Realising the Design.James Perkins is the costume designer for…

Realising the Design.

James Perkins is the costume designer for this year’s production for The Winter’s Tale. In the run up to opening night he’s given us an insight into what work goes into dressing the cast, and the dangers of being enthusiastic about fabric.


Yesterday I got stuck in a costume.

It was like that moment you try on a ring, slide it past a knuckle and then realise, eyes wide, that you might need some soap.

Except it wasn’t a ring, and I couldn’t solve it with soap, it was a tailor-made irreplaceable pink overshirt, at work, with my new colleagues watching.

We have one in-house and one freelance costume supervisor. They transform my pencil drawings into beautiful reality. We’ve bought fabric from all over London, £3 per metre from Shepherds Bush Market vs appointment-only haberdasheries that sell one-off pieces of vintage embroidery. It’s not until you find and (importantly) touch the fabrics that you know what the costumes will really look like… I think that’s why I wanted to wear the shirt.

Our bespoke items have been sewn by a team of freelance makers. They all start from my drawings, yet their expertise means we have costumes that are both rich in detail as well as wearably practical.

Costume fittings, and the conversations that surround them, are a vital part of the process. The character, and therefore costume, belong to the actor. We can help and suggest and lead but the notes that cut to the core of the character’s identity will nearly always come from the actor.

We’re only halfway through fittings, but between the intelligence and wit of the cast and the support and wisdom of the costume team I’m quietly confident that the end result will be excellent.

I got the shirt off, eventually, with some help.

Tomorrow we’ll see if it fits an actor better…

 The Winter’s Tale opens Friday 22 June.

Images by James Perkins