Costume Designing for Ella

If you would have told me that I would have been a costume designer at some point, I wouldn’t have believed you. The project was a fourth year degree film called Surface Noise by Ella Rose Howlett. It is about a girl getting attacked and suffering from PTSD.

I was only meant to be a Costume Assistant on this but the Costume Designer decided not to turn up. So a panic and a talk later, I was now a Costume Designer. At first, I didn’t really understand the role, of course you have to learn as you go along. However, after many discussions with the director and my tutor, I finally knew that I was on my way and on the right path.

The film was set in the 80s, so I watched a lot of TV shows and films to help me to understand the fashion of the times. This included The Lovely Bones, Stranger Things and Friends. I also looked at old school yearbooks from that time as well as looking at the fashions of Sarah Jessica Parker and Demi Moore.

I broke down the script and tried to really understand the characters that I was designing for. This included a young girl called Annie, her therapist and her attacker. I did this by reading the script and understanding the emotions of the characters in each individual scene.

In one of my discussions with the director, she highlighted to me about the importance about colour. This stimulated my researched into the meanings of different colours and actually helped me plan all the costumes for the rest of the film.

Colour inspiration from a New Look jumper.

For this movie, there wasn’t a lot of construction of costumes at all. In fact, it was rather sourcing the clothes from charity shops and vintage fairs. This was actually better for me, because I don’t make clothes very well at all!

I did also have to manage the budget for this project and I slightly overspent by £9.52. But these were unforeseen costs and I didn’t plan for the extra accessories and badges that we needed to cover up any logos. However, I did keep spreadsheets and lists of everything I needed to buy, but next time, I will make sure to keep some money aside for any last minute emergencies!

Without any organisation, I don’t think you could even do this job. I kept a folder to keep on set so if I wasn’t there for any reason, someone knew what to dress the actors in for that particular scene.

Being on set was one of the greatest experiences I have had in my life. It was incredible to feel like I was part of something. Everybody had a role on set and you can really see how people rallied together to make something amazing for the director.

Alongside doing the costumes, I also cooked for the crew too. It was a group of 15, which was interesting to do, but we made it! It was definitely an interesting week and one of the most tiring too as I was the first one to arrive to set to prepare breakfast for everyone.

On set.

This experience has helped me to realise that the creative process that occurs in Textile Design can be transferred to other creative disciplines. I used my research skills to create mood boards for each character and cited where I could source each of these items.

Overall, the whole experience has really helped me as a designer as it helped me to understand how Textiles can be used to reflect messages and deeper meanings through colour and pattern.

You can check out the IMDb page here.

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