Monday, 28 February 2011

two tutus!

Slight deviation from my Strictly come dancing posts as I had a days work back with English National Ballet today. I love working there, the team are so lovely and the wardrobe is so organized. Look at those boxes of fastenings above, it makes me weak with joy. 

Today we were maintaining tutus, most of the day was spent sewing new bodices on to existing tutu skirts. Hand sewing along the line of the pins, keeping the stitches small and neat but strong. These tutus will go through a lot of wear and tear. It was quite awkward to sew some parts as we would be sewing through the waistband too and as they are quite wide we get into a tangle sometimes.

one of my colleagues getting to grips with the situation.

 It took me much of the day to sew two bodices to their skirts. Then I moved onto attaching new fastenings to the skirts. The costumes were fitted to the dancers last week in anticipation of the coming season.

I also had to unpick this lovely piece of bling from the front of a bodice for use elsewhere.
I had a lovely day back at the ballet, catching up. All being well I should be seeing them again soon. As for now back to finishing my Strictly posts. I still have plenty to show and tell there.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Eat to the beat

Today I thought I would share with you one of the aspects of touring with Strictly come dancing that doesn't involve costumes.

The food!

When touring with theatre shows, you may have use of a fridge and a microwave if you are lucky. So you survive on ready meals, fast foods and sandwiches mostly. Working in arenas that are quite often in remote out of town areas we have a touring catering department. They are five hard working (hard playing) people who have to feed around 120 people everyday, sometimes 3 times a day. On a load in day they will start at 7 am making breakfast for the rest of the crew. Lunch and dinner will keep them on their feet for the rest of the day. On a load out day they will also make up the bus riders. This consists of sandwiches, fruit, crisps, chocolate, beer, wine and soft drinks.

Breakfast and lunch are buffet style with a Bain Marie for the hot food. At dinner time there is table service. Above are some examples of our dinner menus. Is it any wonder that at the end of the tour despite being on my feet constantly running around these big venues I am often bigger than I started.

Blue cheese & cheddar twice baked souffle

Baked apples

Sundays are a particular favourite of mine, we have a one thirty matinee and a six thirty evening show. So late morning we are provided with brunch, I have not yet missed the opportunity for an eggs Benedict. Chef makes the best i have ever tasted, with ham rather than bacon so they are not too heavy and the poached eggs are always perfect.

Then between shows comes the roast dinner. Look at the size of that!

The company who provide us with all this glorious food are called Eat to the beat. There equipment list includes fridges, ovens and the bain marie. Not to mention all the pans, crockery, cutlery and utensils needed. During rehearsals in london all the celebrities said the one thing people told them about on tour was the food. So it's safe to say that backstage Eat to the beat are the stars of the show. 

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Pamela Stephenson in Plaid part 2!

Thank you so much to Emma Kemble a Strictly come dancing fan and fellow twitterer for sending me this photo. I didn't have a good photo of Pamela and james so I'm thrilled with this. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Pamela Stephenson in Plaid

One of the treats of this years Strictly tour was working with the very lovely Pamela Stephenson. A consummate professional and delightful person. So I was happy to oblige when she asked if we could make a slight alteration to her costume for the Scottish dates on our tour. 

Being married to Scottish comedian Billy Connolly for many years she has a big connection with the country and they have a home there. To accompany the white dress above that she wore for her Viennese waltz with James Jordan she wanted a traditional ladies Plaid. This is a sash worn from the right shoulder across the breast and secured with a celtic brooch.  the sash was one of Pamela's own in her family's tartan. It was a summer version in silk.

I stoned every single small red square with a single red stone. This took about an hour as it was quite big.
We also had a tie for James to wear. Unfortunately my picture of the two of them together has been lost.

The resulting plaid looked stunning on Pamela and I would love to think that it had some part in her winning five of the six shows we played in Glasgow. However I think she would have won anyway the Scots are a canny bunch.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Another suitcase another tour

Spending weeks at a time living out of a suitcase can be very trying. As we are often only in one place for a couple of days, packing is a constant ritual. One of the ways I make this easier is to put my smaller items in individual toiletry bags. This means I can find everything I need in an instant and repack just as quickly.

I have a bag for toiletries needed in the bathroom and those I need on the dressing table. My underwear is split over two bags. My electrical chargers in another and I have a small one for by the bed. This contains an alarm clock, lavender oil, earplugs and night nurse. 

It may all look rather obsessive but it has definitely revolutionized my touring.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


One of my favourite costumes this year is for the professional dancers at the end of act one. They are dancing to Katy Perry's firework. The pink dresses the ladies wear are reminiscent of something Margot Ledbetter might wear in The Good life. With my love of 70's clothing I just adore these. 

Off one shoulder with one pleated sleeve, a full skirt with contrasting gaudettes and an exquisitely stoned floral bodice they are very striking.

The men are dressed in purple tail suits and shirts with black ties.

Our lovely singers have been featured much more this year rather than sitting in the background dressed in black. During this number Hayley even gets to stand on the Judges desk.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Up in arms

One of the great bonuses about my job and constantly working with new people is picking up tips for use in my home life. Vicky Gill who designed the Strictly tour this year gave me a great tip that I want to share with you. 

Many women prefer to keep their arms covered for various reasons so shopping for dresses can be limiting when sleeveless dresses are in style. We made some very simple sleeves to add to a sleeveless dress for one of our singers. 

With the fabric at double thickness, the fold is on the right of this picture we cut a simple rectangular shape. A rough armhole shape at the top right corner and a curve at the bottom left corner. We used a Georgette which needed hemming but you could use a non fraying fabric and lessen the amount of sewing.

After hemming the edges the sleeve was hand sewn to the armhole of the dress with the opening at the top shoulder seam.

We then put a couple of stitches near the shoulder, elbow and wrist. To finish off I put a glossy button as decoration on the elbow and a small elastic loop for the finger.

Voila a glamourous and easy sleeve.

An even easier sleeve would be the shape below.

Sew with the opening at the bottom and just let it drape. The only measurement you need is from your shoulder to wherever you want the sleeve the finish. 

Sorry I don't have any before pictures there really wasn't any time.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Mrs Suds in the Laundry room with the pliers

 One of the things about touring that often surprises people is that we take washing machines on the road. On this tour we have two, one is a regular domestic machine the other a larger American style toploader. Some venues have their own machines and we use these too when possible. 

Wembley arena
london 02

Our machines are the ones in the black cases on wheels.
These venues were never designed for our kind of show and often are sports arenas so hand-washing is a challenge. We have a spinner but few places have a decent size sink. We often wind up in the toilets with small sinks, awkward taps and no space to swing a cat.

London 02
Here are two of my wonderful assistants, Bryony and Esra hand-washing thousands of pounds worth of dresses in a shower room at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast

To make up for the small sinks we bought a large plastic bin, perfect for large items. some of which can only be partly washed. We also have to be careful drying the costumes. We tour a large hotbox but found that some of the moulded bra cups loose their shape when put in there so we drip dry most things and hurry the process on with a hairdryer if it is going too close to show time. 

Our trusty hot box for drying items that can not be tumble dried, which is most of our costumes!