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Meet Sophie, our Pop Art Fashion Consultant

06 August 2015
Sophie is a Costume Designer and Maker and also works as a Costume Standby, she has worked for the BBC, Channel 4, The National Theatre and The Oxford Shakespeare company, as well as being Head of Costume at Wimbledon Film and Theatre Company. Sophie was our Fashion Consultant for our current exhibition ‘Warhol and the World of Pop Art’, we spoke to her to find out more about the fashion in the exhibition.

How did you get involved in the exhibition?
The exhibitions team were looking for someone who had specific experience working with textiles and fashion to dress the mannequins and present all of the fashion and textile elements of the exhibition.

The ‘Warhol and the World of Pop Art’ exhibition includes seven mannequins dressed in pop art fashion. Can you tell us more about the dresses?
Four of the dresses on the mannequins are made from fabric designed and printed by Andy Warhol, one by Pierre Cardin, one by Hanae Mari and one by Michael Mott. There are also two other dresses, the potato sack dress, the ultimate in throw away fashion – a paper dress by Harry Gordon - and a pair of Woodstock jeans.

Michael Mott was one of the original team of designers who worked for Paraphernalia which started in 1965 and employed some of the most well-known designers of the time. It was one of the first mainstream shops that sold mod clothes to young people. The layout of the shop was very minimalistic and modern and quite unlike any other stores around at the time.

The dress by Hanae Mori was made for Mori’s first couture collection, East meets West which she launched in New York in 1965, the first time she showed her designs outside of her native Japan. A version of the same dress was owned by the late HRH Princess Margaret.

The Andy Warhol dresses appear to have been made for specific individuals as they are made to unusual measurements. Andy Warhol did used to have dresses made for certain socialites to wear to his openings so it could be that this is where they came from. There is a lovely ice-cream print dress where some of the ice creams have been quilted. This is quite indicative of the way that designers were experimenting with the borderlines between different arts disciplines at the time. Also, the fact that Andy Warhol was happy to take on textile design commissions is an example of his attitude to the commerciality of art. He placed just as much importance on graphic design and the commercial side as on his artistic expression through more abstract projects such as his films at The Factory.

Pierre Cardin is mostly known for his architectural and avant-garde fashion but the piece we have is one of his floaty maxi dresses. He looked at different ways of manipulating fabric and you can see that in the hundreds of pleats on this dress and the way the fabric has been printed in a Trompe-l'œil effect.

What is a normal day like as a Costume Standby when you are not working as a Fashion Consultant for an art exhibition?

A day on set usually consists of a ridiculously early call time such as 5.30am. When I arrive I go straight to the costume trailer where the costume supervisor will brief us on the shoot schedule. We will each be given a set of "sides" which is a small copy of the whole day's schedule, scene by scene. This will then let me know what actors I need to have prepped by what time. The principal standbys will then set up each actors costume exactly as the designer has envisaged it to be worn in the actor's trailer. Then it's breakfast time! Next we'll dress everyone for the day and ensure that everything is being worn correctly. (Shirts untucked on the correct side, watches and bracelets in the correct order on wrists.)

There is a big continuity folder which is our bible. If the costume has been worn before there will be photos and notes in there that help us to make sure the actor is wearing the costume exactly the same way as in the last scene they were shot in. There can be days and sometimes weeks in between scenes so recording every detail is key. Now we can send the actor onto hair and makeup.

At this point shooting starts and the costume team disperse. Principal standbys will be in charge of their own actors for the rest of the day. This involves standing by the monitor and keeping an eye on how the costumes appear on screen. In between takes the director will shout "checks" This is when hair and makeup and wardrobe jump in and fix anything that has moved during the take or change anything the director doesn't like. To do this efficiently, hair and makeup always go first, costume check they are happy and then jump in and make any adjustments. For this I carry a huge kit on me at all times that includes anything from instant stain remover to dirty down spray for making things look older, some pre-threaded needles for fixing things in a hurry, lint rollers, double sided Velcro and many other sneaky cheats.

During shooting the rest of the costume team will be back on the trailer organising the rails for the next day, doing the laundry, sourcing and making new costumes for later on in the shoot. At some point around 2.00pm everyone will break for lunch for an hour.

Then it's back on set until we wrap at around 8.00pm. The actors get changed and go home while we finish putting together everything for the next day, wash any costumes that were worn that day and need to be ready in the morning to start all over again!

Let us know which is your favourite dress on Twitter!
If you would like to get in touch with Sophie for a fashion or costume project, please visit her website

Find out more about the 'Warhol and the World of Pop Art' exhibition.

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