I Wish: Who’s Wearing the Pants

About I Wish and the Costumes in Theater

On stage at I Wish, you’ll witness West End wonder Jordan Laviniere as Effie, the fabulous Fairy Godmother serving both looks and lessons.

During the show, Jordan wears many different costumes, from disco-studded ball gowns to fitted pants. While some of these items, like wigs or dresses, are now sometimes thought of as feminine, centuries of history prove anybody can (and should) wear anything!

History of Gendered Clothing

For centuries, clothing was not gendered the way it is today. Often, men and women both wore skirts and robes because of their simple construction. It wasn’t until about the 1800s when the current Western idea of gendered clothes became popularized.

Clothing throughout history depicting both men and women in skirts and robes.
Photo: The New Student’s Reference Work, 5 volumes, Chicago, 1914

Origins of Gender Expression Through Costumes

Costumes have broken gender molds for centuries. In Ancient Greece and Rome, men played women’s roles in theater because women were not allowed to participate. For the same reason, Shakespearean plays all featured men as women-often incorporating cross-dressing as part of the plot. Even after women were allowed to perform on stage, instead of sticking to female roles, they played increasingly diverse roles-including lead male roles. For instance, Sarah Bernhardt performed as the lead in Hamlet and Jessika D. Williams played the lead in Othello in 1899.

In the Eastern hemisphere, female impersonation could be found in Kabuki theater in 17th-century Japan (these actors were referred to as onnagata) or the Peking opera in 18th-century China. Additionally, vaudeville in the United States in the early 1900s often included men in women’s clothes.

Julian Eltinge, the actor regarded as the greatest female impersonator in silent film.
Photo: Frank A. Munsey Co. – The Scrap Book, Volume 5, Part 1; 1908 pg. 300
Photo: “Don’t Go In the Water, Daughter (Julian Eltinge’s Bathing Song)” Sheet Music.

During the Victorian Era, male actors playing female roles would over-exaggerate the length of their skirts, bringing the term “drag” to life.

Theater Costumes in the Modern Day

Nowadays, roles in theater often feature cross-gender performances. From J. Harrison Ghee in Some Like It Hot on Broadway all the way to Liu Xinran and Li Jing in The Fated Love in Beijing, performers are always experimenting with forms of gender expression on stage.

Photo: J. Harrison Ghee in Some Like It Hot by Marc J. Franklin

The bottom line? Genderless fashion never goes out of style. Watch the trailer below to preview the amazing outfits featured in I Wish!

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