How is costume design used in A Raisin in the Sun?

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Lorraine Hansberry’s play takes place in a specific historic period so the costumes and other design elements should fit with the period. The playwright offers little description of the clothes, with a few exceptions.

Because the Younger family is not well-to-do, their clothes will probably not be fashionably up-to-date and would have been purchased from affordable stores in their neighborhood. Even in the North, many stores were segregated in regard to both shoppers and employees. Other shopping options included mail order from catalogs such as Sears. The family takes care of the clothes to make them last, as shown by Ruth’s ironing. Walter’s job as a chauffeur requires him to be neatly attired, although Hansberry does not specify if he wears a uniform. Lena’s clothes may be older and more conservative in style.

Beneatha is a notable exception; creativity more than money will influence her clothing choices. For example, she wears jean (“dungarees”) while cleaning house. Furthermore, she experiments with having natural hair (a scene that was cut in performance). At one point puts on the Yoruba outfit that her Nigerian suitor, Joseph Asagai, gives her.

George Murchison is from a wealthier family than Beneatha, so his wardrobe should reflect both his social status and his vanity. The clothes of Mr. Linder will be notably different as well, to indicate that he is a middle-class white man.

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