For my first graduate project I chose Brambly Hedge, a very special story to me in my childhood, written and illustrated by Jill Barklem in 1980. Brambly hedge is about a community of mice who live in the hedge, an idyllic spot where old values flourish and self-sufficiency is the order of the day. My main project aim was to bring the story to life as a theatre production with sustainability in mind using second hand and natural materials. The main style influences of this project was the natural world and the Regency period and by using these classic silhouettes I created highly textiled and striking designs that mirror the characteristics of mice but keep them in their human form. From this project the costume I chose to make was Lord Woodmouse, ruler of the hedge and father to Primrose who the narratives follow.
In the Brambly Hedge book series there are eight wonderful stories covering the four seasons and each have their own themes and pallets of the season. I chose autumn to design as my project because of the genial motifs and warm colour palette. The brambles and autumnal colours really compliment the fact that I created it with natural fabrics and dyeing techniques as I used berries, flowers and spices to dye some of the parts of my costume. A main feature within the stories is the storing and preserving of berries and fruits and I made sure to reflect this in using them for dyeing as I believe the mice would have done within the hedge. My production objectives for this production is that it is to be performed in Epping forest as this is where author Jill Barklem grew up and imagined her setting of brambly hedge. It is a special area of conservation and is well loved for its unspoilt and beautiful expanse of woodland. I designed my set of brambly hedge to be performed within the forest as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the books but also to raise awareness and funds for climate change and deforestation of land. I therefore only designed the costumes from natural, recycled and second hand fabrics as well as natural dyeing techniques and using locally and sustainably sourced fabrics such as wool and tweed woven in Scotland and Yorkshire. The natural aesthetic of brambly hedge complimented the designs of these hedgerow creatures as they look as though they belong in the hedgerow.
For the choice of period and style, Jill Barklem created the mice of brambly hedge with quite an eraless look but after contacting the team at brambly hedge I discovered the main influence for these stories was the regency period. I love the silhouettes of this era and wanted to really call upon it in my designs. I kept the classic silhouettes of the era with exaggeration to shapes and styles such as high collars for the men and oversized bonnets for the women. In regards to the textiles for the fabrics I created highly textural fabrics and layering of different mediums. I incorporated the textures of nature such as the scaliness of tree bark, wispy grass and the plump berries of autumn.
Each character has their own motif and style within their costumes as they all have their own places and jobs within the hedge itself. They are all connected through their costumes with the use of exposed seams on the outer garments. The seams are then brushed to look like imitations of fur poking through. I tried to bring to life the characters of Brambly Hedge as quite humanlike. They have padded areas of clothing around the legs and stomach to just change their shape slightly. Included in the textiles of the fabrics are hints of fur tufts poking through. They also have felted ears included on their headpieces.
*Lord Woodmouse wears a textured tweed regency costume including felted and embroidered breaches, patchwork waistcoat, cotton shirt and fully embroidered frock coat with painted veg print lining. He also wears a pumpkin hat with felted leaves, berries and mouse ears. He carries a handkerchief that is printed with my hand painted map of Brambly Hedge.*
For my second project I wanted to pick a 20th century piece and costume it with precise historical accuracy. I came to chose Lady Chatterley’s Lover as the historical impact is very pertinent that I hoped I could bring a different view on the costumes of this adaptation. Originally a book by DH Laurence, Lady Chatterley’s lover was published in 1928 and at the time was an extremely controversial story about sex, lust and love. The full uncensored copy was not allowed to be published in England until it went to trial under the accusation of it being to obscene. Although it was very forward and ahead of its time reading it now it reflects rather outdated perceptions. Therefore my concept for this project was to view it from more of a feminist lens. It highlights the power of women’s sexuality in the modern age.
My design objective for this project is that I set it as a film in the original era post first world war and with historically accurate costuming. I took this strong themes of women and added in the suffragette movement to this story so as Connie’s character develops I want to her to support women’s suffrage. The suffragette movement was occurring at the same time this book was being written and actually the year of publish and the date of women actually getting the vote is the same year of 1928!
I started Lady Chatterley’s costumes as light coloured and plain and rather boring with symbols of innocence and virtue and as the story continues I made her costumes deeper, more embellished and with stronger signs of power. I didn’t want to darken her costume to show she is being ‘sullied’ or becoming ‘impure’ but instead cover her in symbols of power and like she is in control of her life and her fate. It has very strong themes of interclass relations which was extremely taboo back then. I want to portray the class divide which is what made this book such a shock of its time. It starts with a real class divide and then the costumes become more blurred.
The costume I decided to make from this project was Lady Chatterley’s final ball gown. I designed the fabric from watercolours I painted with the colours of women’s suffrage. The watery design reflects the stream where she meets Mellors for their affair. She is covered in beading and signs of strength all in the suffrage colours of purple, green and white. She even sports a votes for women rosette at the final ball to create shock within the upper echelons.
*Lady Chatterley wears a 1920s evening gown with silk printed from watercolours done in the women’s suffrage colour scheme. It has beaded elements on the under slip and beaded 1920s motifs on the hip. She carries a fully beaded bag and a pearl half skull cap all made from beads that tie them together. She also sports a women’s suffrage rosette worn to shock in her surroundings.*