Sunday, 9 October 2011

Back in the saddle

After a very busy five plus weeks I finally have some time to tell you what I have been up to. In my last post I talked of a new job that I couldn't really talk about. Well not only has that been and gone I have done a wealth of other things too, so now I will bring you up to speed.

The job I was so excited about was 3 ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS SPECIALS !!! Now you can see why I was beside myself. Two of the shows are to be on British TV around Xmas time and the third to follow later in 2012. I really hope my friends around the globe don't have too long to wait as they are such a treat.
Jennifer is truly on form the scripts are hilarious and the cast were superb. All the favourites are back and we know them so well, just a look from one of them has you cracking up it is brilliant. 

The costumes of course are outrageous, Edina is still getting it so wrong, particularly as she continues to insist that she is sample size. Bubble is as colourful and bonkers as ever. I have to be so careful about what I say so I really can't go in to too much detail but while we were shooting on location the paparazzi found us so I can share one of those shots with you if you haven't already seen it.

The day this was taken we spent a lot of time dodging the rain, It was August for God's sake and it was torrential. I did get to spend some time sheltering in the Stella McCartney shop though as we were allowed to use her changing room for a costume change. I don't think I am breaking any taboos in saying the lady herself pops up in one episode as well as her shop.

So although I can't tell you much more until they are broadcast have a look at Mo Gaffney's amusing blog. She is the very funny American actress who plays Bo. It was very weird having another Mo around. Every time the director called her name I would step forward expectantly then slink back embarrassed into the shadows. After transmission I will tell you all about the contraption I made from two pairs of spanx and the fun I had with metres and metres of African fabric.

During this time I was also working back at English National Ballet. We were preparing costumes for their Autumn season. This mean't methodically picking through rails and rails of costumes and going over them with a fine tooth comb. Examining every fastening, seam, stitch and piece of decoration for signs of wear and tear. Painstaking work but lovely to be sat around big tables catching up with my ballet pals. Hope you are having a good tour ladies.

I also managed to fit in a couple of days work as a daily on two comedy shows for Tiger Aspect. Grandma's house is written by and starring Simon Amstell. I haven't seen the first series but apparently it is very funny. I wasn't on set at all during this I was mostly helping to set up the wardrobe in the Elstree studios. So not much interesting to say I'm afraid except they all seemed like rather nice people. The seceond day was on a new production written by Kathy Burke called Walking and Talking. It looks very good and will be on Sky. No idea when though. I was there to help with a scene full of extras dressed as punks and teddy boys. It was a very funny scene although we did battle with the elements there too. What a shit summer we have had in this country.

Now things have slowed down a little and I am currently working at just the one job. Having been head of wardrobe for the last three years on the Strictly come dancing tour, I asked to be involved in the TV show this year. I am thoroughly enjoying myself as both cast and crew are lovely. I will start taking some pictures soon. The show days  are quite manic and when it comes to comparing the TV show to the tour I can honestly say it is the same but different!!!

Now that I have a bit more free time I am about to start on some projects of my own. The lovely flat we moved into in March is still missing curtains in the lounge and I have plans for some unusual draft excluders as it is time to get winter proof. So if anyone here has made a draft excluder before did you try rice or just fabric fillings?

Back soon

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I'm so excited

I am so excited about the job I start tomorrow but I can't tell you anything about it!
Except that it is TV and a few specials of what was a very popular sit com not so long ago.
I don't think I will be allowed to post anything until after transmission.
Sorry sweetie darling!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Glorious 39

Has anyone else ever seen the film Glorious 39 (2009) I came across it on the BBC 
IPlayer recently. It is a Stephen Poliakoff film with  Romola Garai in the lead who is also currently in the BBC's period piece The Hour. I first saw her in  The Crimson Petal and the White but looking at her Wikipedia entry she has a huge body of work. I really enjoy watching her and Glorious 39 has stayed with me the last couple of days as it is a great thriller. I'm sure some will say the plot is rather silly and fanciful, I agree it is not very plausable, however as a piece of escapism I loved it.

It is of course the costumes I wish to draw your attention to most of all, they are divine and she wears them so well. I would love a wardrobe (and figure) like hers.
This blue suit in particular was very versatile.

There is quite a stellar cast in all, Bill Nighy, David Tennant, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Christie, Jenny Agutter and Christopher Lee amongst them.
There is only a few more days on Iplayer so be quick.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Moving on

My last post was in the midst of the London riots. I was in rather a state of shock and had no words to express myself. So I chose a few of the uplifting pictures that appeared. As we all know things have calmed down now, I am still a little jumpy when I hear the distant sirens but life is pretty much back to normal. Although the root causes of the disturbances haven't gone away and much has to be done to stop this happening again. We were lucky in my area that only a few local shops were looted, a couple of friends had it right outside their doors.

I stayed in the flat during this time, I still can't understand why so many people turned it into a spectator sport and went out to have a look, it's beyond me. Anyway on the Wednesday I was doing another photo shoot for the Old Vic which was due to finish around 10pm. So I had no choice but to be out. Happily it was right by Waterloo (in fact in the Waterloo tunnels) and I live right by a station so no walking through dark streets to get home. As we were packing up at the end of the shoot I had a message from the fella, he had come to meet me and escort me home, my hero. 

So back to the shoot, it was a follow up to the Robert Sheehan shoot we did a few weeks ago. This time with the three main cast members, lovely Robert again, Ruth Negga and Niamh Cusack. The other difference was that this time I was to source the costumes. I went to Cosprop which is an amazing costume hire place on Holloway Road. I met with Lynette Mauro who is the costume supervisor for the play, she was there working on another production. We had a meeting where she showed me reference pictures and explained the look her and the designer wanted to achieve. Lynette's knowledge of the miles (no exaggeration ) of rails meant she was able to show me the best places to look. So armed with the actors measurements, a tape measure and my list of items off I went.

view from a mezzanine 
view from a very tall ladder amidst the Edwardian jackets

Robert was to wear the same costume as before, this had come from Angels, another huge establishment often used for films and TV as well as theatre. So all I needed for Robert was a couple of choices of jacket, heavy wool style quite long was the brief. These I found in the Edwardian department.

For Ruth and Niamh I needed corsets, chemises, petticoats, blouses, skirts and work style boots. Niamh was also to have aprons and shawls.

distracted by negligees while searching for aprons

A couple of hours later I had amassed several choices for Lynette to look over. Happily she approved my selection and arrangements were made to hire the costumes in time for the shoot.
Cosprop is an amazing place and John Bright the costume designer who founded the company won an Oscar for 'A room with a view' plus several other nominations. I was wardrobe manager on a Chekov play he designed with Kristen Scott Thomas several years ago at the Playhouse on the Embankment. His knowledge of period detail is astounding.

The shoot itself went very well, it was the same team who had produced the previous shoot a very pleasant bunch. The actors were in the first week of rehearsals so buoyed up with ideas. Putting an actress in a corset for the first time can be hard but both these ladies had worn them before and the rest of the costumes I chose all fitted perfectly so I was a happy bunny. 

down in the Waterloo tunnels

I can't show any finished pictures until the professional shots are on display so here is the set up, not very glamorous but the wall has wonderful texture.

In other news I dreamt about many of the vintage loving bloggers I read last night, frustratingly I can't remember much detail but I believe we had fun and we may have been in Australia. What a fabulous meet up that would be!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Turkish Delight quickie

Spent a wonderful day at West Wittering
  recently and well I couldn't resist could I? Sitting among the sand dunes, I found a brief window between my paddling and sunbathing to pose for a Turkish delight inspired photo.  

The real thing
Mmm sun melted chocolate, maybe not!
I didn't quite manage the enigmatic expression as I was giggling but apart from the lack of make up and bright sunshine not a bad effort I reckon. What do you think? Maybe I shouldn't ask.

Do not fear proper costume related posts will return very soon, the Autumn looks to be shaping up quite nicely work wise. I found a few nice things in Chichesters charity shops while we were in the area so I will share those soon as well.

The original Turkish delight advert is here check out the Sheik, the wind machine gets a little lively and one point and his face is almost smothered . Pure class I tell you.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

R & R in Brighton

Work is always a little quiet in the summer and so I have been having a few trips away. Recently the fella and I took up a good friends offer of use of her flat in Brighton while she was away. I'm so lucky to have such generous friends. Of course while I was there I had to explore the Lanes, the vintage and charity shops. The glasses above where 50p in a charity shop and they go perfectly with my floral 60's dress that I haven't manage to get a picture of yet. That night I saw fabulous Helga was sporting the same pair on her blog, styling them up beautifully as always. They are great fun but the lenses are so dark the moment I step in the shade it is like someone has turned the lights out!

silly pose but the best way to feature the sleeves.

I took my 60's kaftan with me too for lounging around the flat and shouting at the noisy seagulls.
My fella and I love browsing the secondhand bookshops and this was my haul. A mahoosive marlene Dietrich biography, one of Gary Cooper and Sarah Bernhardt and a paperback about all the Fondas. It will be a while until I start reading these though as I am currently on the first chapter of a huge Charlie Chaplin autobiography. It's funny I'm not the slightest bit interested in current celeb lives but the stars of yesteryear fascinate me. Particularly the women, being independent successful career women in those days they were real trailblazers. Although the manipulation of their lives by the studios and the worlds expectations of women in those days put limits on their independence. 

The fella has a large library of books for research for his clockmaking business and is always on the look out for new material. We visited Colin Page 3 days in a row and at one point they let us into their storage space around the back and just left us there.  It was amazing, floor to ceiling shelves and piles of the most amazing books. Absolute heaven.

So apart from the screeching seagulls at stupid o clock in the morning we had a lovely time. We are off again this weekend on a tour of relatives and friends, can't wait. 

Thursday, 28 July 2011

English National Ballet and the Roland Petit triple bill

picture from The Independent on line

I was back at the Coliseum recently for a very special triple bill from English National Ballet. Roland Petit was a very famous french choreographer. I had only recently heard of him when I read Margot Fonteyn's biography. You can read about him from more knowledgable sources than me but safe to say he was always ahead of his time. Sadly he died the week before ENB's tribute. The three pieces were l’arlesienne, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort and Carmen. All three had a man tormented by love or a lover so rather depressing really by beautiful none the less.

The above pictures are all from Carmen the most colourful of the three pieces. The corsets were all slightly different in some detail or other. I didn't get the chance to take many photos  but there are some beautiful ones here and here.

I did manage a couple of snaps of my lovely colleagues though. Above you can see Gemma and in the corner up to her elbows in suds in Bryony who features in a similar picture in a previous post . She doesn't spend all her time at the sink and I shall remedy that with more pictures next time we work together (if she lets me). Gemma who is seen spot cleaning make up off the male dancers shirts is the friend I mentioned before who worked on THAT WEDDING DRESS. Every time it comes up in conversation she lets slip another interesting fact about the whole process, it's fascinating. Also she kept the secret so well, even when just a week before we had a bet on how long the train would be, Gemma bluffed her way through it. The skills Gemma has from her time at the Royal college of needlework are astounding. Her invisible mending leaves me open mouthed and when we were shopping in China with swan lake she could pick the genuine antique hand embroidery from the machined copies that were mixed in.

So I leave you now with Gemma wrapping the rails as the triple bill was packed up and put away until the next time.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Only the crumbliest

I just wanted to share with you my lovely day out recently at a lavender farm in Kent.  My friend made the suggestion that we dress like the Flake adverts of the 80's. Any excuse to theme an outfit and I'm there!

So replace the sunflowers with lavender and ...

What do you think, does it work? 
I might try the turkish delight look next.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The playboy of the western world

photo from The Old Vic Website

Finally the poster is out and I can share this lovely job. A few weeks ago I was asked to do wardrobe on a photo shoot for London's Old Vic theatre. I have worked at the theatre a few times and blogged about it Here.
The current play is  Richard III with Kevin Spacey in the lead role. It is a stunning production and well worth seeing,  however we are talking about 3 hours of Shakespeare here so not to everyones taste. 
The following production starting in September is an irish play called The playboy of the western world. It dates from 1907 and was quite controversial when first  performed you can read why in an article from the Guardian  here.
This new production has a great cast, Ruth Negga plays Pegeen I saw her as Ophelia in the National's Hamlet some months ago so looking forward to seeing her in this. The amazing Niamh Cusack is Widow Quinn.  The main role is taken by Robert Sheehan the mouthy one from Misfits (a brilliant dark comedy gem of a TV series) As you can see from the poster Robert was the subject. He was so charming and funny and very obliging during the 3 hour shoot in the damp  Old Vic Tunnels. The tunnels are owned by British Rail and hired by The Old Vic for performance space. They have a huge variety of events there and I'm looking forward to going back as a punter one day soon.

blurry iphoto action shot
Robert Sheehan

some alternative pieces

We had a variety of outfits to try, the aim was to have a flavour of the era but not be time specific, the notes from the costume designer were pictures of typical antiheroes like Brando, James Dean and Sid Vicious. All in all it was a really enjoyable way to earn a days pay. I worked on a production of this play at the birmingham Repertory Theatre about 15 years ago and can't wait to see the Old Vic's version.

The final poster
One of the things a regular around London may notice is the common theme among theatre posters. At least 3 long running shows have similar pictures of the back of people, presumably to avoid having to change the poster when the cast change. There does seem to be a standard style for theatre posters. The Old Vic steps away from that and I think when you are traveling down those long tube escalators it pays off as their posters really jump out. Though I am rather biased!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Apparently John's video was spammed so he has had to take it down. Sorry about that chaps.

Here is the new link it worked a second ago so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Just a quickie post as I wanted to share something with you. A friend of mine who was in the Mamma Mia cast when I toured it years ago is currently in Priscilla Queen of the desert. He is not only a talented performer but proved to be quite the film maker. He has several videos on you tube and his latest is Priscilla meets Glee. If you have any interest in either show you will find this short film amusing I'm sure. You may find yourself watching his others too. street dance meets ballet is my other favourite.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

New Look style the nation

I had an interesting days work on Saturday at a TV studio in Middlesex. I haven't worked in TV much at all so it is always interesting to me. The programme as the title to this post suggests was New Look style the nation. Myself and a colleague were brought in to help the existing wardrobe team with some quick changes near the end of the programme. Working in a live environment this  is our forte so we were quietly confident that all would go well. There were a lot of stressed out people in headsets but then i suppose that is the nature of live TV. The show did appear to my untrained eyes to go quite well though and everyone seemed happy once it was over. 

The final line up
It is if you haven't seen it a make over show for up and coming stylists. The winner Sara seemed a popular choice amongst the crew and was very profuse with her thanks to all around afterwards which was very nice to see. I have never worked with models before (unless you count Kate Moss's appearance on a Little Britain comic relief show but we swapped a smile and that was it so it doesn't really count does it) They were all very young and gorgeous, quite friendly and jolly too considering the early start. My call was 7.30am but the production team had started at 5am, Ouch!

Ha, thats me leaning on a rail in the background, how professional.

We didn't have to do an awful lot during the show but when our crucial quick changes came we managed very well and the models were ready in plenty of time for there entrance. I really would like to try a bit more TV work and this show gave me a taste for fashion too, I wonder where does London fashion week get its catwalk dressers from ???

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The time just flew by

Well my time at Mamma Mia has finished now, I had a thoroughly interesting time. Every day was different.

When cutting fabrics to send to a costume maker I refereed to a folder they called the Bible to see exactly what fabrics were needed for each piece and how many metres to cut. If there were zips or buttons needed to. This would be sent off with the measurements of the actor to the particular costume maker. Many makers work on the show in studios or a room in their home. Some work alone and some have a team.  Sometimes I would head out to Berwick street or Shepherds Bush to buy fabrics that aren't held in stock. Or to haberdashery shops for trimmings . I visited one lady in an extraordinary shop near Goodge Street called Taylors buttons. I plan to go back one day and take pictures, it is floor to ceiling boxes of buttons and the shop has been in her family for over 100 years. I was eyeing up some 30's looking buttons when she said vintage buyers often go to her looking for replacements.

On some days I was sent out with a shopping list, at first you think great, fresh air and a stroll but when you have a long list, the rain is starting, the tourists are getting in your way, you have to be back in an hour and you can't find what you are looking for, it gets a little frustrating. However when you turn up with the perfect thing and it was a bargain you are quite proud.

At the office along with the store of fabric are rails of costumes from previous productions that are still quite wearable and so will be re-used. I took it upon myself to label all the trousers with their waist size so that the ideal pair could be found easily. I didn't quite get them all done before I left but most of them. It felt good to leave that as my parting gift to my fabulous colleagues.

picture from

So no more Mamma Mia for a while at least. Next thing is a very early start for a TV on saturday morning!
I shall let you know how that goes.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Still from the film The Dresser with Albert Finney & Tom Courtenay

just had to share with you this wonderful article from the New York Times. My friend Nicky Burford who has just finished the Britain's Got Talent TV show and tour brought it to my attention. I would like to add though that dressers in the UK get half the wage of their American counterpart so often have to take  a second job too!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

windows & weddings

Part of my job lately has been to visit many of London's fabric shops collecting samples of particular shades of fabrics for the show. There may be a certain linen say that is used for years for a particular costume then suddenly it isn't made anymore. So the quest for something similar starts. We are not far from Berwick Street in Soho which has many wonderful shops and the window displays are always so imaginative like the one below.

Berwick street cloth shop

Just off the Edgeware Road is Joels and Son. This is a huge shop with an amazing array of fabrics. I was there just before the royal wedding and couldn't resist a quick  (but awful) snap of their window display. It was draped in fabric printed with pictures of the royal couple.

Joel and Sons window

Almost immediately after the wedding we received these samples from James Hare. So if you want to recreate the wedding dress or even bride's mother's dress, it's all there!

The shopping part of the job is a mixed blessing. It can be lovely to get out of the basement we work from and stretch your legs but trying to get around London when you are against the clock can be frustrating too. Especially when you can't find what you have been sent out for. returning empty handed is not good. I did have one successful trip recently in Shepherds bush though for personal reasons. I had been fabric sourcing in the many shops on Goldhawk Road. I couldn't resist popping into a charity shop near the tube where I found this beauty. 

bleached scrubbed and full of bangles

I am so thrilled with my chamber pot, it was one of those buys where the staff can't actually understand why somebody is so thrilled with the item, they thought I was going to put a plant in it. Maybe if I come across another.

I had a similar question from two of my favorite bloggers Vix and Helga recently about what we do if a performer puts on a lot of weight during a long run? People do sometimes put a little on and so we might let out a seam or two. It is unusual for someone to need a whole new costume, I haven't come across it. I have heard rumours that some shows have a clause in the performers contract that they will keep a constant size to avoid this but I am not privvy to such things so couldn't swear to it. Generally when a performers costume is straining and zips are busting they see the light and do something about it themselves!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Mamma Mia I'm in an office!

I'm still putting in a full week in the Mamma Mia costume office. This makes a nice change from working in a venue plus I get to have my weekends and evenings free like normal people. There are many productions of the show going on across the globe at any one time and as with most commercial productions the artistic ethos of the show is kept very tight. If you have put your heart and soul into a production you are not likely to let any Tom, Dick or Harry put on an inferior production and ruin your hard work. so the London office keeps a tight reign on all productions.

the fabric stock

Today I have been doing some prep work for the upcoming Paris re cast. Mostly cutting suit fabrics for the wedding scene to send to the costume maker. Then putting together the bible,  In the bible we have pictures of the cast, measurements and samples of the fabrics there costumes are made from. As well a photos of the designs and who they are allocated to.

measurement sheet
There are a lot of measurements needed as the costumes vary so much. There are dresses, suits, swimsuits, hats, shoes, wetsuits and flippers. Most things are made with a few exceptions being bought from the high street, like bikini tops and shorts. The shoes are mostly made as the dancing requires strong  secure footwear. It is a huge show and the attention taken over every detail shows on stage. The new cast had there first show on Monday, it looked amazing and they were knock out. If you have never seen Mamma Mia or fancy seeing it again now is the time. This cast are truly special, lovely natural acting. I hadn't seen the show since I last toured with it 5 or 6 years ago and loved every minute of it.