Costume biblesQuick View
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Costume bibles

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A ‘costume bible' records all the information about all the costumes from a particular production. CostumesNT
Dressing EmilyQuick View
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Dressing Emily

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See Emily Taffee dressed layer by layer in an 18th century costume, as Daphne from Nation. CostumesNT
Period costumes - ResearchQuick View
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Period costumes - Research

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Costume designers and makers will have a range of books and reference materials that they draw on, from old photographs to antique sets of patterns. CostumesNT
Mens' tailoring in the costume workshopQuick View
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Mens' tailoring in the costume workshop

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The type (particularly the weight) of the cloth is an important element in how a costume looks, and it is particularly difficult to source the heavier type of material used in older clothes. CostumesNT
Drafting a patternQuick View
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Drafting a pattern

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Drafting a pattern for a jacket for the production of War Horse. The jacket pattern is taken from an old book of patterns and transposed onto paper. CostumesNT
Costume buyingQuick View
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Costume buying

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As Head Buyer for the Costume Department, Ashley Holtom spends most of her time outside the office, tracking down items of clothing or accessories for costume designers, costume supervisors and other costume department staff. CostumesNT
Period costumes - fabricsQuick View
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Period costumes - fabrics

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The heavier fabric in period men's costumes has all kinds of implications; there is a financial implication, because heavy fabric is difficult to source and more expensive to make. There is also an impact - often positive - on the actor's performance, as they adapt to moving within a costume which may feel very different from, say, a contemporary suit. CostumesNT
Overview of the dye roomQuick View
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Overview of the dye room

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Dyeing fabrics and printing on material of various kinds are two skills at the centre of work in the dye room. The dyers also do a lot of ‘breaking down', or making costumes look as if they have been worn over an extended period of time. CostumesNT
Breaking down costumesQuick View
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Breaking down costumes

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In order for costumes to look realistic onstage, once they have been made they must often go to the dye room to be ‘broken down'. Sometimes they might just be made to look as if they have been worn a little, or in some cases they may be transformed to look as if they have been worn all day on a battlefield. CostumesNT
Buying costumes from vintage shopsQuick View
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Buying costumes from vintage shops

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When Ashley Holtom is out buying items from vintage clothing stores or similar establishments, she has a good deal of responsibility, since many items may not be able to be returned. Camden, Portobello and Covent Garden markets are some of her top destinations. CostumesNT
The costume departmentQuick View
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The costume department

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The costume department at the National expands far beyond the main workroom where the ladies makers and gents tailors make costumes. There's also a dye shop, wig department and costume propmaker. Crucial to the process of putting on shows are the dressers and maintenance staff in the running wardrobes. CostumesNT
Costume realism and detailQuick View
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Costume realism and detail

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The costume makers take great care to make costumes that look exactly like real clothes, even down to details that the audience can't see. This allows the actor to get into character and treat the garments as they would their own clothing. CostumesNT
Dyeing and screen-printing on a dressing gownQuick View
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Dyeing and screen-printing on a dressing gown

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Sometimes it's the case the Costume Department have found a costume with fabric that they like, but which is in a state which means it can't be worn by the actor. Because of this, the dye room is often called upon to replicate patterns on fabric by using techniques such as screen-printing. CostumesNT
Division of labour in the costume workshopQuick View
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Division of labour in the costume workshop

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Ladies makers, mens tailors and alteration hands make up the team in the costume workroom. Karen Smith tries to give her staff a feeling of ownership of a costume by letting them see a piece through from beginning to end, rather than dividing one item of clothing up between numerous colleagues. The division of work between staff members will depend on how many items of clothing for a show are being made from scratch, and how many are alterations of stock items of clothing, or of bought items. CostumesNT
Costume workflow from design through to fittingQuick View
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Costume workflow from design through to fitting

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The costume supervisor is the key liaison point between the costume workroom and the costume designer, but direct contact between the designer and maker really helps everyone to get a good idea of what's required. After the actor's measurements are received at the start of the rehearsal period, patterns and material can be cut and the costume assembled in a provisional form prior to a series of fittings, after which the costume will be assembled in its final form. CostumesNT
Buying costumes on the high streetQuick View
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Buying costumes on the high street

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Many productions at the National have a contemporary design style, so Ashley Holtom will often go shopping at high street stores. While it is easier to return items to this kind of store than it is to take things back to a vintage market, she still often prefers to take a photograph and show it to the costume designer or supervisor before buying. CostumesNT