Wardrobe won­der­land

TV Plus (South Africa) - - BEHIND THE SCENES -

tv­plus walks through the wardrobe to find out how our soapies make cos­tume creations come to life on­screen…

Last is­sue, we delved into how shows’ wardrobe de­part­ments make us think about char­ac­ters – the cre­ative side of the job. But un­der­neath all that glam­our is a lot of hard work. Our wardrobe gu­rus guided us through the poor Cin­derella side of things, from beat­ing that bud­get to scrub­bing, fix­ing and even fak­ing fancy fash­ion for TV screens.

trendy time ma­chine

Ev­ery soapie has a cou­ple of char­ac­ters with money to burn on fab­u­lous, up-tothe-minute fash­ion. But since scenes are shot three to six months in ad­vance, this can present a chal­lenge to Wardrobe, who must shop not only in ad­vance but out of sea­son. Sheli Ny­athi from Rhythm City calls on her con­nec­tions, say­ing that “we get de­sign­ers in­volved and they are cred­ited at the end of the show’s episode”. And Scan­dal!’s Cor­lene Fursten­berg re­veals that she can’t always go lo­cal: “Be­ing so far ahead is a chal­lenge. We make some of the out­fits but also rely on agents im­port­ing from all over the world. This way, we’re on par with com­ing win­ter or sum­mer trends when they hit SA.”

Mathilda En­gel­brecht over at 7de Laan mostly an­swers th­ese chal­lenges in-house. “Be­cause it’s a ‘sum­mer’ show, we have more of a chal­lenge in find­ing good pieces dur­ing the win­ter months. We have a de­sign sec­tion in our Wardrobe depart­ment that helps with the unattain­able spe­cial gar­ments. Thanks to the in­ter­net, we’re able to get the lat­est trends and then de­sign ac­cord­ingly. We have limited ac­cess to fab­rics, but at least we can im­pro­vise with a few ideas.” Suné Jansen ex­plains that Binnelanders makes a lot of their own gear. “We also have a data­base of peo­ple who im­port clothes. We mostly use im­ported clothes or their con­cepts, since over­seas fash­ions are a sea­son ahead of us.”

style at a snip

Want the flash but got no cash? Wel­come to the Wardrobe depart­ment dilemma. Hap­pily, they know all the tricks of the trade. “On a soap, we work on cap­tur­ing emo­tions. Mostly we work on close-up or medium close-up, so I spend my money from the waist up as we don’t of­ten see be­low the waist,” re­veals Cor­lene. “This

way, I can use the same ba­sic bot­toms more and just fo­cus on de­tail around the ac­tor’s face.” Cor­lene adds that “nor­mally the wed­ding of the year is the big­gest spend and gives Wardrobe the op­por­tu­nity to play. We’ve paid up to R2 400 per me­tre for the most amaz­ing hand-beaded fab­ric. Let’s just say that we used it wisely.” And build­ing a char­ac­ter’s wardrobe from scratch is an enor­mous ex­pense. “If it’s a man’s suit, we can look at a start-up cost of R35 000 to get him dressed in that look for the first 12 episodes of the show.”

Mathilda says that “new looks can be quite pricey. For ex­am­ple: when we gave Xan­der and Paula (Theo Jan­tjies and Di­aan Lawren­son) new looks, we had to fork out a few thou­sand Rand”. She also adds that “there never re­ally is money to splurge. When giv­ing new looks or when a huge party or wed­ding comes up in the script, we have to save from our monthly bud­get to be able to af­ford it. Some items do cost more than oth­ers and are usu­ally evened out by what we man­age to save when we shop the sales or man­u­fac­ture our­selves”. She also saves cash by buy­ing sec­ond-hand and vin­tage. “I also use a few fac­tory stores and scout for sale items. And cloth­ing agents can get you pieces at cost price,” she says. Swart­wa­ter’s Brenda Kham­bule sighs and says that “it feels like I’m always clever with bud­gets. They keep get­ting less and less re­cently, so we just make them work”. Her so­lu­tion? Ar­range barter or rental deals. Rental is also the way to go for Binnelanders – Suné hired Pippa and Rian’s (Na­dia Valvekens and Erik Holm) clothes for their early-2014 wed­ding and reuses shoes and hand­bags.

nitty gritty

Wardrobe doesn’t just make clothes; they have to main­tain them too. Wash­ing up is one of their less glam­orous jobs. Cor­lene ex­plains that “we have wash days once a week and it’s no small task – 35 main cast at three items per sto­ry­day, mul­ti­plied by six sto­ry­days is 630 items to be washed and ironed a week!” Sheli re­veals, “We try to pre­serve the life of each gar­ment and we treat the most del­i­cate of gar­ments ac­cord­ingly, hand wash and dryclean them at rea­son­able in­ter­vals.” As for Mathilda, she says that they wash the clothes ev­ery time that they use them, while Brenda says that they wash “de­pend­ing on con­ti­nu­ity needs af­ter a full day’s wear. But there is the trick of vodka to take away slight body odour… That and a press or a steam and clothes can be re­freshed. With iNum­ber Num­ber (the 2013 lo­cal film), where we couldn’t wash any cloth­ing on con­ti­nu­ity, we had up to eight pieces of the same gar­ment worn over five weeks. There was a lot of vodka and Sta-Soft on that shoot!”

through thick & thin

Dif­fer­ent soapies also have dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to han­dling the sen­si­tive is­sue of performers sud­denly pick­ing up weight or los­ing it. “Talk!” says Brenda. “There needs to be a cer­tain de­gree of trust. So I will dis­cuss the changes I see in a lov­ing, re­laxed, nat­u­ral man­ner. Mostly they too are awaaware of the change, so high­light­ing the eleele­phant in the room helps. Right now I have a sit­u­a­tion where an ac­tress ju­just had a baby and seems to be los­ing weight hourly, nev­er­mind daily. And ththis is why it’s vi­tal to have some un­un­der­stand­ing of cloth­ing con­struc­tion­tion un­der your belt.” Cor­lene un­der­li­nes­lines that this is a se­ri­ous is­sue. “They’d be in br­breach of con­tract and it be­comes an is­sue fo­for man­age­ment to deal with.” Suné says that, “Well, what do you do if you pick up weight? You get other clothes!”

rags & tat­ters

So do the ac­tors get to keep their clothes? Alas, the an­swer is mostly no. Mathilda says, “We use the clothes un­til they start look­ing washed-out or get too small. We then move them to our store that we use for guest artists and ex­tras. When we run out of space, we give the clothes to a char­ity. The wardrobe be­longs to the SABC and will be handed to them if the show was to end.” Cor­lene says that “we don’t have enough space to store all the cos­tumes. We usu­ally have a wardrobe sale to gen­er­ate funds that goes back into our bud­get”. “I hand ev­ery­thing back to client at the end of the se­ries or sea­son,” Brenda re­veals, while Suné ex­plains that “ev­ery sin­gle char­ac­ter that leaves, we box the wardrobe in case they die in the se­ries. The clothes then go to stor­age. We do­nate other clothes to the un­der­priv­i­leged when they aren’t go­ing to be reused here”.

Cor­lene shows how they’ve em­bel­lished a top to add in­ter­est and en­rich an out­fit

for a char­ac­ter on Scan­dal!.

Rel­a­tively cheap fab­rics can shout luxury on­screen

with a few tweaks.

Mathilda’s used to un­pick­ing seams to adapt a sec­ond-hand out­fit for a char­ac­ter on 7de Laan.

Scan­dal! had Lu­cas’s prison out­fit

spe­cially printed.

Shoes are seen so sel­dom on-screen that Wardrobe can re-use and save money here.

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