Thursday, 28 November 2013

Yet more glitter

Excitement here in S.Q.H.Q. My shipment of glitter has arrived! Crystal Iris Jewels and Squares to be precise. If ever you need any type of glitter then I can't recommend Flints Theatrical Chandlers

This is what 500g of glitter looks like

Monday, 25 November 2013

It Has Begun

It's starting to get really sparkly in here. Had first fitting with the Snow Queen herself on Friday. Now have to prepare her costume and Kay's and Gerda's for promotional photos next Tuesday. It feels good to be actually making a start. There is only so much research you can do! I do have an awful lot of things to make but with my team of wonderful volunteers, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I think I still need more glitter though. You can never have enough glitter!

The beginnings of the wig

Detail of the Snow Queen's entrance cloak

Friday, 8 November 2013

A snowy dress fit for a queen

Tentative steps.

This is the costume I've wanted to make all my professional life and now I get to make it and I don't know where to begin! I do have some guidelines to help. I can't be completely white as it would get lost in the set so I'm thinking a base under dress of white satin with an overlay of silver mesh. Also, thinking of a cloak of ice blue velvet with grey fur trimming and white satin lining. The actress has mentioned that she doesn't fancy anything too figure hugging and I really like the idea of textures and layers and trying to avoid the evil queen stereotypes. So I'm making samples and sketching for the first time in years

Playing with fabrics and textures

The Snow Queen's boots

The first of many sketchy ideas
I love the fluid textures here. It looks very icy but isn't white ('Morphos' from world of wearable art website)

Next step, a few more sketches and a consultation with the actress. Knock up a toile and get cracking. There will be a lot of sparkles to sew on!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Of braid and sparkles and polar bears......

The time has come to begin what I have been looking forward to all year. Time to stop pinning and looking at pretty pictures. Time to make decisions, write lists and start sewing and constructing and assembling. All this is easier said than done. But where to start? How about a box full of braid?

To get an idea about how all this treasure will be put to use, just take a look at my Pinterest board for the Snow Queen

No better place to start than with the Snow Queen herself and so my next post will cover the first steps in realising her costume.....

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Now Is The Hour Production Photos

Here are a few production shots from 'Now Is The Hour'

Colonel, Major and Coots
Coots, George and 'Mac'
Kat and Peter

Nurse Doris with the Major and the Colonel

Doris and Kat

The Aftermath!

Director - Stu Denison
Set design - Gemma Godwin
Costume design - Amanda Greenway
Lighting design - Tom Porteous
Production photography - Rhett Davies

Cast List

Mac - Luke Hull
Medhurst - Steven Scase
Purslow - Aiden Speer
Coots - Ben Dixon
George/ Stubbs - Joel Pudwell
Charlie - David Mills
Luboslaw - Matt Negyedi
Marek - Adrian Mazur
Robbie - Chris Hannaway
Spanner - Brandon Webb
Doris - Dawn Brindle
Colonel - Tim Lane
Major - John Mangan

Friday, 27 September 2013

A Distressing Day!

Tuesday was the day of the great breaking down session.It is by no means an exact science but there are a few techniques that really work and a few points to bear in mind.
 Firstly, what kind of stains are you trying to recreate? Sweat, grease, mud, blood etc. How did these stains occur and where on the garment would they be? Is there any other distress on the garment and how did that happen? Torn sleeves, ripped trousers and so on. Once you have established this then you are more likely to produce a convincing effect rather than a garment that looks like it has been attacked by a crazy person (unless that is what you are going for of course!)

The various techniques we use usually begin with dyeing or bleaching to dull down the original colour of the garment. We needed to do this for Now Is the Hour to show the effects of sun bleaching and exposure to the uniforms. I mixed up a vat of beige fabric dye and added salt and coffee. I saved a spray bottle full of a more concentrated version to spray on later
Army shirts, vests and naval uniforms get the dye treatment
After drying off in the tumble dryer with a pair of trainers, we needed to create the physical distress on the clothes. This is where the cheese graters, sandpaper and brute force comes into play.

Judith gets busy with some serious tools

Amy attacks a shirt with a parmesan grater

 It's amazing how much joy can be had from breaking down something you have just made! Amy had made a beautiful job of the purple evening dress and an equally good job of destroying it! It does feel rather contrary as a maker and designer to begin with, but as you can see, the ladies really got into it!

The evening dress(es). Broken down and pristene

After the wear and tear has been added then you apply the final flourishes. Vaseline is very good for grease on dark fabrics. Fullers earth is also good on darker fabrics for general dirt and stains. A solution of potassium permanganate crystals sprayed onto shirts makes very convincing sweat stains and red food colouring mixed up with coffee granules makes very good blood stains. You can also buy 'clean dirt' products from theatrical suppliers. They come in many colours to replicate the many sorts of stains needed. My particular favourite is a product called 'Pure Filth' which you can see in the photo for 'The Materials are assembled'.

To set the stains, Martin trampled them into the garments and then we gave them a quick go in the tumble dryer. And that's it!! Quite a lot more to it than you would imagine but good fun to do.
Martin trampling a dress into the floor

You still have a chance to catch the show.

For those that didn't get to see it, I will post some photos next time

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Materials Are Assembled

All ready to go for the mammoth breaking down session on Monday. The 'distressing kit' consists of pumice stones, scourers and scrubbing brushes. Maybe even the odd cheese grater! Potassium permanganate crystals, fullers earth, petroleum jelly and a stick of 'Pure Filth'!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Two of everything!

It occurred to me the other day whilst doing my costume plot that I was going to need two identical 1940s evening dresses for the character of Katriona. One to wear at dinner just before the ship gets torpedoed and one that she wears in the life boat that will get broken down. Now, I know we have a lot of 1940s frocks at the Maddermarket but I'm pretty sure that we don't have two identical ones and if we did, I don't think I'd feel happy about setting about one of them with a cheese grater and chemicals. Nothing for it but to rustle up a couple of evening dresses then. 

How about this slinky little number from 1940?

Vogue vintage pattern

I decided on an aubergine liquid satin as it is a bias cut dress and this is the closest to an authentic period fabric I could find locally. I really wanted an emerald green but the shade in the shop looked too modern. It needs to be a colour that will stand out on stage as all of the other costumes are a uniform drab. It also needs to be fairly quick and easy to put together as I have two to make on top of everything else I have to do. The dress only has six pieces but it's bias cut and took me two hours just to cut out! Hopefully won't take too much longer to put together. Watch this space..........

Friday, 30 August 2013

Breaking Down!

Not me, thankfully but the costumes for the next play!

As you can see, it's a rather subdued palette. That's because most of the action of our next production, 'Now Is The Hour' by David Hall, takes place on a lifeboat in the middle of the sea after a torpedo attack on the ship 'Laconia' in 1942.

My challenge for this show is to age and 'break down' the costumes to show the wear and tear they would receive, cast adrift in the middle of the sea for 28 days. With no one leaving the stage to change! The actors will also have to show the affects of exposure, sunburn and dehydration. Again without leaving the stage. 

To achieve this requires a great deal of planning and clear thought and a very large and detailed costume plot.

The costume plot is a way of recording all the relevant information I need about who is wearing what and when. It also shows how much time has passed in the play and how much actual time has passed which is important for costume changes as, in this play, there are about 6 actors playing multiple parts.

The action goes from Act 1 where everyone is at dinner on board the Laconia into Act 2 where some of the characters are on board the lifeboat. This means that what ever they are wearing as the ship goes down at dinner is what they will be wearing for the rest of the play adrift in the lifeboat.

This is where my headache will begin.................

More of this over the next few weeks. Layering, under dressing, break aways, Vaseline, potassium permanganate, fullers earth. All will be revealed!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Treasures In The Attic

As I'm taking the June production off, I have time to do all those things in the wardrobe that I never get to do whilst working on a show.

Today's job was to begin sorting what I 'affectionately' call 'The Charity Shop Attic'. It's basically where all the modern stuff gets stored along with the hats and some of the skirt overflow. It always makes me a bit cross because I can never find what I'm looking for. Any order that once existed has gone right out of the window and I never normally have the time to address it.

It looks like this
one can never have enough hats

It's looking a lot tidier since Suzanne has organised the hats. You should have seen it before! But now, all the skirts are nice and tidy too and subdivided into - Historic plain, peasant, Shakespearean, 18th C, Victorian. Modern formal, leather, maxi, mini and shorts, tweedy and wool, floral, hippy etc.... OCD? Me? Never!

...or skirts

It may not look it but this is a MASSIVE improvement.

I found some absolute treasures in my excavations. Just look at these Victorian beauties....

Heavy black satin with crimped black satin frill circa 1895

Close up of the fabric self pattern. Vaguely Art Nouveau in design.
Black satin with full train circa 1902

Close up detail of decoration.  Double row of sequins and beads with  crimped chiffon frill
Black crepe embellished with pin tucks and lace inserts circa  1905

Black satin, overlaid with beaded tulle
Black taffeta with small train and bustle circa  1880

Detail of the crepe and taffeta frills at front

Detail of train

Considering their age and the conditions they have been kept in, they are in remarkably good condition although the fabric is very fragile. I won't be able to use them on stage but they are a valuable resource for research. The level of detail is incredible as is the workmanship (probably workwomanship).

The last skirt was probably worn in deep mourning. It's larger waistline also suggests it was worn by an older woman.
They will all go into storage now, after some restoration, but will be available for viewing and research if any one is interested.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Playhouse Creatures Part Three

Better late than never, here are some dress rehearsal images with costumes almost, but not quite ready. Just a few last minute tweaks to be done.

Photography by Matthew Potter -

Dot Binns as Doll Common

Becky Sweet as Mrs Betterton

Emily Deere as Mrs Farley

Libby Waite as Mrs Marshall

Rebecca Wass as Nell Gwyn


Libby Waite as Mrs Marshall

Mrs Farley concealing her bump!

Mrs M and Nell as boys as girls!

Mrs F fallen in the gutter

Becky Sweet as Mrs Betterton

Doll in full flight

Mrs M and Mrs B as Amazons

A scene from Antony and Cleopatra

Mrs F and Mrs M

Mrs Betterton studying her parts

Nell in her first role

A scene from the Provok'd Wife

Mrs F in trouble

Nell in more splendid clothes

Nell and Mrs B


Nell Gwyn - Rebecca Wass
Doll Common - Dot Binns
Mrs Betterton - Becky Sweet
Mrs Marshall - Libby Waite
Mrs Farley - Emily Deere

Director - Lucinda Bray
Set and Lighting Design - Rhett Davies
Costume Design - Amanda Greenway
Wigs styling - Mary Elliot
Hair and make up - Bella Allain
Stage Manager - Verity Roat

Back again soon with more tales from the wardrobe................
Back again soon with more tales