Attending a play or musical is more than just admiring what is on the stage. There is a whole team behind the scenes that puts these shows together and works day in and day out to put something spectacular on stage. The Grand Theatre in London is no exception as months before the actors hit the stage, a team of designers, wardrobe cutters and tailors begin piecing together costume after costume in hopes of creating an eye-catching show.
The wardrobe department is a crowded room on the second floor of the Grand Theatre with racks of clothing everywhere and tables with fabric sprawled out all over the place. It is a room where creativity bursts at the seams. Experienced wardrobe cutter, Kathryn Sherwin says her creativity and passion for costuming started at a late age, “I’ve always loved costuming. I didn’t get to see a real play until I was in grade 11 and that was late and once I saw one, I liked it.”
Starting from a mannequin to a real-life fitting, the process of creating these costumes takes months of hard work and it is not as glamorous as you might think. It can take up to 40 hours to create just a tailored suit jacket. This is why the wardrobe department is already in production of creating costumes for plays starting in April.
The Grand Theatre’s tailor, Julia Nellum says there is almost always a miscommunication with the starting sketch, “We start with the designer who does the sketches for us and then from there we take it and talk with the designer, because most of the sketches don’t have backs on them, so then we figure out exactly what they want.”
Sometimes they will even proceed with cutting the fabric before doing a fitting with the performer, “Then Kathryn will draft a pattern from that and she’ll cut it out either in a mock up if it’s a difficult thing or a difficult pattern to work with, and then we’ll sew that together and fit it if we have time, and if not we’ll just show it to the designer to make sure everything is working the way we want it to,” Nellum says.
If the costume is complicated enough, they may have to do up to 3 fittings before stitching the fabric to make sure it is exactly what they want, “It then it goes on stage as a tech dress and then it’s smooth sailing for there,” Sherwin adds.
When asked what her favourite costume was to create, Sherwin always has the same answer, “It’s always the last costume or what I’m currently working on. There’s always something in each show that I love and we’re always proud of our work.”