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Behind the seams: the art of costumes

The Weekly goes backstage to discover why costumes can turn even the simplest story into an extraordinary spectacle.

In Les Miserables, you won’t see the razzle-dazzle feathers, beads and sequins of most other big stage musicals. Instead, it’s all subdued colours, natural fibres, and true-to-life clothing – which is perhaps only fitting for an intense tale of broken dreams set in 19th century France.

“When it’s photographed, it has a warm, candlelight feel,” says Head of Wardrobe, Ron Morrison, “as if you’re viewing an Old Master.”

If it’s doing its job, a costume reveals something of the character even before a word is spoken.

In period dramas, designers have to be sticklers for historical accuracy. As costume designer on Foxtel’s A Place to Call Home says, “it’s really in the details: where a jacket comes out, the tip of a hat.”

For artistic director of The Australian Ballet, David Mcallister, the challenges are different again as his focus needs to be on relative comfort too. He says, “sometimes in a period ballet you have to wear something that looks like an 18th-century ball dress… but you’ve got to be able to move and bend, and be lifted above your partner’s head”.

Take a look backstage at how costumes can turn even the simplest story into an extraordinary spectacle, here.

This photoshoot is part of our Behind the Seams portfolio in this month’s July issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

The cast of Les Miserables.

The Australian Ballet.

Opera Australia.

A Place to Call Home.

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