Christmas and Easter productions often require the costume mistress to dress angels. While white robes are simple to make, wings can be problematic. Wings purchased from costume suppliers may restrict movement, shed feathers or glitter on the stage, and take up a good portion of the costume budget. From experience, here are several ideas for wings which are not uncomfortable, expensive, or awkward.
Free-Standing Angel Wings
For angels who will stand still, consider wing backdrops which stand on stage so that white-robed angels simply stand in front of the wings. The wings may be painted on signboard, plywood, or canvas and trimmed with tinsel, feather boas, or glitter. These wings work best with adults or older children; young children move around too much, leaving disembodied wings on stage!
Sleeves as Angel Wings
Another option is to incorporate wings into the angel robes. Use a renaissance costume pattern with very wide sleeves. One version used by my church was a white robe with wide, floor length sleeve openings. The sleeves were lined in metallic gold fabric which showed when Gabriel extended his arms. Another possible pattern modification is a white or metallic cape attached to the robe at the back neckline and at both wrists, forming wings when arms are raised.
Finally, consider saving time and energy by dispensing with wings altogether. Although we have all grown up expecting winged angels because of art and tradition, characters in the Bible sometimes encounter angels without initially discerning their heavenly origin. Thus, it seems angels are not always winged in appearance. In one church production, I dressed a group of warrior angels who were being restrained from rescuing Jesus from the cross. After prayerful consultation with the director, we decided on white tunics and trousers, with gold belts and swords. These angels looked ready for battle, not like those precious, fat baby cherubs on greeting cards. I have also outfitted an entire choir in white robes adorned with spray glitter, but no wings.
The costume mistress can outfit angels without breaking the budget. Angelic effects can be achieved through simple costumes, with or without wings.