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When the worlds of haute couture and theatrical costuming collide

Fabulous things happen when the worlds of haute couture and theatrical costuming collide.

Above: The cast of Way of the World in day wear. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Fabulous things happen when the worlds of fashion and theatrical costuming collide. Who can forget the striking designs by Margot Wilson worn by Oscar winner Kate Winslet in the film adaptation of The Dressmaker or the costumes in the recent film adaptation of Women in Black?

That same stunning glamour and sophistication of jazz-era 1950s has been authentically recreated for the NIDA stage. It’s a heartfelt production for young costume designer Maddison Roseman, who used the style of formal 1950s wear to bring the characters of William Congreve’s The Way of the World to life as part of NIDA’s October Season of Student Productions.

Above: Fabian McCallum and Roman Delo in Way of the World. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

The production created space ‘for jazz, poetry, flirting, singing and smoking’ said Maddison, currently finishing her Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) at NIDA. ‘We’ve recreated the fashions at the end of the European Second World War, which saw a resurgence in Haute Couture. Clothing and fabric was no longer rationed or restricted and as such particular designers like Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga were at the forefront of what resulted in 1950s glamour. I took a great deal of my inspiration from their works during this time, as well as that of Saville Rowe tailoring.’

Above: Kira-Che Heelan and Elyse Evans in Way of the World. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Marnie Perkins turned Maddison’s vision into a reality on stage as Costume Supervisor. Not surprisingly, Marnie herself comes from a fashion background. Before NIDA, she studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion at the Queensland University of Technology in 2010, and worked as a Clothing Designer and Accessories Buyer for Australian fashion labels Allanah Hill and Princess Highway.

Above: Olivia Mortimer-Eade in Way of the World. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

The students study fashion history and also contemporary designs. Marnie intensely researched women’s and menswear of the 1950s, even looking at authentic lingerie of the time to recreate the look. The students were mentored by NIDA tutors, and guest tutor, Oscar-award winning costume designer for Priscilla Queen of the Dessert, Tim Chappel.

‘There are a lot of cross overs in costumes made for theatre and pieces made for the fashion industry,’ said NIDA Head of Costume Annette Ribbons. ‘Film items are often only worn a few times so fashion construction techniques are appropriate. On the other hand,  if we’re making for an opera or musical the item will be worn hundreds of times so the construction needs to be much more robust and often also needs to accommodate cast changes. The other major difference is that costumes made for film and theatre are individualised to the actor’s measurements and go through a fitting process where design elements and the cut can be changed.’

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