Saturday, 31 March 2012

Bath Costume Exhibition Photoshoot!

I made a passing reference a couple of posts back to a costume photoshoot I was going to be helping out with.  In case you were curious, I was refering to one for this upcoming exhibition at Bath Fashion Museum.  It'll be running from 17th July to 2nd September, and from the sneak peek I've gotten so far, there are going to be quite a few rather delectable costumes on display, so it'll be well worth checking out!  My job, alongside the curator, Yvonne, and a few other volunteers, was to dress the mannequins for the shoot, padding them out where necessary, and trying to make them look as historically accurate as possible.  This was a slight challenge for some of them, including a gown from The Tudors tv series, where we hadn't been provided with the correct underpinnings, and so had to mimic the shape of a farthingale as best we could with bubble wrap and pins!  It was a fun couple of days, and such a privilege to get to handle some really fabulous costumes.  Hopefully I'll also be involved in the actual set up of the exhibition itself in July.  I've yet to see all the gorgeous costumes they're getting on loan from the RSC so I can't wait!

And now for some photos :-)

Elizabeth I - worn by Helen Mirren.  This was so sparkly, I just wanted to pet it.  I'm not sure rhinestones are particularly historically accurate, but I'm sure we can forgive a littel artistic license for the shiny!

Full length shot

Henry VIII from The Tudors, worn by Jonathon Rhys-Meyers, you can see him in costume in the photo on imdb.  Also a glimpse of our not so glamorous dressing room.. aka, the hallway outside the photography studio.  Luckily the mannequins weren't prudish ;)

Henry's spiffy boots!  I wish I'd gotten a good photo of his breeches too, they were lovely. 

The aforementioned bubble wrap gown from The Tudors.  I can't remember who wears it, but apparently it's in the opening credits.

Another Henry VIII, from a different production, unfortunately I can't remember which one!  Side note:  Trying to put in the cod piece so that it doesn't look completely ridiculous was somewhat tricky.  Hopefully it only looks slightly ridiculous.

I can't remember where this one was from either, not even the king it was meant to be worn by.  Terrible!  Still, looks good, doesn't it.

This is a replica of the Queen Mother's wedding dress, but I'm not sure who wore it and in which film.  It looks stunning but was a bugger to steam.

And finally, a Wallis Simpson dress from W.E, worn by Andrea Riseborough.  Probably made by Jane Law's team, as I saw a couple of other dresses from that film in her slideshow when she gave her lecture at my uni recently.  I (probably unfairly) wrote off that film as being unwatchable when I heard that Madonna had directed it, but the costumes I've seen so far look so delicious, I might just have to see it anyway!)

And a final photo of the inside of the bodice of that dress.  You can see they've used a weight to give the neckline it's lovely drape.
Anyhoo, that's all for now folks.  Work on the maquette version of my puppet costume is going painfully slowly, since the glue I'm using takes forever to dry, and the pieces of foam that make up the skull need to be held in place while it's drying. Blahhh.  One must persevere though!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Backpack finished!

I'm in a very celebratory mood today, finally I have something to show for all the work I've been putting into this unit!

May I present to thee my finished carnival backpack:

It may not look like much, but a lot of work went into this baby!   This photo's from today's fitting, which went really well.  It fits Immie like a glove, and the unitard fits just fine as well (no zipper in yet though, hence the pinned up back seam!).  I have since made a few minor adjustments, like adding an extra bolt through the bottom of the mdf, and a couple of extra plastazote wedges underneath the aluminium strips.   But anyhoo, tis done now, and that's a real load off my mind.  Now for the complicated part, the puppet structure!

P.S.  I may be nice and post a tutorial for this at some point.  During my own research on backpacks the complete lack of information available over the internet was EXTREMELY irritating.  Thankfully I went to a workshop with Kinetika where I was able to see a couple of their examples, as well as getting a few pages of instructions that I followed to a certain extent.  It's been quite interesting for those of us working on this project to see how differently each of our backpacks have turned out according to our particular design.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


It looks like my dream of creating my very own Sherlock coat will have to be put on hold for a little while, this final unit is taking over my life.
I haven't actually described it on here yet, so here's theh first paragraph from my learning agreement:

For this unit I will design and make a carnival costume for a principle character in the ‘Spirit of the Sea’ Olympic Torch Relay celebrations in Weymouth.  The theme of the event is ‘Oceans of the World’, so I will research this theme and produce a series of designs, one of which will be selected by the carnival committee.  I will then realise this costume for an individual performer in the procession.
Here's my design:

And in colour:

So jaaa, very exciting - but also somewhat daunting.  I've pretty much finalised the design now, and I've spent the last few days putting together the "backpack"; the bit that the whole structure sits on.  It's not until this past week that I've realised just how lacking in 'workshop' knowledge I've been.  I'd never used a drill before, or a riveter, and terms like penny washers, blind rivets, and countersunk screws meant nothing to me.  It's meant that the start of the construction has been frustratingly slow going at times, while I figure out how everything works, but as I get the hang of more and more things it gets more satisfying.  Luckily for me there are three other students in the same boat, so we lend each other moral support for each day we spend in the workshop learning something new.

I need to get the backpack and the unitard (to be worn underneath) ready for a fitting on friday though, and that's got me hyperventilating somewhat.  For a start I'm going to be in London helping out on a costume photoshoot (can't wait to see the pretties!) on wednesday and thursday, so today's the last day I have to get everything ready.  To complicate matters further, the straps haven't turned up yet.  As I said, aaaaaaaghhhh!!!
Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Costume-Making Royalty

So today our visiting lecturer was none other than Jane Law, pretty much a celebrity in her own right in the costume making world.  She and her team have created costumes for everything from Pirates of the Carribean, to the Young Victoria, to more recently W.E and The Iron Lady.  Take a gander at her website and feast your eyes on the pretties!

She had a lot of interesting points to make about making your way in the industry, and there was definately some food for thought there.  One interesting thing she mentioned was that film often allowed for a more collaborative process with the designer than theatre.  This was a surprise, since I'd assumed that as films tend to be bigger, there is a stricter code for who does what, where as in theatre it's more about everyone diving in and working together.  Apparently though, in her experience, theatre/ballet/opera designers tend to have more time and so are more likely to come to you with a beautifully rendered design with little to no flexibility in interpretation, where as for film they'll often turn up with just a bundle of fabrics and other knick knacks, or inspiration pieces hired from Cosprop and turn round and say 'Do your thing, Jane!', giving her a massive freedom to interpret their initial design concept in a far more creative way.  Penny Rose and Jenny Beaven both take this approach a lot.

This led on to a question about whether she felt that designers take too much credit for work that is produced by a whole team of people.  I've often wondered this myself; a quick glance at Jane Law's imdb page shows that she was uncredited for 18 out of the 51 films she has worked on so far.  And she's one of the most prolific costume makers in the country, what about the people that work under her?  Or freelancers that work for themselves?  Do they ever get a name in the credits? It doesn't seem altogether fair, but she didn't seem to mind in the slightest.  Her reasoning was that to be a costume designer takes a lot of tenacity, and that whilst there were a lot of creative people in the industry, not a lot of them had the single mindedness that it takes to make it as a designer.  Designers are the ones having to fight for their idea with producers and money people, and they're the ones in the firing line if everything goes horribly wrong.  It's the thought of the tediousness of all that which makes me shy away from wanting to design for large productions.  I adore designing, but in my own little bubble, and the thought of having to battle every step of the way to get my concepts across seems like far too much effort.  Still, it is a shame that costume makers are so under appreciated by the industry and the world at large.  I must admit that whilst my motivation for becoming a costume maker is the joy of making beautiful things, I would be thrilled to see my name up there in the credits.  It's nice to have a little pat on the back for ones good work.

Anyway, fact of the matter is, credited or uncredited... I want her job.