Stage-Inspired Fashion: The Glass Menagerie

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From the costumes to the set, from the words of the script to the movements of the actors, everything on stage tells a story. Stage-Inspired Fashion explores ways to add a little dramatic flair to your style.

The Glass Menagerie
Official Promotional Image

This week, we’re looking at another classic straight play! Partially based on Tennessee Williams’ own tumultuous family life, The Glass Menagerie was his first great success, and since its premiere in 1945, it has been performed on stage, on film, on TV, and on the radio.

Behind the Scenes

The Glass Menagerie is a memory play narrated by frustrated poet Tom Wingfield, detailing his life with his mother Amanda, a faded Southern belle, and his sister Laura, a shy, isolated young woman. Amanda and Tom both feel bound by duty to the family — Amanda to find a “gentleman caller” for Laura and Tom to financially support them — but they are often cruel to each other and to Laura. Laura, obsessed with her collection of glass animals, lives in a world of her own. The family dynamic changes when Tom invites his coworker, Jim O’Connor, over for dinner to try to set him up with Laura.

One of the play’s themes is the difficulty of escape. The Wingfields can’t seem to escape from either their situations or their memories. I think that’s the saddest part of the play; they all desperately want to improve their lives, but they are trapped where they are.

Below, I’ve put together three outfits based on the younger characters. This week, we’re celebrating the return of denim. Keep reading to see all three outfits.

Tom Wingfield

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion

Tom Wingfield

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Although Tom professes to care about his family, he shows them a hard exterior. To capture his character, start with a heart-patterned button down. Distressed dark wash jeans and a brown leather jacket cover up some of the sweetness of the shirt and provide a tougher outer layer. Olive green booties add a touch of unexpected color, while the anatomical brain tote bag alludes to his role of rememberer and narrator.

Laura Wingfield

There now–you’re holding him gently! Hold him over the light, he loves the light. You see how the light shines through him?

Laura Wingfield

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Laura may be shy and insecure, but she has more backbone than her family thinks. 

For a Laura-inspired look, layer a soft blue sweater over a cream-colored scuba knit dress. The scuba fabric is thicker and has more structure than one might think. Accessorize with blue earrings and a holographic unicorn purse that represents Laura’s favorite animal in the glass menagerie. Finish the outfit with dark blue booties that speak of her ability to walk home in the snow despite her limp. 

The various blue items reference Jim’s old nickname for Laura: “Blue Roses,” a mishearing of her heart condition “pleurosis.”

Jim O’Connor

What do you see? A world full of common people! All of ‘em born and all of ‘em going to die! Which of them has one-tenth of your good points! Or mine! Or anybody else’s, as far as that goes–Gosh! Everybody excels in some one thing.

Jim O'Connor

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Jim was a popular athlete and actor in high school, but he hasn’t found much success since graduating. To show that transition, make the classic school outfit a little darker and rougher. 

A pair of maroon jeans and a frayed denim shirt provide a good outfit foundation, and a tweed varsity jacket and black high-tops are modern twists on old staples. Finally, accessorize with a gold locket necklace that alludes to Jim’s secret.


The Glass Menagerie provides a glimpse into a troubled family. Strange and sad and sometimes mean as the characters are, their story has resonated with people for decades. The play also introduced the world to the beauty and poetry in Tennessee Williams’ writing. It’s certainly a must-see production.

Your Thoughts?

Have you seen a production of The Glass Menagerie? Did you read this play in high school? Are there any plays or musicals that you would love to see covered in this column? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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