GRR

How to dress 200 actors for Revival

17th August 2022
Ellie Fazan

From deep within a wardrobe of 12,000 costumes, and with the task of dressing 200 actors over three days, Costume and Wardrobe Supervisor Reah Butterly, and Theatrics Manager Kimmi Hughes-Ward are thrilled at the task ahead. “This is absolutely our dream job,” says Kimmi. “It’s so special I can’t believe my luck,” agrees Reah. “We are like kids in a sweet shop.”

With strong backgrounds in performing, theatre and costume, and shows like Strictly Come Dancing, Kiss me Kate and Wicked between them, they are more than qualified for the job in hand. 

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How many actors do you have and how do you begin to think of dressing them all?

Kimmi:  We have about 200 actors at the Revival, and everything that they wear down to their underwear will be sourced from our department. My job here is to pick the actors. We set out to create characters, and create a narrative for each section. Then Rhea will start to pull references together.

Reah: My job is to dress them and bring the stories to life with these amazing vintage costumes. I’m not familiar with everything yet, but we have around 12,000 pieces down to earrings and undergarments, as well as hats and coats. ​​But the nature of vintage is that they are already used and the fabric is aged, so we need to keep sourcing new pieces. Revival is across three days so things do get damaged.

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How do you maintain the clothes in your care?

Reah: It’s a big job but one of the key things is to repair things in the fabric that they are made from – so I’ll use real cotton thread, not synthetic, to make sure it matches the feel and texture. The more true you can get to the original, the better.

Kimmi: When new vintage comes into the wardrobe department, Reah puts everything in the freezer for a minimum of 72 hours to get rid of moths. We have a big chest freezer so we can keep it in there even longer, but domestically just keep it in as long as you can.

Reah: I also replace any rusty metal zips right away, as rust can stain the fabric.

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And what can people do to look after their own vintage?

Reah: One basic thing that I think people forget when dressing vintage is their footwear. This tip isn’t just for vintage shoes but for new shoes too – as soon as you get them take them to the cobbler and get those rubber soles added. It will lengthen their lives by two or three times. Once the rubber is gone, you then take them back and get them redone. That was common practice back in the day. Lots of old practices have been lost, but that is one we should all be practicing.

Kimmi: And Reah swears by tea tree oil. You fill a spray bottle with 500ml of water and about 25 drops of tea tree. It has antibacterial properties which can neutralise the smell of old sweat.

Reah: Keep clothes out of direct sunlight when you’re not wearing them, and fold fragile things rather than hanging them.

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Do you have a particular passion for historical costumes or an interest in particular periods of history?

Reah: I love being able to keep things true to their authentic self, historically speaking. It’s so important to look after vintage garments because their history is so important. I always think, if this piece of clothing could talk, imagine the story it could tell of the history of the person who wore it. We should keep that legacy going.

Kimmi: It’s one of the things that makes our job so special. When you bring the costumes together with the storyboards and actors we are actually bringing history back to life. 

Reah: Funnily enough, I went to a fair yesterday and one of the traders took me back to her lock up. One of the things I got was a CC41 nightgown from the 1940s, which are so rare to find.

Kimmi: When Reah brought this gem into wardrobe, we were like little girls at Christmas! We get so excited about these items and the stories they tell, but this particular night gown gave us goosebumps. It can almost bring you to tears. We get so excited because we get to treasure them and give them new life. And hopefully our actors can tell a new story with them. This really is a special department to work in.

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What tips would you give to people coming to Goodwood for the first time?

Reah: Remember to bring flats! Have your heels for your look, obviously, but there’s a lot of walking to take everything in so remember to bring pumps.

Kimmi: Everybody at Goodwood Revival will be dressed up head to toe. Some of it will be retro, and some of it will be vintage, and that’s fine. But just dress up – if you don’t, you’ll literally be the only one. It doesn’t have to be stressful though – go down to your local charity shop and start by finding an accessory or a handbag or piece of jewellery or other little gem and start building a look from there.

Reah: And don’t feel self-conscious about your size. Vintage clothing is tiny and it was made for women who didn’t move around much and who wore girdles and corsets. If you’re taller or larger it’s completely ok to wear retro and accessorise. We want to be inclusive and create a happy space in which to explore new looks and ideas.

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Have you started planning your own outfits yet?

Kimmi: I do have my eye on a costume in the wardrobe, which is a 1950s fishtail dress. The structure of it is incredible. Reah sourced it from a fair. But even though I’m a size 10 it doesn’t have any give and I just don’t think I’ll fit in it without putting too much strain on the zip. 

And what’s your favourite thing about Goodwood Revival?

Kimmi: It’s really hard to pick just one. The actors and the public – they kind of blend into one. It’s all so great! It's like you've stepped back into time and you're really in this other world.

Reah: I think one of the things that I like so much is the legacy. It showcases the passions of the Dukes through the ages and tells the history of Goodwood and the history of our time.

This year at the Revival, Dandy Wellington will lead the Vintage Style Not Vintage Values series of talks in the Revive and Thrive Village. Book your tickets now for a chance to meet his wonderful community of vintage icons.

Photography by Joe Harding.

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