Costume Designers have a lot to answer for

Once upon a 2013 a fluffy headed seamstress collaborated with a talented poet lady in a wonderfully friendly museum at the edge of the world and in the centre of Cambridge. And it was magical.

Much later the very same seamstress was given a book, a book which started a train of thought and a bucket full of memories.

It all stated with this little ladybird book, a present from my husband.


As a little girl I loved my ladybird books. I didn’t have this one. I remember I had one on swimming, Journey to the centre of the earth and Thumbelina, I think I also had The elves and the shoemaker, never-the-less I grew up to be a costume designer (rather an an elf or a shoemaker) so this book was love at first sight.

It is very much a product of this time, sweet and funny at the same time.

Just look at these early costumes, what lovely tidy hair and make up ladies, jolly well done!


 And having spent a lot of this year making regency dress, I found this picture most inspiring, I think a stripy 1960s style empire dress may be essential to my future regency projects.


But by far my favorite page in the book is this one on the of the clothes of today, a few points here

– Nice car

-Father is clearly a cad, Don Draper best watch his step, theres a new ladys man in town

– Mother’s trousers may have shocked her great grandparents but I am shocked by her daughter unreferenced hotpants and  devil may care attitude


 This lead me on a whimsical journey not to the centre of the earth but to the internet and what I found is that the project Kaddy and I worked on this year and our next project have both been made into ladybird books, so of course I brought both of them immediately.


 The Snow Queens, inside cover was for me a rush of childhood memories,


 A few points about this version of the book

This Gerda has very simpler taste in hats to both Kaddy and myself


The Snow Queen has a cape which people can get in, much like our snow queen experience


 The little robber girl is a cocky child, but that might just be because is she not stuck in a 1970s nightdress like Gerda, no wonder she’s crying poor dear, that looks itchy and highly flammable.


Kay spends his time with the snow queen much as I will be spending my Christmas break, trying to solve an impossible puzzle, mine is making a map from hundreds of tiny layer cut compasses, made during the project.


Frankenstein is one of one two Ladybird horror books, the other being Dracula


 The most surprising thing about this simplified version of the story is that Victor Frankenstein is played by Bradley Wiggins, wearing his own collection of mod suits.


 Here Bradley appear to talk both to himself and his older self. No wonder the blonde looks confused.


 The monster is based on the classic 1931 film version of Mary Shelley creation.


Here is said monster with his maker Bradley Wiggins, who appears to be off to addition for the role of Sherlock Holmes.


The monster is made from bits of humans. Why then if victor can be so skilled as to give life to assorted lumps of stitched together flesh, does he make such a hash job on the monster? Where would he even find such parts, and why is he green? Did he run out of thread and have to start using bolts?


The blame lies with the films designers


Make up designer Jack Piece created Boris Karloff’s iconic flat headed monster, As well as other monster makeup for Universal Studios. The look took four hours to complete and required collegian, cotton, gum and green greasepaint. Green was used as it looks very pale on black and while film, and this is the reason the monster is frequently hereafter depicted as green. The neck bolts also come from this film, they are in fact electrodes as electricity is used as the life giving force.


The films costume designer was Mae Bruce, she created the poorly fitted suit and huge shoes, also frequently referenced to this day.


 The films monster is still commonly accepted as the visual representation of Mary Shelley’s creation to this day, as this little books shows. And look what else I found while hanging out in the Lego shop.


Merry Christmas Kaddy, enjoy your gifts, I look forward to working with you in 2014


 Your own fluffy headed monster maker

About lholmes4keats

I have worked with Museums across the UK for the last ten years making costumes for exhibitions on everything from The Titanic to Tyrannosaurs. I have Run workshops and lectures on costume both nationally and internationally, my work has featured in exhibitions, films and theatre productions both nationally and internationally. In 2011 I curated The Needle is always at hand, an exhibition of dress based on Fanny Brawne's life while she lived at Keats House.
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