A respected Hollywood wardrobe master who for many years has had an ‘11 year old boss’.
Knowing that I was attending the talk by William Steggle for Cheltenham Fashion Week (CFW) I thought I had better do a little research into what a ‘wardrobe master’ actually is and to read up on William himself, I mean ‘Hollywood’!? This has to be exciting! After a good few hours of secondary sourcing and several cups of coffee later – I still was none the wiser. I will just wait and learn all about it with fresh eyes in the morning.
Attending with another member of the team Annette Bell, a fabulous garment constructionist & pattern cutter, we just didn’t know what to expect…what does a wardrobe master even look like? Walking through I noticed a guy standing near his mac in a sweatshirt, jeans and collar-less shirt – is that William?
We were welcomed with a friendly hello, we perched ourselves down and instantly given a sheet documenting all the films that William had worked upon… ‘ Jack the Giant Slayer’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘War Horse’ and ‘Harry Potter’ after Harry Potter. Then we were handed beautiful thick photo albums full of William on set with Daniel Radcliffe, photos signed and even film scripts with delicate scribbled poems by Daniel signed…ok I am hooked and completely star struck!
What an amazing career and I hadn’t heard anything yet!
In a totally relaxed atmosphere, William began describing what a wardrobe master actually does (great as I still had no idea) – in short, fits actors & actresses (there can be hundreds per film), chats with the costume designers, looks after costumes (the garments) for films and is on set during the takes to ensure that every tiny detail is correct and perfect. Sounded so glamorous and simple but once William began going into detail, I could then appreciate that it is actually a mega amount of work!
Starting a career when he was just 21 working at Nathans Costume House and learning about the pre-production to films for 7 years, William was then sent to Paris to re-organise an entire costume house (amazing!) … and his career was under way.
William then chatted about how much work there is to do post-production such as discussions with the costume designers, hundreds of the fittings, talking through each garment with the ‘aging team’, getting the actor into costume, shooting a small section and disusing if everything is perfect with the directors and camera men. Once all is approved, each and every single piece has to be photographed and documented so that nothing is changed or missed during filming. This process alone can take 2-4 months alone.
So… ok William’s job is incredibly hard work and highly skilled!
‘Costume designers are a rare breed and even have their own language such as Peppering’ (to pull out threads, sand clothes to age them). In my mind this was all sounding amazing about distressing fibres and fabrics but was also sounding expensive. William then continued to explain how, in one 2 minute scene for Harry Potter, for example, Harry will be wearing a simple gap t-shirt and jeans which could cost around £30. The costume designer will then change this by adding a collar, dip dye it to add age and have it altered to fit Harry perfectly. Once complete, there needs to be an identical outfit as a spare (cost has already shot up to anything like £300 just for one t-shirt and jeans). This same outfit may be seen on Harry as ‘clean’ – there is a tumble and a fight and so two more identical outfits are required but ‘dirty’ and so a tear my be on the elbow ect.
Finally, there is a fight in the scene and so again, the same outfit will be needed but as ‘blood stained’. The number of simple t-shirts and jeans then go up to 10/12 gap tops and jeans for one 2-minute scene… (Are you following?). That’s not all, if there are stunt doubles, they too need the exact same outfits duplicated with the same ‘clean’, ‘dirty’ and ‘blood stained’ marks ect. Also, don’t forget that every single item in every single state still has to be photographed and documented accurately and down to the smallest of threads. With an entire film, hundreds of actors and actresses, costume changes in several lights… this master of the wardrobe must have the biggest wardrobe on set ever! Epic.
‘You should be able to watch a film and never be able to notice any of the changes…costumes should melt into the general canvas’ – William.
I have since the talk observed several Harry Potter’s and cannot see any changes or costume differences. It has just amazed me how much work goes into the ‘wardrobe’ of these Hollywood movies and listening to William have given me a even greater appreciation for costume and the film industry.
‘You can be the best in the world at what you do, but to be likeable is the best characteristic you can have – you shall go far.’
Cheltenham Fashion Week 2013
Thank you CFW
Cotswold Bride, Cheltenham