Final Year Project Thoughts…

Uni Work

For our Final Major Project next year we get to choose our own texts, themes and era which is so exciting, if not a little daunting to think of how much work it will entail.

I have been living the high life this year; with no one to say I am doing something wrong or chasing me up for more work. I have been able to let me imagination flow and able to do whatever I want, go where I am drawn. So, yes, I am apprehensive about next year but the prospect of doing my own thing is really keeping me going.


So far I have a few interesting ideas bubbling around in my brain – they are all books, not sure why, but since I love reading, my bookshelf was my first port of call. There are some old favourites in this collection but I have also been drawn to particular styles of writing and stories which have captured my imagination – and this is as good a place as any to write down my thoughts on the potential projects, and just smooth out some ideas before I start properly planning my pitch and research to my tutors.

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IMG_2144‘Love In The Time Of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is an old family favourite, the beautiful way the stories are written and intertwine, the feelings portrayed through sumptuous words and the gorgeous descriptions have made me want to research more about the history behind Marquez’s novel. There has been a film version made already but I feel it could easily be made into another one as there is so much to draw from. Additionally, since this is set in a fictional town in the Caribbean it would allow me to research into different cultures and fashions but also to be creative and imaginative because there is no reason to say exactly what they would have worn. Set around the turn of the century, I can really imagine this strange mix of cultures and clashing fashions, especially after the main lady returns from a honeymoon in Europe. After rereading this fabulous novel I would love to turn it into an opera – there is certainly a strong atmosphere of tragedy, of melancholia and fear throughout which contrast with the elated passions and different loves portrayed. This perfect juxtaposition often approached through operatic means and I feel this story could only benefit from that sort of injection. I want to do something nice, some thing beautiful, some thing poetical.

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IMG_2153‘Blood and Beauty’ by Sarah Dunant is a historical novel, inspired by tales of the Borgia family and their rise to power in Italy in the 14th Century. Similar to Mantel’s work, she draws on fact to inspire fictitious scenes showing another side of the Borgias and the way history has been told. I love the era and the fact that it is set in a different country will give me more to research. Italy is such a gorgeous country; there will be lots of inspiration to be taken from the architecture as well. I know there has been a TV series about the Borgias but I think I would want to make a historically accurate film, possibly just focusing on their rise to power because it could go on and on, there is so much to use and draw upon. The gorgeously rich fabrics would give me a chance to develop my embroidery skills and use different materials together to create the look of expensive garments. The director would have to be someone who could command this gripping and exciting atmosphere but who also understands the benefit of understatedness, simplicity and misdirection…?

 } Having read other books and stories I know feel that this story has been pushed into the background a tad, and when reflecting on this gripping historical novel, I feel some of the other ones I have given as examples are much more gritty, deep and exciting for me in terms of research – perhaps it is because they are too well-known a historical figures for me to allow my imagination to be let loose…as much as I enjoyed the read, I feel I would be restricted with the designing due to the history.

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IMG_2152‘Steppenwolfe’ written by Herman Hesse takes the reader on a psychological journey, following the protagonist as he wrestles with the wolf inside him – a fantastically dazzling novel, typical of the time and Hesse’s philosophical work. I love it and think the story could be excellent performed as a ballet because this for would show the physical and mental conflict in the minds of the characters. It would have to be dark and mysterious, not unlike the Don Juan ballet I researched last year – physical theatre, simple costumes and expressive. It would be exciting and interesting to set this piece out of comfort zones – the contrast with Harry Haller and his alter ego would be vicious, dark and shocking. There could be some bold textures going on throughout the cast, contrasting colours to make it visually interesting and conflicting…almost trying to create Haller’s mind for the audience to see and be immersed in. I suppose it would be great if I could get a placement at the Northern Ballet to help me understand more about how dance productions work…

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IMG_2151I would love to produce a Shakespeare play – I have always been incredibly fond of his plays and poetry but I have not found one which I feel I could put my heart and soul into and make it original – I feel more reading and research behind some of the stories is necessary before I can make a proper judgement or proposal. I have always loved ‘Twelfth Night’ because it was the first Shakespeare play I read, however, I really do not like the idea of bringing the story, or any of his tales for that matter, up to date. I feel it would take away from the original meanings written in to the heart of his yarns. Nothing could beat Baz Lurhman’s modern ‘Romeo and Juliet’, so why try!? Perhaps a historically accurate Shakespearian play would be good to produce – meticulously detailed and rich. Especially since I am to be honoured with a placement at RSC, I might be able to get some inside detail and inspiration…

 } At the moment, I am leaning slightly away from the idea of studying a Shakespeare play for my final project, simply because I love them so much I would not able to choose one which I could give my all to without the fear of ruining it in my mind – also, I feel they have been a little over done in the past…perhaps leaving them in the glory they were written in is best for me at the moment – but I refuse to rule it out completely!

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IMG_2154‘I Capture The Castle’ by Dodie Smith is an innocent, sweet yet gripping novel set in the 1930s. The way it is written draws the reader in and I could hardly bare to put it down because I knew something else was going to happen. It tells the story of an interesting family living in an old castle and what happens to them – it’s a kitchen sink drama and very lovely! I think there could a be a lot of scope with contrasting the fashion of that period with the fantastical twist Cassandra puts on her world – I would not necessarily be tied down by conventional costumes as this is not a conventional family; they are poor but proud and therefore their outfits would affected and odd but fun! There is also a medieval feel to the story (possibly since they live a castle!) but this could be brought through to emphasise their eccentric-ness and individual-ness.

 } This has become one of my all time favourite novels…ever…I mean, I hated the idea of it ending and the characters leaving my life, especially because it was so true to life, so perfect for those people in the pages, almost too perfect! Possibly because I like it so much, I am less inclined to study it for my final year project in case I end up ruining it for myself. Or perhaps I could really enjoy it but I feel in my gut that there is not enough grit and originality in the book to sponge a whole year out of it…I think this one needs a bit more thought put into it…

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IMG_2147‘Things To Come’ by H.G. Wells was written in the style of a film script, based on ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ (an earlier novel) which is a look into the future for mankind and the things which may come to test us. It is futuristic but, as Wells states in the Introduction and his letter to his creative team, believable, splendid, and beautiful. He is quite specific about things he does and does not want to see his characters wearing – which could help me a lot when it comes to designing as it will be like having a director there; Wells says ‘people will not be plastered over with gadgets…carry the equivalent of a purse, pocket book, fountain pen, watch, etc…unobtrusive…they will not wear costumes of cellophane illuminated by neon lights’ by this we can see he wants to take a realistic approach to the future. He also says ‘I anticipate the costume, broad on the shoulders and fine about the legs and feet, with a fairly simple coiffure, more reminiscent of “Tudor” style…fine materials we want but not extraordinary materials’ this simple idea could make this into a really fab film as it would be a different take on the future of our race and since it is slightly based on historical costumes I think I would be alright with these silhouettes to base my designs on. Wells has a clear idea for his main character, Cabal, ‘I want a white or silver costume of very pure material…a fine gentleman, not a padded lunatic or an armoured gladiator’, he also suggested that cloaks would not be ineffective, additionally, long skirts for the women would be aesthetically pleasing for the dramatic new world.

“For God’s sake let yourselves go” but remember, fine clothes, please; not nightmare stuff, not jazz…being inventive and original is not being extravagant and silly. Fine clothes and dignified clothes, please, for this new world’ – this feels to me as if Wells has an almost too clear a view of what the world should be like and this film is his way of bringing it to life – does he despise this world so much that he has to create another one? Or can he simply see a brighter future for us?

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IMG_2145‘Three Weeks’ by Elinor Glyn is a fairly unknown novel by a forgotten writer but famous of her time – the mistress of a lord who had time on her hands but the outcome is this beautiful love story in which we follow a pair of star-crossed lovers across Europe to escape who is tracking them. We are drawn into the beauty of the landscapes and the intrigues of the people involved with this love affair – they all seem very real when one reads Glyn’s work. It would make a truly lovely film, a tragic costume drama with thrills and romance – set in the early 1900s against stunning modern and exciting scenery, the costumes would be sumptuous, elegant and full of characteristic detail – a bit like the modern Anna Karenina film. And completely capture that era’s grace and luxury for the upper classes.

 } On reflection, I think this is the one I most likely not to present because although I adore the story, the characters and cloud-like feeling of love and happiness but also reality I get what I read it, I do not feel there are enough interesting aspects which are original and unique enough for me to spend a whole year researching and designing for it – therefore, I will keep this novel to myself, to my bookshelf and to my heart.

‘South Pacific’ Saint Mary Players

Construction, Volunteering

A few years ago I assisted backstage with the costumes for the St Mary Player’s production of ‘Sweeney Todd’ and had such an amazing time with the lovely cast, helpful crew and community atmosphere.

Because of this I got back in touch when I know I was going on Placement to offer my services if they needed me. This year the company are producing ‘South Pacific’ – a musical I had never heard of until now.

They are doing a mixture of making and hiring of costumes for this production as it is easier to alter things you have made, without the fear of damaging them and then having to pay for them – and it often works out cheaper.

However, for the uniforms, such as nurses, etc, they are hiring them in order to achieve the correct look for the chorus.

Leanda, one of the Players who has always had a hand at crafts and making clothes took on the job of sorting out all the costumes and has done an amazing jobs finding odds and ends to work together to create a spectacular set of costumes. However, because there are a few bits still to make, she has offered some costumes to make for her – thus taking some weight off her shoulders and getting my hand back in the costume world!

IMG_2108This is the pattern Leanda supplied me with for Liat (one of the main native girls and love interests in the musical) and wanted me to make two tops from the pattern and alter an old skirt, which was used in a production a few years ago, into a pair of trousers – since the actress has a lot of sitting and lying down scenes she thought it would be better to have trousers.

So I got started with the curtain material, which had been found at a charity shop and is a gorgeous pale pink with a floral brocade pattern – perfect for this kind of top.


Front, complete with button fastening.




And this is the outcome – I am very pleased with it! I have to confess that I do not usually use patterns so this task really tested my patience and ability to follow directions. However, now I know what I am doing with all the small pattern pieces the next one should be a lot easier.




Here are some photos of the second top for Liat in construction – see what I mean about all the little pieces, all the facings, the interfacing made it confusing but I muddled through and have to agree the facings make the whole garment a lot neater.

I feel in my gut that these two tops are slightly on the small side so I open out the side seams as much as possible and think I’ll wait till I have a fitting with the actress and if more space is needed the back seams can be opened.












Now, for the trousers I took out the side zip and stitched up the seam, making it a complete skirt which I could feed elastic through the waistband so that it will be more comfy for the actress and hopefully be used in future productions.

I then opened up the front and back seams, leaving about 6″ together.

IMG_2110I then used the pattern given to create small pattern pieces of my own for the part which fits through the legs and gets sewn to the opposite side of the skirt – if I did not include these pieces of fabric it would have made the trousers tighter around the crotch and uncomfortable.

Then I simply attached the new pieces inside the front and back seams so that I had essentially 4 sections of trouser legs hanging from a waistband.

IMG_2111I then stitched up the two legs and turned it inside out to attach the whole thing together – this proved the most fiddly and tricky part of the construction as I had to make sure that all the seams were caught at the top of the trousers and that no fabric was caught in the new crotch seam.

So…it worked! Phew – and here are the 3/4 length throusers, with enough bulk to make them look like skirt when standing or sitting.


I am currently working on a modern strap top to go with the trousers – Leanda provided me with a matching jacket as well as the skirt so hopefully I will have enough to complete the top out of the odds and ends from making the trousers.IMG_2159

It was a bit tricky to see how it would all work so I decided to take the safer options along the way to constructing the modern top. Therefore, I created a pattern using the New Look pattern to give the correct sizing (I chose to make a size 14 so there should be no concern about it fitting!) then made it up in calico so I could see how it all fitted and worked together; then cut off the neckline and armholes to create patterns for the facing needed – so I felt very clever!

IMG_2165 Due to the mish mash of fabric sections I had to separate the IMG_2167back panel and create an upper back panel  which could have fastening, akin to the Chinese style tops, with buttons and loops – so I made the best of a tricky situation and it worked in my favour.

Everything else went smoothly and it definitely helped using a IMG_2169pattern which I am now fIMG_2168amiliar with. There are a few odd seams from the original jacket but I think that adds more interest to a pretty basic garment.

The facing worked well and it was definitely worth while (it felt like I was on The Sewing Bee, top stitching the facing to make them lie flat inside the top).


I went over to Page Hall where the Player’s were conducting their rehearsals to show Leanda and Anne what I had made for them and they were very pleased – I was also able to see them on the actress playing Liat and it was quite a shock to see them actually being worn! They were very appreciative and I received a sweet card and a very thoughtful crafty book which I have already started taking inspiration from!

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I’m really pleased with my efforts and the outcome of the 26 hours I put into the costumes; these were the first items made for a brief and I am so happy to be on the ladder of costume making and cannot wait to do it again!