Find Out How The National Theatre Cares For Its 70,000 Costumes


Find Out How The National Theatre Cares For Its 70,000 Costumes

Costumes from Loveland (c) Lucy Barriball

Ever wondered how many costumes the National Theatre gets through every year, or who makes them? A new exhibition reveals all…

Costume at the National Theatre is a free display, showcasing just some of the 70,000 costumes in the theatre’s collections — undoubtedly one of London’s most impressive wardrobes. They’re created individually to be used in around 20 new NT productions each year, and once the show is over, the costume hire department lends them out for films, photoshoots and other theatre productions.

Ben Edmonds from NT wardrobe repairing one of the costumes from Mirror Mirror on a sewing machine
Ben Edmonds from NT wardrobe repairing one of the costumes from Mirror Mirror (c) Lucy Barriball

Costumes from productions including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, War Horse, Follies and Antony and Cleopatra are on display, and the exhibition also offers an insight into the lifecycle of an NT ensemble, from design to construction, sourcing and alterations, to dressing, repairs and laundering.

The 46-strong costume team has created every everything from muddy uniforms to giant caterpillars, and can dress an actor in a corset in under 60 seconds.

Head dress of Kate Parr who plays young Sandra in storage at the NT
Head dress of Kate Parr, who plays young Sandra in Follies, in storage at the NT (c) Lucy Barriball

Curator Aoife Monks said:

Even the most ordinary costumes take extraordinary amounts of work. Drawing on interviews with NT staff, this exhibition reveals the skill, thought and time that costume requires. You will never overlook it in the same way again.

Colourful costumes hanging in two rows in a wardrobe storage area at National Theatre
Hear staff talk about how they create the costumes

A book, Costume at the National Theatre, will be published to coincide with the exhibition, and a series of events runs alongside it. Take a guided tour round the exhibition with curator Aoife Monks (9 November), or hear costume department staff talk about how they create costumes (11 November)

Close-up shot of a hand sewing sequins onto the shoulder of a pink dress on a mannequin, in National Theatre's wardrobe department
Repair work to one of the costumes from Loveland (c) Lucy Barriball

Costume at the National Theatre is in the Wolfson Gallery (Olivier theatre cloakroom level), 3 October 2019 until March 2020. Entry is free, no booking required.

Last Updated 09 August 2019

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2019-08-09 14:00:08 – Source: londonist.com