“You’ve got to stitch a pocket or two, Joy”

01:20, May 21 2012

Where has the time gone? It is only five weeks until Oliver! – Featuring Richard O’Brien opens at the Founders Theatre in Hamilton.  As a result, all departments are in full swing, getting the show on the road, so to speak.  

Joy Wright is the Costume Designer for the production, and I spoke to her earlier in the week about the task ahead.  Interestingly, some amazing statistics about the costumes/wardrobe department came from our conversation.

• 4,500 separate measurements 

• 600 accessories (including hats, gloves, jewellery, cravats)

• 400 costumes 


• 50% costumes will be created from scratch (predominantly for lead roles)

• 25% costumes will be sourced from Hamilton Operatic Society’s existing stock

• 25% costumes will be hired 

• 25 new wardrobe department volunteers (many are parents and siblings of children in Fagin’s Gang or the Children’s Chorus)

The most “complicated” costume is Fagin’s coat which will have multiple pockets and intricate stitching on the lapels.  Tina Lynn has been given the task of creating it.  Tina is thoroughly enjoying  working on such a important piece.  Richard O’Brien is very keen to start rehearsing in the coat as soon as possible, so that the pick-pocket choreography in “Pick a Pocket or Two” is slick and tidy.

Joy has been looking forward to creating Mrs Sowerberry’s neck piece, a black beaded ensemble which combines a choker and full necklace.  Joy’s current challenge is to find enough black beads that can be re-strung.  Several hundred beads are needed.

Oliver! requires countless hats including cheese-cutters, bonnets and top hats.  Each character appearing in an outdoor scene needs some type of headwear.  Marion Brooker, our Artful Dodger’s mother has literally become the society’s milliner overnight.  Although Marion had no previous experience in hat-making, she took to it immediately, and has become Joy’s go-to person for headwear.

Joy and her whole wardrobe team have spent many hours on the internet and reading reference books to ensure accuracy for all clothing, headwear, accessories and footwear.  Oliver! is Joy’s first production set in a specific time period.  Most of the costuming she has done in the past has been fantasy oriented, or from an indiscriminate time period.

An upcoming experiment in aging material will be an event in itself.  For years, members of the wardrobe team have discussed throwing items that need to be roughened up into a concrete mixer.  No-one can remember if using a concrete mixer is an old wives tale, or really does work, but I will let you know the outcome of the inaugural concrete mixer fabric aging experiment.  

And, oh…did I mention there will be thousands of buttons that will need to be sewn onto new items  of clothing in the next five weeks? We might have to call in the reinforcements for that.

Finally, the wardrobe department would appreciate donations of the following items: skirts and decent lengths of fabric in any earthy tones, black beads (of course!) and footwear (leather boots, all sizes).

Waikato Times