Friday 28 May 2010

Film & T.V

We were asked lately, if we did Film or T.V costume dramas. The answer is no, not a lot! In the past we have been involved in special pieces for a few shows, 'The Prairie House',  'Elizabeth' and the upcoming  'Edwardian Farm' among them, but it's not quite that easy. To be able to do our best Gini has either to be the designer, or to be really in tune with the designer and to be 'reading from the same hymn sheet', so to speak. Imagine, a great friend of ours was 'historical adviser' on a certain film. The designer wanted a British Napoleonic Infantry officer to wear black, because he didn't like red! Now, while there was a certain leeway in officers' dress, if you want to give a decent impression of 'Infantry officer' of the time, red is the only choice. Another problem is time scale, throwing 20 -30 characters into the mix, on what is always a very tight schedule, is not an easy option. - and sometimes a leading actor or actress hasn't been confirmed, so the size to make to is academic until the last minute.

I'm not saying we don't consider some, indeed, we have an enquiry at the moment for a film out of L.A and we certainly see our garments being worn on T.V (about twice a day, on average!). Sometimes it's an actor or re-enactor who specialises in a particular period, sometimes the wardrobe department who has ordered in bulk, sometimes we've clothed a regiment. - even our wedding was televised for Yorkshire T.V (2 x 30 min. programmes for the series 'I Thee Wed'). Just to prove how deadlines work, we had 13 weeks to put on a spectacular wedding, make sure that everyone was costumed, find an historical venue, find 3 chefs,13 serving staff, dress them as well, devise a 'timelined' historical banquet - 11 courses starting with Roman then saxon and ending 9 courses later in Victorian. The web album, if you're interested is here. All this while being filmed and having Claire and Michaels' wedding clothes to produce as they were getting married on the same day!(See photo).

So unless we have a little time to plan, Gini would much rather be 'consultant'!

Friday 21 May 2010

Wool Trade-off!

Most of the materials used in historical clothing are getting harder and harder to find. Decent wools and linens, can nowadays be more expensive than a good silk! How different from most periods in history when wool and linen were the staples of the garment trade.
The make-up of wool has also changed in the last 150 years. Before this time when wool was hand woven, the thread was usually a lot thinner and the thread count, per inch, was a lot greater.  Most coats and uniforms would be made 'raw edged' because this sort of material is far less likely to fray. I wonder what sort of demand there would be for this type of wool today - £150.00 per metre anyone?
That is not the only change in wool through the ages. One of the difficulties in making medieval 'hose' is due to the weave of the wool available. Medieval Hose are cut on the bias and wool today stretches at very different rates than that available in the past. This would mean making a new pattern for every type of wool used.  The original wool made with a mixture of 's' and 'z' ply (in other words, one of the threads was twisted the opposite way), this gave the material incredible stretch - almost as good as lycra! You will notice when you look at medieval paintings that most 'hose' look like they are 'painted on' and that's the reason. Nowadays wool is woven with 's' ply only giving significantly less stretch meaning that it is almost impossible to give a smooth fit that will not tear in movement. This is why Re-enactment is littered with baggy, saggy ill fitting hose.
So, we could have it made. The last time we asked, we worked it out it would cost an investment of £12,500 for a medieval colour palette, - too large an investment when you consider that these are just one of the garments out of the hundreds we produce!
Or we could use material that had a small percentage of lycra. There are two reasons that won't happen.
1. It is dangerous near fires.
2. We expect our clothing to last a decent period of time. Once the hose had been washed a few times the lycra would be washed out and you'd be back to the baggy, saggy, old cloth look again.
Ah well, back to the drawing board!
The picture shows  some decent melton wool!