Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Paris Competition Costume

I got the competition photos through from the dance competition for the Paris costume! This is one of the dance competition costumes from the Weymouth dance competition in October.

I am so pleased with how this costume turned out, and hope to be working on more dance competition costumes soon!

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The China Masques

This production has been in the planning since before lockdown but due to Corona everything had to stop before I was even properly underway with the designs - however thanks to filming, we are back on for a preview. 

We sorted all of the costumes between the two lockdowns, and they were handed over more then a week before the new lockdown started. All government recommended safety advice was strictly adhered to! Filming by the company of two, single household, is underway and they are filming everything themselves in lockdown.

The company was contacted to film two of the scenes to be aired through a University, and with the scenes selected it was on to me to costume our two person cast (from the same household) from the fantastic stock wardrobe! This is a massive hoard of costumes from previous productions, theatre stock sales, hire house sales from all over the country and back in February I was able to get in there with Michelle Yim of Red Dragonfly Productions to begin categorising them for hire so I was very familiar with the stock. The characters to costume were - an Usher (Robert Cecil), the 'Chinese Post', the Master (merchant) and a shop boy.

For the Usher Robert Cecil, the Chinese Post and the shop boy there were costumes in stock that only needed at best minor alterations to look the part, however the merchant needed a a compilation to look the part. 

For the Usher costume, we had a reference portrait of Robert Cecil that we wanted to emulate, however he had the very unfortunate habit of wearing only black, and mainly velvet from the look of the fabric, for every portrait of him for the time period we were looking at. This had the two unfortunate side effects of firstly hiding the details of what he was wearing which made it difficult to get the exact look and secondly, in getting the exact look it meant that our cast member would look like a black mass on camera. To mitigate this I decided to still use black but to get in different textures, such as satin and dupion, to give differences in the fabric that could be picked up by the camera and make his limbs and silhouette much easier to distinguish. The aspects of this costume that I made were the added dupion sleeves with white cuffs onto an existing velvet Jerkin, and a cape of cotton velvet lined with satin.

Ross during fitting between lockdowns trying on his Robert Cecil top half- you can just see the cape, and of course the Jerkin with its added sleeves!

The Master costume was far trickier as he needed a 'Gown', preferably with a fur collar, and in the end looking through the stock I realised that one of the velvet Victorian/Edwardian dresses, when shortened, would give the perfect look with a 'fur' collar added and the buttons covered. I tacked up the skirt to knee length, covered the buttons with strips of velvet to make the transition back into a dress easier, and added on a 'fur' collar from the 'fur' collars in stock. I also made the hats for the shop boy, Master and Chinese Post.

Ross as Master from the first part of filming

The hat for the Chinese Post was also an interesting one, as this is not in fact a representation of what Chinese messengers or dignitaries would have worn at that time but instead is a representation of what the Western world believed that the Chinese wore, as demonstrated in a painting from the time by a European artist of a 'Chinese' man. 

Michelle as Shop Boy from the first part of filming

I am waiting to hear about the how the rest of filming is going as it is set to end before the 20th of November, but hopefully more images of the costumes and the Chinese Post soon!

Wednesday, 28 October 2020


Amazingly, it has been a very busy month - thank you to theatre and dance for starting to safely start back up! 

Firstly, the commission costumes - I think I mentioned these in a previous post but I have had two dance competition commissions, one for a 'Boogie Woogie' dance costume for a performer dancing to 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy', and one for a different performer in the same competition that was based on the theme of 'Paris' and came with a selection of images of costumes they liked and a colour pallet. Also fantastic news, the competition was able to go ahead!

The 'Boogie Woogie' costume is based on a cross between the costumes worn by the Andrews Sisters during the war, and the American marching band costumes. It consists of a leotard/dress with built in hot pants, and a hat, all in foiled lycra.

The 'Paris' costume is next, I managed to find stretch rhinestones mesh which is like a net with rhinestones at the join points, that I handstitched on at the waist, neck and around the hat - this was also my first beret! I can't believe I haven't made one before, they are surprisingly straightforward to make and very effective. I haven't received a competition photo of the Paris costume but I do have a photo of it being worn by the performer when it was handed over - 

Hopefully there will be more commissions to come soon as the next competition season starts in February but I am sure there will be plenty between now and then, so stay tuned!

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.