes and make up. Almost every pantomime has a Dame (the ugly sisters or Widow Twanky) and traditionally this role is taken on by a male actor. The dame’s face is usually covered in very thick make up; Rosy red cheeks, heavy lipstick and overly bright shadowed eyes. Couple this with a brightly coloured wig and you are almost ready to go. A dame usually has several costume changes during their performance, all as outrageous as the other – but it wouldn’t be panto otherwise. Ranging from cakes, to riding on chickens, to just plain garish dresses.

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Corsets play a big part in pantos, whether they are being worn by the dames to pull them in a little or to give them a more curvaceous shape or by the other Characters. Most of their costumes have a bodice built in to help, along with hooped skirts to really enhance the feminine shape. The good fairy and wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty can often be seen in corsets or corset style dresses as part of their costume. With scenes like the ball in Cinderella there is a costume drama feel to the outfits, corseted tops and full skirts. Without the fantastic costumes pantos wouldn’t be as much fun as they are.

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