My Sunday: Costume designer Sarah Voon

A recent highlight for Sarah Voon has been costume designing New Zealand musical film Daffodils.
Abigail Dougherty
A recent highlight for Sarah Voon has been costume designing New Zealand musical film Daffodils.

Sarah Voon is a freelance costume designer for the film and TV industries. She tells Josie Steenhart about making wedding dresses for monsters, impromptu dinner parties and packing as much as possible into weekends.

I'm currently working on the American kids TV show Power Rangers. An average day for me on this show could include anything from designing a fart bubble costume or maybe a giant fish big enough to have swallowed a teenager to a detaching robot limb rig or a wedding dress for a monster.

There are constantly new scripts to read and break down, and following that, meetings with the director and other creatives to collaborate and discuss our contributions. After briefing the different departments of my costume team (buyer, costume props, sewing workroom and set), we start on design, sourcing and construction. Eventually we have a bunch of fittings with the cast and guest cast incorporating all the episodic requirements. This show wins hands down for the strangest fittings photos on my laptop!

The biggest highlight of 2018 was costume designing the beautiful New Zealand musical film Daffodils, which consumed me from January right through till mid April and took me down to Wellington for the shoot.

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My involvement in Daffodils came about when director David Stubbs contacted me in late 2017, enquiring about my interest in the project. Having seen and greatly enjoyed the Daffodils play a couple of years ago, I was intrigued as to how to sensitively translate the costuming to the film version. I was inspired to start researching the three main eras (1960s, 70s and 80s) immediately, putting together palettes and ideas, most of which carried right through to the finished film.

It was a very intense process working through the decades to design, construct and collate the huge amount of costumes required (over a thousand). With my tiny, devoted team we scoured costume hire companies, our own collections and closets, and op shops up and down the country with particular focus on obtaining New Zealand labels. I'm very proud of the work put in and the beautiful result.

Voon says an average work day "could include anything from designing a fart bubble costume to a detaching robot limb rig or a wedding dress for a monster."
Abigail Dougherty
Voon says an average work day "could include anything from designing a fart bubble costume to a detaching robot limb rig or a wedding dress for a monster."

I'm also a film reviewer for Flicks and a writer, and quietly work away on my own projects in my downtime. I've completed a feature film screenplay set in 1914, (a fictional reimagining of a fascinating and weird little piece of New Zealand history), a couple of outlines of TV dramas and a short story that's threatening to turn into a novel.

To get into weekend mode I'll throw on a record, quickly dance it out, then get changed and either walk down the road to meet friends for a bite at Siostra, or my absolute fave bar, GG Flamingo on K Road. After that, head out to see a band, movie, comedy or theatre.

Weekends are super important to me, I still feel like a teenager on the eve of the weekend and can't wait to meet up with friends and my kids, go to something I've booked or been invited to, or spend some time prepping a meal for guests. I like to pack a lot in, and am always extremely satisfied if it ends with karaoke.

At the moment my regular Sunday falls on a Saturday (because I work a Sunday to Thursday week), which definitely gives it a different energy. There is always something on, and I like to say to yes to as many things as I can because I enjoy variety.

On a cold grey day, a wee sleep in and a gentle wake up with a coffee in bed made by my son, pancakes with my kids followed by a movie in the afternoon is always fun. If it's a sultry summer day, packing some snacks and our togs and towels and heading to Maraetai beach or Devonport for a swim is a favourite destination.

I usually try to fit in a couple of yoga classes - I go to my friend Kara's lovely studio Yoga Ground, which is a minutes walk away.

Who lives at my house is a moveable feast... I share my two lovely teens Edie and Theo week on week off with their Dad, and I sometimes have a flatmate or two, mostly creative transient friends needing a bed for a while.

Sarah Voon's costume design work often spills over into her home life - literally.
Abigail Dougherty
Sarah Voon's costume design work often spills over into her home life - literally.

My work often spills over into my home life, literally into my poor children's closets and the hallway as jobs wrap and unruly racks of strange underwear, accessories and clothing move in and take over. Luckily my children understand my work and there is an open wardrobe policy.

For my own weekend wardrobe, with the heat and humidity having been quite intense recently, I tend to go for a loose silk dress by Miss Crabb or Kate Sylvester, with sandals and a hat during the day, or else the classic t-shirt and jeans if it's a bit cooler. For a night out I'm loving a 70s-luxe feel with wide leg pants, a silk cami, vintage platforms and perhaps some huge vintage earrings.

Weekend food can be anything depending on how lazy I feel, however there's nothing more I love than to host, and I am happy to call an impromptu gathering - often rushing out to gather some beautiful fresh ingredients and cook a big pot of spaghetti puttanesca, spicy beans, tortillas and a killer guacamole, or salads, cheeses and fresh bread. I prefer simple, quality ingredients, food that everyone can enjoy, and usually vegetarian.

My Chinese dad was a fantastic cook, and influenced me greatly in how to put flavours together, although these days it's quite a small menu rotation and often includes Italian and Mexican flavours, or Ottolenghi or Alexandra Tylee (Pipi restaurant in Havelock North) recipes if I'm feeling fancy.

A recent memorable Sunday was one where I walked the Mokoroa Falls track close to Muriwai with two lovely friends, then we headed to Bethells beach for a swim. After that it was home for a gin and tonic. The weather was absolutely perfect. A pretty cool Sunday.

Sunday Magazine