Jul 052012

People periodically ask what the craziest thing I have ever been asked to make is.  As The Dress Doctor the answer is fairly tame: a reproduction of Björk’s swan dress, as seen here on the red carpet:

The copy was for a birthday party that involved Leicester Square, and apparently gained a lot of attention!  The dress was made with net and rows of bound feathers, all mounted on flesh lycra, the head a polystyrene fake peach pushed inside a lycra tube, and the neck from beanbag filling to ensure flexibility.

swan dress

swan head detial

There were plenty of odd requests when I was a costume supervisor, of which very few pictures survive.  I remember a padded belly for a middle aged man that the designer insisted had to be filled with lentils to give it a good weight, the semi-obligatory half dress for Cinderella’s quick change en route to the ball and numerous panto accessories and animal masks, feet etc.  And then there was this:

Gendarme riding an ostrich, les mamelles de tiresias, Poulenc

photo by Nobby Clark

That’s right.  It’s a gendarme riding an ostrich.  In the score for “Les Mamelles de Tirésias”, Poulenc’s surrealist opera, it actually says “Gendarme enters on an ostrich”.  This was quite a feat of construction, with a riveted aluminium frame, air conditioning duct, carved polystyrene head and more feathers than any drama school should be able to justify with their budget, but it was a triumph.  Gideon Davey was the  very talented designer on the production.

Then there were the largely undocumented, last minute requests when I worked in themed events: a singing jacket potato costume, camels to be raced (same principle as the ostrich – dyed tights and fake legs) and chair covers to look like basket ball kits.  Thank goodness that’s in the past and I can now relax by hemming a spot of quality vintage tweed.

Swan dress from £500Ostrich from £5000