While in Europe I stopped to meet a friend “Matthew John”, who is directing a Victorian Period Drama version of “Hedda Gabler”.
The project is an extremely low budget South West Based film, supported by arts benefactors such as George Furgeson (Tobacco Factory), Raij Sinclair (Property Developer), Margarita Hamilton (Walton Castle) and various local based businesses.
While in the UK I stopped by the Victorian Gothic Manor which they are using as a location and production office, to discover a mass of Victorian costumes being designed and constructed by a busy team of designers and seamstresses.
Due to the precarious/unknown future of the film the producers and directors were reluctant to let me cover the story, however I was not going to let this golden opportunity slip by, and with my instant charm managed to secure an interview and photos of some of the costumes.
As you can see by the photos in this article the costumes are amazing in every aspect - in design, fabric and colour. And these were the least grand of the collection.
I took some time to interview the director to find out some crucial information.
Celia: How much of a role do you have with the costume department, and if so where do you get your ideas and research?
Matthew John: I think, hope I am fairly involved with the design process. Before the design team was created I had sourced various ideas/inspirations from books, internet and other movies. I also found that the most useful avenues were paintings and photographs of various royal members of the Victorian era. The real designing and changing of designs came as a team effort. Not only with the costume designers, but also the fabric designer Kathryn Thompson.
Celia: How important are the costumes to the film?
Matthew John: Extremely. Couldn’t be more important. I wanted the production to be extremely lavish. Sometimes I can get a bit too lavish and the costume team need to reign me in, as the costumes need to be historically correct.
Celia: What have been the highs and low of the project?
Matthew John: Highs are definitely seeing the talent that goes into the project - we have a lot of recent graduates and young people on the project - and seeing the costumes come together. This Era had such amazing dresses with such rich, colourful and lavish designs. The fashion of the era was stunning.
The lows can be the restraints on budget. Yet we have been blessed in so many other ways. For if it wasn’t for the generous donations from The Silk Factory and other people, we wouldn’t have got this far.
After speaking to the director I took the time to speak to Amy Barrett, one of the costume designers of the project.
Celia: Which costume took the longest to complete? Did you have a costume that was more difficult to create than the others?
Amy: We have two evening dresses, which we call the statement dresses. One is yellow with lots of silk flowers cascading over it, and the other is a purple evening dress. The costumes not only need to be stunning, but also suit the two personalities wearing them. These took a long time due to the amount of detail, as we made each and every rose on the yellow dress. Sourcing the fabric is more difficult than you would imagine, as all our material should be historically correct and made from natural fibres, and finding cotton lace now-a-days is difficult and expensive, as it is now generally made from rayon or polyester. We have searched online, charity shops, France, London, high and low, every corner of the world. It is the sourcing of these additional trimmings that has been one of the more time consuming elements of the process.
Celia: What training, knowledge, skills do you need to be able to create historical period drama costumes?
Amy Barrett: I studied theatre design at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where I learnt most of my skills in costume design and making, however I have found that you continue to learn more through experience. The patterns, fashions and construction techniques vary greatly between different eras of costume history. Much of the design and creation process can be found heavily in the research process.
Hedda Gabler is considered one of the world’s greatest dramas. It has been filmed before, but this is the first time it has been shot in HD and with extremely high quality lavish elements which I have seen with my own eyes.
We hope you take the chance to check out the film's website at www.hedda-movie.com, where you can see other photos of the location and crew.
You can also find more info on the bespoke fabric designer Kathryn Thompson at www.thesilkfactory.co.uk
The film is still in pre-production and is continually raising money to help support the production, so I urge you to check it out...
Think 20s and 30s fashion and you'll probably imagine a Prohibition-era speakeasy or maybe a Greta Garbo movie. There will be skirts below the knee, women who wouldn't dream of leaving the house without a hat, and some seriously inconvenient underwear, but despite all that, the leading lights of these decades had a kind of understated sexuality that leaves most modern pin-ups looking decidedly dull.
Back in the days when showing a lot of skin wasn't acceptable, those who wanted to smoulder had to be subtle. They had to work within (or close to) social norms and use cut, fabric, and accessories to suggest rather than expose. And they were good at it- you only have to look at a photo of Marlene Dietrich in her prime to see that less really can be more.
Thankfully, women's knees are no longer considered inflammatory and controversial, but the accessories from this golden age of clever, sexy fashion are making a comeback now. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
Fascinators. Picture a hat. Now take away the hat. What's left- the ribbons, the feathers, the bows, and the other attention grabbing details- are the fascinator. They're popping up all over the place, from pubs and clubs to the last British royal wedding, where the fascinators got almost as many newspaper column inches as the bride's dress.
Despite this royal connection, the Queen of England is a known fascinator-hater. She had them banned from her presence at the 2012 Royal Ascot race meet but don't let that stop you getting involved. There's no call to take fashion advice from a woman who has been wearing matching pastels for the last half-century. Fascinators are great fun and while their star is rising again, wearing one will still get you noticed in a crowd.
Old fashioned stockings. Nylon? No thanks. Vintage-style silk stockings are back with a vengeance. They're sleek, sophisticated and have their own special sheen. You do have to wear them with stocking suspenders or a garter belt but that's no downside. Sure it takes a little longer to get ready but undressing at the end of the night is a whole lot sexier.
As any leg man will tell you, silk stockings are devastating when combined with almost any outfit but for maximum effect, choose a tailored pencil skirt for a severe and sultry look.
Costume necklaces. While there was a huge variety of jewelry available to the women of the 20s and 30s, there is one go-to piece for every fashionable woman- a long beaded chain that could be artfully draped and looped around the neck. The way the beads fell was carefully calculated to ever so subtly emphasis the swell of the breasts and draw the eye to the neckline.
This trick still works just as well today and it's also an excellent way to add colour an interest to an otherwise plain outfit. The ladies of the 20s and 30s favored pearls and semi-precious stones like amber or turquoise for daywear, or even early plastics, but chunky glass beads are also fine.
Jess writes for Corsets-AU.com and Corset-Story.com, two good places to find fascinators and other accessories from outside the box.
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