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!
This 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.
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.
I 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.
I 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.
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!
Due to the mish mash of fabric sections I had to separate the back 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 pattern which I am now familiar 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!
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!