Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Tudor Lord's Costume Fabrics

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember the Tudor Lady's costume I finished last summer for the Much Hadham Forge Museum. You can see a photo of it here and read in more detail about the making process through posts tagged "Much Hadham Forge Museum". This costume was an interpretation of the outfit of one of the courtiers (thought to be Lord and lady Kytson) in an amazing wall painting from c.1576, which is available to view at the museum. It is an amazing treasure, I really do recommend you pay a visit to see this incredible piece of history up close.

Cristina and Nollie at the Forge Museum have asked me to continue this project and complete the pair by making the man's costume! I am so excited to get the chance to make a Tudor Lord's costume, and expand on my growing knowledge of 16th Century clothing. I learnt so much on the journey of making the Lady's costume and developed many technical skills in the process. Now that I am in my second year of my costume course at LCF I am sure that I can make this costume even better, and most importantly a lot quicker! I have much more experience - I know what I'm doing now (well, at least I think so!) - and if the makers I met at the Metropolitan Opera can make a full costume in less than a week, surely I can do mine in four weeks!?

So this will be my project during the Easter break, which started yesterday. This morning I went fabric shopping and here is what I came back with - I'm really happy with the choices, and I think they will look fantastic together. Most of the fabric is bought from A-One on Goldhawk Road, but the beautiful gold brocade and rusty velvet are antique fabrics from Meg Andrews, Antique Costume and Textiles, who I was interning with throughout the Autumn Term last year.

The doublet sleeves are visible under the jerkin. On the painting you can see that they are striped, so I will be using a luxurious shiny striped silk. Both the right and wrong sides of this fabric are really effective - I'm not sure which I will use just yet!! The jerkin over the top (I will make the jerkin and doublet sleeves together into one piece) is black with dramatic slashes. I have chosen a plain black silk, which I will mount to give it some stiffness. I found a great velvet with in a striking black and orange-gold, which I will use to trim the doublet to echo the colours of the trunk hose. That's the technical term for puffy tights! Trunk hose are the fashion that developed in the years between slashed hose and full breeches. The hips balloon out with full, slashed fabric and the bottom half of the thigh are tight like hose bet constructed like the breeches you see coming into the 17th/18th centuries. The puffy sections are also known as slops. These will be made out of the wonderful brocade fabric, trimmed with gold silk. The canions, or breeches-like part will be rusty red thick velvet. Under these are stockings. I will also make a ruff and cuffs trimmed in rusty red. Oh and a feathered hat, although he has it in his hand in the painting! How fabulous is that ostrich plume?!

I am so excited to start piecing these wonderful fabrics together! Keep an eye out for photos of my progress on here, Twitter or Facebook. And I'll share my research as I go along too - I'm finding some wonderful references, especially in the book "Tudor Costume and Fashion" by Herbert Norris...

To learn more about the incredible wall paintings that are inspiring this Tudor costume, you can visit the Much Hadham Forge Museum in Hertfordshire: www.hadhammuseum.org.uk

Saturday, 8 March 2014

"Die Fledermaus" @ the Metropolitan Opera

While at the Metropolitan Opera doing an internship in the costume department, I was lucky enough to see quite a few performances. The first one was the Met's brand new production of "Prince Igor", a Russian opera with an unusually HUGE chorus. My first week everyone was busy getting those costumes ready for delivery for the dress rehearsal. safe to say, everyone seemed pretty stressed and I definitely felt thrown in the deep end! But that was the best way to learn and now I wouldn't swap those really difficult moments for anything.

One evening I went with my cousin and auntie to see "Die Fledermaus". I got tickets with my company discount - how fancy! - and we had great seats! Right in the middle of the stalls!

This production of "Die Fledermaus" directed by Jeremy Sams was a new one, produced by the Met with a contemporary, wide audience in mind. Featuring a new English libretto and fabulous designs, this production was sure to be a hit with it's audience both in New York and cinemas all over the world.

Personally, this is my favourite stage production I have ever seen. Ever. It was incredibly beautiful and from the moment the curtain was raised, I was so inspired to design again. Not that I was doubting my love for design, but I had been feeling a little stuck and uninspired lately - seeing this show completely refreshed and re-motivated me. The whole production is an excellent example of opera as an art form - wonderful text, singing, design. The complete opposite of the stereotype of opera as something classical, snooty or for an older audience. What made this even more inspiring for me was that I got to talk briefly with Irene Bohan, Assistant to the designer Robert Jones for this production. Irene was also at the Met while I was there, working on "Werther", which I got to see in final dress.

This version of "Die Fledermaus" is set in Vienna on New Year's Eve, 1899. Act I takes place at Eisenstein's apartment, Act II at the grand ball hosted by Count Orlofksy and Act III in the jail. Take a look at some photos, and if you ever get the chance to see this production I highly recommend it!

"I think the audience has to experience the spectacle of going to that party. Prince Orlofsky is incredibly wealthy and he would say to everyone, You’ve got to wear black and gold. It’s a theme party. So it’s incredibly opulent. "- Robert Jones


Aren't these dancer suits so clever? Nude coloured stretch with subtle sparkle! Amazing by themselves, but even more striking in contrast to the intricate and luxurious 19th Century ballgowns worn by the many guests. I really like the mix of performance types in grand scale operas - singing, acting and dancing! It provides a lot of scope for costume designs... As does the huge Met stage, as you can see below!

And for the designers out there, a few sketches and set models to inspire you too! (by Robert Jones)

For more photos of this fantastic production, have a look at the Met Opera's online archive: "Die Fledermaus" (210)

Part 3 - New York City and Metropolitan Opera Internship Diary

My internship at the Metropolitan Opera Costume Department was one of the best learning experiences I could ask for. The opportunity came at the perfect time for me and I learnt more on this adventure than I could have learnt anywhere else - not just about the running of a costume workshop, but also more personal skills, an understanding of myself, my confidence, values and aspirations. I have developed a definite understanding of where I want to be in the future in terms of my career, and the best way to get there. Seeing the work of fantastic designers who travel across the globe to create beautiful productions was so inspiring and has cemented by desire to become a costume designer, rather than a maker.

I'd love to give an insight into this wonderfully inspiring experience. Although I wasn't able to take my own photos of the workshop and the work I was doing, here are a few photos of the workroom from a NYTimes.com feature. These photos show the making and fittings of Lisette Oropesa's costumes for Nanetta in "Falstaff". Although this opera was not being performed while I was in New York, one of the first projects I was given was to organize the costume bibles for this show, ready to follow the show as it travels. Costume bibles are binders (usually bursting!) full of designs, reference images, fabric swatches and dressing notes. Looking through bibles is an excellent way to get to know a show!

The workroom at the Opera House is divided into three parts - the men's side, ladies' side and production in the middle. I was part of the production section, so it was my role to assist supervisors, assistants, shoppers, stock team. The whole building was bustling and the costume shop in particular was always full of very busy people! The fast pace at which things were done and costumes made was amazing - I will definitely need to keep that in mind next time I make a costume!

Ladies' workroom, photo from Troy Media:

 Every department that makes up the Met Opera, from Scenic Arts to Marketing, is based in the Lincoln Center building. Thousands of people work behind the scenes, over 10 floors just behind the stage itself. Behind the stage door it's like a completely new world, kept secret from the mesmerised audience sat in the house. I felt like a character from my favourite childhood books, hopping from one world to another through a magic door, as I slipped through the disguised doorway to the side of the stage from public auditorium, through a dark passage, finding myself in the huge backstage space. The atmosphere of a theatre is a truly special one - it's that feeling of creating something magical for the audience that I love so much!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

New York City Diary Part 2 - MoMA

So much for the weekly updates, right?! I have been so busy with my internship and filling up my time in New York City that I have barely had a chance to open my laptop! I'll start where I ended on my last post...

On my second day in New York, I spent the afternoon at the MoMA. I first visited it two and a half years ago and loved it for its range of artwork, styles and mediums. Over the past Autumn and Winter, an exhibition has been on there exploring the work of production designer for film, Dante Ferretti.

Ferretti has worked on over 50 feature films since starting his career in 1959. The exhibition showcased some of his most striking screen work alongside beautifully intricate set drawings and plans. Through Ferretti's show-reel we were able to see how the craft of production design for screen has developed over the last 60 years, with the arrival of visual effect technology. Alongside projections of film clips, drawings and photographs, some actual set pieces were also on show.

The exhibition trail (it is set over three floors) begins with a huge clock from Hugo (2011). I loved Hugo for its costume design, production design, score and cinematography... everything came together to create a magical and warm world you would be desperate to sink into. Ferretti's work is the perfect recipe of historical detail and contemporary boldness, combined to create a fantastically theatrical world that is still completely believable. Here are a few stills from Ferretti's films - make sure you watch if you haven't already!

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Gangs of New York (2002)
Hugo (2011)
Filming for Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
More information at MoMA.org