B. J. Simmons' Costume Design Collection


The London costumier B. J. Simmons & Co. was founded in 1857 by a Mr. B. J. Simmons and operated by his direct descendants well into the 1930s. Simmons' costumes were known for their correctness of period, sophisticated design, and high quality. Despite two world wars, an economic depression, and profound shifts in entertainment forms and tastes including the introduction of the cinema, Simmons adapted to changes in the theatre and dressed at least 1,200 stage and film productions before ceasing operations in 1964. In their busy Covent Garden workshop, dressmakers turned out immaculately constructed stage apparel, often from renderings by leading costume designers. Successful theater managers repeatedly turned to Simmons for historical costumes, especially Herbert Beerbohm Tree whose magnificent stagings of Shakespeare were often outfitted by Simmons.

The Balkan Princess is a British musical in three acts by Frederick Lonsdale and Frank Curzon, with lyrics by Paul Rubens and Arthur Wimperis, and music by Paul Rubens. It opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre on 19 February 1910. The cast included Isabel Jay and Bertram Wallis. There was a successful Broadway run in 1911, and the show toured widely thereafter. The piece contains some of Rubens's most tuneful music, and the production was mounted with spectacle in its settings, costumes and large chorus of beautiful girls. The show was much like Lonsdale's previous success King of Cadonia, but with the sexes reversed. Famous songs from the show included "Wonderful World" and "Dear, Delightful Woman".

What the collection holds

Collection of 30 costume designs by B. J. Simmons & company for the following productions: 20 x The Balkan Princess (1910); 5 x Possibly for The Balkan Princess (1910); 2 x Lady Babbie ("Revival, Duke of York's 1914); 3 x Last Load; (school of Herbert Norris). 

The online catalogue for this collection can be viewed here: 
BTC2 - B. J. Simmons' Costume Design Collection

4 sketches from the B.J. Simmons costume design collection
A selection of BJ Simmons costume designs from "The Balkan Princess" and "Lady Babbie" Image credit: University of Bristol Theatre Collection
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