London: The Costumes of Angels

While planning my trip to London, I was trying to tackle several facets of research for upcoming projects, and saw that the astounding Angels costume house was now open to the public for (very!) small-scale tours of their warehouse and workshops. The time it took me to apply was so small it cannot be measured by modern science. Also, the number of pictures I took while I was there can’t be numbered by modern science. (Modern science is taking a rest day.)

But let’s talk about a few of them, because of course!

Above, some embarrassed dress forms try to hide their shame. (They’re ashamed because those costumes are being built for regular party rental, not for stage or screen use, so the back bodice seams on these Regency dresses lack the distinctive inward slope of more accurate dresses. It’s okay, dress forms, we understand commercial needs!)

Thing I most lost my cool over:

Fans of Cate Blanchett and/or period film should recognize the Coronation Dress from Elizabeth. I certainly did! It had been pulled out as part of a background display for a news segment, and I’d like to think because they heard I was coming and wanted to do something special.

(P.S. One of the saddest/most hilarious things you can do to a costume nerd is to show them one of their favorite movie costumes of all time after making them promise not to touch anything. I now have approximately a billionty pictures of this dress, almost none of which address my construction questions because you can’t see the back and I promised not to touch anything, like a fool. Like a FOOL!)

Below, from top left: the armory, the hatpin stand of great renown, an Elizabethan collar, and the fur room (which was a bit creeptown, but many of these furs date back close to a century, and if you’re going to use fur, better to rent existing fur than buy new, so).


Sprinkled in with information about the history, organization, and operations of the company, there were some lovely asides, like the letter from a butthurt Charles Dickens, who liked to dress up as his characters for public appearances; he was very angry that the ship carrying his costumes had encountered a storm and was unable to deliver the goods, and the letter demands a refund. According to our priceless tour director, Dickens is still waiting. And to illustrate the relative value of the costumes to those who have built the place (hint: they’re only as good as their next use and their decorative complexity), he described someone coming across a ratty monk’s robe and wondering why on earth they’d bother saving something that cost so little to produce, and of which they already had surplus, and it was all set to go out in their occasional binpicker sale when someone saw that the inside label read Alec Guinness. They sent it to an auction house instead.

(Obviously, the tour is recommended to any movie-costume nerd. Thanks to Angels for a highlight of the trip!)

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  • i like my antagonists like i like my jeans

    10/18/17

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