Saturday, 29 August 2020

Two Gentlemen of Verona - and still here!

Yes, despite Covid, I am still here and working away! 

Alongside repairing costumes for a hire store, I have recently designed, sourced and made the costumes for a production of Two Gentlemen of Verona for Facsimile Productions - which was performed at the socially distanced New Normal Festival, hosted by Le Gothique at The Royal Victoria Patriotic Building in London.

The full cast in costume

The production was set in the 1920's and created some interesting challenges - not least that the measurements had to be taken by the cast themselves and emailed to me, and the first time I met any of them in person was to do the costume hand over the week before the show! - but despite this the costumes fit well, the cast were in good spirits at their socially distanced rehearsal, the handover went well and I have now got production photos to post. 

In terms of makes, I was delighted to be able to make the red tartan waistcoat worn by Thurio (the 'Doublet') the purple tartan waistcoat worn by Antonio, the white waistcoat worn by the Duke, the green dress worn by Julia, and the apron, skirt and headband for performer Laura playing Lucetta, Panthino, Host and Outlaw.

                                         Thurio                                            Antonio                            The Duke

                                                Julia                                              Lucetta

Social distancing rules were used to enhance the comedic nature of the play to brilliant effect. 

Proteus and Valentine


Antonio and Panthino

Valentine, The Duke, Thurio and Silvia

Valentine, Silvia and Thurio

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Renfield: In the Shadow of the Vampire

With everything that's been going on I just realised how long its been since I updated my blog!

I have been working with Grist to the Mill again, the wonderful Lymington company, as they asked me to design and make the costume for their latest one man show - Renfield: In the Shadow of the Vampire. After being sent a concept image and discussing ideas online, I got to work designing and sourcing fabric. The concept is that Renfield, the minion of Dracula, is insane and not cared for not even by himself, with slight undertones of Tim Burton in the look. He is therefore very dirty and ragged, still wearing his asylum/prison uniform that was not in any way made for him so ill-fitting. 

The fabric I found was a wool blend, which took dye and fabric paint wonderfully. For this costume, after my design was approved, I got to do a wonderful amount of dye and fabric paint experimentation. 
I found that a black spray paint gave the ragged appearance I wanted, and once it was washed it looked less stark and also the 'dirtying' showed up better. Shredding the hems and working into them with black acrylic showed up the breaking down well, as did adding some strategic holes at the elbows and knee areas of the costume. The buttons were a lucky find and added that final touch, very Tim Burtonesque. 

The final part of the costume was that as a base layer is a pair of long johns they already had so I spent an evening using a combination of peppermint tea and black acrylic with a bit of ordinary tea at various points to 'grub up' the long johns with strategic staining. I found the peppermint tea gave a better brown staining for this particular costume as the ordinary tea was a bit too much of a warm brown stain whereas I wanted one that was a bit more of a green/grey.

The costume thankfully got its debut at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia before the Corona Virus restrictions were brought in! I am awaiting production photos but here is a photo of it in the Grist to the Mill costume store before the final stage of breaking down (the last of the breaking down on the cuffs and hems, and the 'grubbing' of the long johns) two days before they left for Adelaide. The hat was a last minute addition of the writer/performer Ross Ericson.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

JLDA - Commission costumes 2, the Flintstones

After being commissioned to design and make the Geisha's, Jamie-Lee commissioned me to design and make a pair of duet costumes for a jazz piece by two of her elite dancers based on the Flintstones! These were due at the same time as the Geisha's due to the date of the competitions. 

This was a brilliant opportunity as it was more conceptual, and after working with Jamie-Lee on the design to make sure it was exactly as they wanted, we had the finished design of one sleeve with one short leg and one full length, with cut-outs at the front and back below the collar, in rainbow animal print lycra. It was also the first time I have gotten to make and use lycra bias binding which was a lot more fun then I thought it would be. Below are the costumes on final delivery!

JLDA - Costume Commissions 1, the Geishas

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I was commissioned to design and make Geisha inspired costumes for the Jamie-Lee Dance Academy, and not just any but for a group of girls for a dance competition. This was an interesting challenge for me in designing a set of geisha costumes that needed to be as authentic as possible while still allowing the girls to dance a ballet routine in them - to keep the authenticity factor I ended up designing the fabric, as well as trying to get the gap between the back collar and nape of the neck. There was also making sure that there was a very clear crossover and 'obi' effect. Through designing the fabric I also discovered a brilliant company based in the Leicester that prints on a variety of fabrics and, bonus, does a bulk order discount which worked perfectly for this due to the amount I needed! Designing the fabric myself also worked out to be a blessing in disguise as fans were needed for each dancer, and so I was able to print out the design onto paper and attach it to sourced fans to get the required effect.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Jester

In a first for me, I was commissioned to design and make a childrens dance competition costume! She is going to be performing as a Jester for the Jamie-Lee Dance Academy. After submitting the designs and getting approval, I started on the costume. This was not only my first time stitching lycra together in this way, but also has a hat that required stiffening and a prop that needed covering.  Initially the costume didn't have the yellow belt, however due to a growth spurt during the making process extra height was needed for the costume - and I do like it better.

The hat I decided to stiffen the same way I did the Tripitaka hat for Red Dragonfly Productions and used binca, making a short binca headband then stitching on the binca points, before effectively making a pillowcase effect using the lycra with the additional unfilled length of lycra at the back allowing the stretch to get it on over her head and stay on.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Santa is Coming to Town!

This has been a fascinating commission, especially as it has come so early in the year, but I have been commissioned by the Cliffhanger Café to costume their Santa. I have been given a request as to the main material for the coat - burgundy velvet - a budget, and that it be more of a traditional northern European look rather then an Americanised version.

After drawing up some designs and getting the selected design from the Cliffhanger I had a meeting to discuss materials and details and it was full steam ahead. I got the measurements for Santa and after a couple of fitting sessions and finally finding a way to deal with fake fur (though not without my house looking like it had snowed) it has now been delivered!

The coat is burgundy velvet, interfaced and lined with anti-static lining, trimmed in faux fur and decorated with gold trimming, the same for the hat. The trousers
 are the same velvet as the coat and hat. The waistcoat is deep red faux silk dupion, edged in gold bias binding, with embroidered holly leaf embellishments, gold buttons with hand stitched button holes in the same green as the holly leaves, and lined with the same antistatic lining as the coat.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Mulan and Moby Dick

A couple of months ago I was able to work with the brilliant Red Dragonfly Theatre Productions on their latest pieces 'Tom Jones' and 'Monkey'. Shortly after they left to tour, co-founders of the company Michelle Yim and Ross asked me if I could design/make/adapt a costume for her one woman production of 'Mulan' and make a pair of trousers for Ross's one man show 'Moby Dick' that are touring to Edinburgh Fringe Festival later this year! This was brilliant as for Mulan it was quite different from anything that I have done before as it involved armour. The existing costume consisted of a kimono, an armoured tunic, arm braces and boot covers.

 The problems with the existing costume:

- The kimono was too large
- The armour due to a slight mishap during a previous production was coated on the inside with a sticky/greasy adhesive that had soaked through the lining, so the lining needed to be replaced and if possible the previous adhesive removed
- The ties on the armour needed to be replaced with something more in keeping with the period and the rest of the costume design
- The armour needed minor breaking down as it looked very 'new' and while it was meant to have been well cared for was still meant to have been in years of battle
- The boot covers needed to be attached to soles
- A neckerchief and belt needed designing and making that would fit in with the costume 

I drew out several design options for the new costume and once I had the final design approval from Michelle I started hunting for fabric for the neckerchief. The dominating colours of the costume were red and black, with touches of aged gold, so after discussion with Michelle I wanted to bring out a bit more of the gold to break up the red and black. After much hunting I found a black and gold fabric for the neckerchief that was very similar to the band at the edge of the kimono. 

The armour was more difficult in that the unknown adhesive had soaked into the pleather too extensively to be removed, and so I decided to put a thick layer of calico between the armour and the new lining to prevent it from seeping through as it had with the previous thin lining. After replacing the lining I set about breaking down the armour with a combination of scoring and marking the plates to look like battle marks, and the application of paint to the red pleather backing to make it look more aged and worn.

I was later asked to change the belt to incorporate the centrepiece after a test of the costume on stage, to make it more visually striking. I took inspiration from ancient Chinese metalwork that I have seen in various exhibitions over the years and the dragons in the fabric of the neck tie.

For Moby Dick Ross has only needed a pair of trousers making. Unfortunately they were not able to get official photographs at the performances, however I do have an in progress shot of the trousers before hemming the cuffs and adding the buttons to the front.