Lav­ish show’s cos­tume cre­ation


‘‘I’m a full-time mum with three girls. I have a bit of time on my hands when they’re at school.’’

One Karori wo­man un­der­took an am­bi­tious project in the name of theatre to make six his­tor­i­cally­ac­cu­rate 17th cen­tury gowns from scratch.

Cos­tume maker Sarah Tucker spent over 120 hours and used more than 70 me­tres of fab­ric on the dresses, for the Welling­ton Reper­tory Theatre’s up­com­ing pro­duc­tion of Nell Gwynn.

She is one of four vol­un­teers who ded­i­cated their time to mak­ing ex­trav­a­gant pe­riod cos­tumes for the play.

‘‘I’m a full-time mum with three girls. I have a bit of time on my hands when they’re at school.’’

She spent be­tween 20 and 30 hours on each dress, in a la­bo­ri­ous process that in­volved a lot of hand-sewing, in­clud­ing beads and lace.

The de­signs for the dresses were made by James Kelly, who pre­vi­ously de­signed cos­tumes for the Royal New Zealand Bal­let.

The team started off tak­ing mea­sure­ments from all the ac­tresses, be­fore Kelly drafted the pat­terns.

‘‘He has an amaz­ing store of fab­rics and bits and pieces for dec­o­ra­tion,’’ Tucker says.

Af­ter that they had to cut all of the fab­ric, be­fore start­ing on the bodice.

‘‘I learned very quickly to do all the bon­ing, and all the dec­o­ra­tive work and at­tach the sleeves be­fore you at­tach the skirt.

‘‘Be­cause once you at­tach the skirt, which is like five me­tres of fab­ric, it be­comes al­most im­pos­si­ble to use the sewing ma­chine.’’

Although Tucker had made a lot of clothes be­fore, es­pe­cially for her daugh­ters, cos­tume mak­ing was new for her.

‘‘I’ve done a lot of per­sonal dress­mak­ing. Never any cos­tume mak­ing, and noth­ing on this scale.

‘‘I’m never go­ing to make things like this on an or­di­nary oc­ca­sion.’’

She is look­ing for­ward to see­ing her cos­tumes on stage.

‘‘I think it’ll be re­ally lav­ish. The pro­duc­tion is a re­ally light­hearted romp with lots of mu­sic and danc­ing.

‘‘It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how the dresses hold up to that.’’

Nell Gwynn is set in the 17th cen­tury, when Charles II re­opened the the­atres that were closed un­der the Pu­ri­tans, and al­lowed women on stage.

The role of Charles II is played by Richard Cor­ney, one of the founders of Welling­ton cof­fee shop Flight Cof­fee, in his first ma­jor role on stage.

Ten lo­cal King Charles spaniels are ros­tered to ap­pear along­side him.

Nell Gwynn runs from Septem­ber 20-30 at the Gryphon Theatre on Ghuznee Street.

Sarah Tucker, left, cre­at­ing the dresses for Welling­ton Reper­tory Theatre’s up­com­ing pro­duc­tion of Nell Gwynn, above.

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