Have you made a textiles related film that you would like to share with us for the Selvedge Film Festival? Read on for an excerpt of The Graft Behind the Glamour from Issue 73 Decorative for some inspiration and find out how to enter at the end of the article.
Among the cache of special pleasures that textile enthusiasts enjoy is the delightful experience of soaking up every single detail of historically inspired costumes worn by characters on the stage, television and big screen.
Period set series especially, such as Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge, as well as the likes of the Medieval-ish fantasy blockbuster Game of Thrones provide wall to wall opportunities for such sensory soakage. Moreover, as the textile focused eye is sensitive to colour, cloth, embellishment and detail, it will of course luxuriate in absorbing the elaborate, complicated and – well, rather exciting clothes of known or imagined pasts. In the hectic and time-pressed lifestyles of today there is rarely time for anything other than practical, comfort driven and casual down-dressing: but sky-high audience figures for costume dramas betray our yearning for old school glamour and style.
Conceiving the very costumes that enthral and transport us is the task of costume designers, who must interpret and support the director’s vision so that the characters and narrative of any production are utterly believable. As one might imagine this is quite a big job: so the actual realisation, or making of costumes is done by teams of experts at specialist companies who work with designers on the ‘page to stage’ process. Cosprop is one of these magical organisations where, in a vast building, tucked behind a modest North London shopfront, comprising period costume storage halls and studios that the business of pattern cutting, dyeing, hand sewing, embroidery and embellishment, shoe making, millinery, and the peculiarly named 'breaking down’ takes place. Once through the door and successfully past Cosprop’s receptionist’s very polite but firm gatekeeping, a clutch of treasure in the guise of displayed costumes occupies the small exhibition area. This little gallery is dominated by a fabulous and noisy ostrich feather topped, scarlet spangle-fest showgirl costume sported by one of Mr Selfridge’s glamorous squeezes in the eponymously named drama series; but alongside it other quieter and beautifully embellished pieces hold their ground.
For example, an elegant and subtly complex costume worn by Eddie Redmayne’s character Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl, demonstrates the very clever results of the relationship between designer, production team and actor. To narrate the transition of Redmayne’s character from masculine to feminine, costume designer Paco Delgado gradually softened the silhouette from sharp, starched and corseted menswear to draped, fluid and lightly decorated women’s dresses and ensembles. One such dress, a deepened Wedgewood blue silk adorned with fine, fan pleated panels to the hips, and medallions of Modernist embroidery is typical of the work that John Bright, the Managing Director of Cosprop is famed for.
Costume designers know that they can go to John with an idea and that in all probability, he will whip out some original panel, hand-beaded set of cuffs, embroidered yoke, or even a scrap of handmade lace from his special box of treasures that will form the basis from which an entire garment is created. In fact, the medallions decorating Redmayne/Elbe’s dress are part reproduced, part originals, and along with an original pleated panel they informed the overall design of the costume, right down to the hand-dyed, exactly matching buttons...
Read the rest of the article, written by Nicola Donovan for Issue 73 Decorative, here: The Graft Behind the Glamour, the art of dressing drama with Cosprop.
We're looking for submissions for the Selvedge Film Festival 2021. Have you made a film about textiles? We'd love to see your creations! Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.