Thursday, 20 June 2013
FILMS, GET THE PICTURE
Sourcing and providing textiles for films has been an exciting thing in my life. The wardrobe ladies have to find what is required, usually in a very short time, and everything has to be right on the night! The big films with big budgets need a lot of sources and many assistants. They employ scouts to travel the world to find the required items and scour markets, warehouses and junk shops. If there are crowd scenes, and battle scenes, the amount of fabric to make the costumes can be huge - and the clothes worn by the stars which are shot in close-up have to be as accurately near to the originals as possible, including the unseen underwear - so the actors can feel themselves steeped in the period being filmed. If you realise that they often have to have 6 - 12 copies of each outer garment in exactly the same material and trimmings, (because they are washed and cleaned every night,) you can see that the wardrobe ladies' work is not easy, demands a vast budget, and much depends on the 'trade' sources for bulk buys. Also, the garments have to please a great number of people; the various directors, historical experts, the cameramen, the stars themselves and it is always a race to have everything ready for the big shoots. Often some things are elusive and it is a joy if one is able to supply them. This always encourages me to buy oddities of clothing or fabric and sometimes they hit the jackpot and I can enjoy the relief of the scouts! My best 'coup' was to sell half a dozen artists' smocks, circa 1900, long and beautiful in finest linen with exquisite initials by the collars, for the scene painters in Phantom of the Opera, and I had bought them out of an attic only the week before from my favourite French junk dealer (who second -guessed that nuns wore them in their hospital operating theatres! Nuns used to run most hospitals in old France.) I guessed that they were a bit more special than hospital garb and was pleased when they joined the Lloyd Webber props!. Anyway they really were painters' smocks from round about 1900, the real McCoy, and I enjoyed a rush of gratitude from the wardrobe lady who had been in despair to find the right garments, with no previous knowledge of their design.. We could quite imagine the Impressionist greats wearing these long flowing garments, with big black wide brimmed hats, or possibly black berets, striking a pose themselves in front of their easels on the beach at Trouville.or Deauville - The smocks had been stored and found in the attics of a local Normandy chateau and it would have been so interesting to trace the previous owners - but there was no time and I only had them a few days before they were whisked away.