From period accuracy to stage royalty – Costume Productions’s Ones to Watch 2023
Arts University Plymouth’s BA (Hons) Costume Production degree is an intensive practical programme, developing students to become skilled costume makers and designers for a wide range of careers in the performance industry. From script analysis to character realisation, the arts university’s Class of 2023 graduates have developed their practical and design skills in preparation for successful careers creating for the stage, television and film.
Arts University Plymouth’s Dean of Arts, Design & Media usually selects a student each year to recognise work of outstanding quality, based on the quality of the final work displayed within the Summer Shows. This year for the first time, the Dean selected the entire BA (Hons) Costume Production cohort from the Class of 2023, for a body of work that was described as “exceptional in every way”.
Here’s a roundup of some of the most innovative and ambitious graduates from Arts University Plymouth’s Summer Shows and Class of 2023:
Costume by Teryl McCarthy-Reed
Teryl McCarthy-Reid is a costume interpreter with a background in dance and musical theatre who translates two-dimensional designs into 3D functional costumes. Her passions lie in fabric manipulation and decoration, taking inspiration from designers such as Catherine Martin and Bob Mackie.
Teryl’s final major project is centred around the Vamps sketches from ‘The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour’, which were infamous for bringing historical women to life in a sultry yet comical setting. Teryl has interpreted the redesign of Cher’s Empress Josephine costume. Using beads, gems and motifs to create an ‘over the top’ narrative to the design, she also created appliques and worked with fun to create a costume fit for both an Empress and a pop culture icon.
Costume by Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson is a costume maker and professional cosplayer, showcasing a specialism in leatherwork and embroidery for costumes in the context of TV adaptation, cosplay and stage. Emma painstakingly creates complex embroidery works inspired by TV and film, some taking over 200 hours to complete.
Costumes by Emma Pearson
Emma joined the university to push her long term hobby of costume making to a professional standard. Studying costume allowed Emma to expand her horizons as a costume maker, specialising in her skills as an embroider and goldwork specialist, never limiting herself to a specific pathway into the costume industry. For her final major project, Emma designed and created two embroidery pieces for a television adaption of George R. R. Martins’ ‘Fire & Blood’, inspired by the embroidery for ‘Game of Thrones’ by Michele Carragher and using the novel as her source.
Costume by Megan Smith
Megan Smith is a costume maker, translating 2D designs into wearable garments. Megan has worked on costumes for local theatre company Soapbox Theatre as well as collaborating with fellow student Megan Smith and local drag artists of Plymouth to create costumes for live performances.
Her final major project is a new take on an already-existing design for stage from ‘The Prince of Egypt’ musical, originally designed by Ann Hould-Ward. Due to Megan’s interest in the film industry, she decided to reimagine Queen Tuya’s design for film. As well as using modern technology such as Procreate and Photoshop to replicate and scale the motifs adorned across the original design, Megan also utilised the inhouse print lab facilities at Arts University Plymouth to screen print and heat press gold foil to achieve the regal high quality finish suitable for a queen.
Costume by Freya Holland
Freya Holland is a costume maker whose interest in outfits worn in films and theatre plays a big part of her inspiration as a designer. From an early age, Freya found herself wondering how garments were made and constructed and enjoyed the small details about characters that would be incorporated into them. The costume world is one that encourages Freya’s creativity and imagination to create unique costumes.
Costume by Freya Holland
For her final major project at Arts University Plymouth, Freya created a costume based on the historical figure of Lady Jane Grey, based on Herbert Norris’ 1927 painting of the nine-day queen. Freya said: “The painting itself was based on a contemporaneous account by merchant Baptisa Spinola who witnessed Lady Jane Grey’s procession to the coronation. This garment came with interesting challenges to overcome, such as pattern drafting historical shapes for a modern figure and sourcing contemporary fabrics that still fit with the time period and the painting.”
During her degree Freya regularly collaborated with fellow students, working with Megan Smith to create a Marie Antoinette-inspired drag outfit, as well as supplying costumes for Plymouth-based theatre company Soapbox Theatre. Freya is currently working on the BBC TV series ‘Beyond Paradise’ as a Costume Assistant.
Costume by Rosie Kean
Rosie Kean is a costume designer, chainmail specialist and keen live action roleplayer (LARPer). With a deep rooted love for fantasy and literature as well as an active imagination, she visualises her work in a three dimensional manner, allowing time to focus on every little detail. Having nurtured her passion for immersive theatre experiences and believing in the importance of escapism, Rosie hopes to continue to emphasise this through her work in the film industry.
Rosie’s final major project focuses on her abilities creating chainmail, focussing on a costume that would create a unique silhouette on the wearer. Believing that in many ways we all wear a costume everyday, Rosie also notes how this can not only be a form of expression but also protection from the outside world, donning our clothes much like knights would don their armour.
Costume by Jackie Hall
Jackie Hall is a costume designer based in Plymouth who has taken inspiration from Britain’s Ocean City into her work. Entitled ‘My Medusa’ in reference to the adult phase of a jellyfish, Jackie created a wearable jellyfish and embroidered ‘Britain’s Ocean City’ within the piece, tying it inextricably to Plymouth. Jackie entered the piece into the international costume competition, ‘World of Wearable Art’.
Costume by Jackie Hall
Speaking of her final major project at Arts University Plymouth, Jackie said: “I wanted to challenge my skillset by producing a period piece. A structural opposite to My Medusa. The purpose of De Vita’s design was to take the character from Howl’s Moving Castle and place her in a more period accurate attire. I challenged myself to be as true to the period and her design as I could, while also staying honouring the beloved Ghibli original. I sourced the underpinnings, and then fitted a period shape garment on a contemporary body form. As well as the dress with its complex trim application on the bias, I also made the hat and the stoll, creating a complete practical and true costume interpretation.”
Costume by Holly Barker
Holly Barker is a costumier, illustrator and fantasy enthusiast. She enjoys bringing characters to life, whether that’s through translating a 2D design into a realised costume or by designing costumes herself. Fantasy is her passion, believing escapism should be accessible and relatable to all. Through this interest, Holly channels her hobbies such as live action role playing and tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons as inspiration for her work.
One of Holly’s final pieces takes reference from the ‘Carnival of Curiosities’, creating the character of a handyman turned stuntman. Holly has combined a down to earth attitude of the character with the presence of stage performance, by creating a coat with a large skirt and metallic accents. In her other final major project, Holly drew on her love of fantasy to design costumes from ‘The Final Empire’, the first in the ‘Mistborn’ trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Holly said: “I initially designed five costumes for the character of Vin spanning her narrative arc, but chose to interpret my design from one of the most emotionally climatic scenes. This garment has to be dynamic as during the scene whilst pursued by assassins she removes her dress and bursts through a window, ending up bloodied in her undergarments. This gave me the opportunity to show my skills in not only making the boned dress and extravagant train but the corset and base layers too.”
Costume by Holly Barker
BA (Hons) Costume Production at Arts University Plymouth is now in its tenth year and has an overall student satisfaction rate of 92% (National Student Survey 2022), with students on the course regularly having the opportunity to collaborate with other specialisms on campus including photographers and filmmakers. To find out more, visit the next Arts University Plymouth Open Day on Saturday 30 September, from 10am to 2pm.