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A stitch in double time

Ruffles, godets, bells, sequins, rhinestones, flares and frills are only a fraction of the exotica Musical Theatre Gisborne’s costume-makers have spent more than 700 hours on for the company’s upcoming extravaganza, Mamma Mia.

Because the musical is set on a Greek island many costumes are beach or casual wear and found in the company’s extensive wardrobe. But a range of spectacular items have to be made from scratch which means the show’s heads of wardrobe Marie Murphy and Heidi Parkes and their team have worked solidly for the past two months designing, accessing fabrics and sewing costumes.

“We’re making the eight Abba costumes for the big, non-stop finale,” says Murphy.

“They’ve been a hell of a lot of work. We sewed for a week before we had anything very elaborate. We spent another 10 nights making nothing but ruffles, bell sleeves, bell trousers and godets.”

A godet is triangular piece of material inserted in a dress, shirt, or glove to make it flared or for ornamentation.

In a dance show costumes have to do a lot more than just be worn on stage, says Parkes.

“The pattern and size have to allow for movement. It’s not just about making them look pretty. It has to be serviceable for what they’re doing. For the big finale the costumes are specifically tailored and robust.”

The team was handed another significant challenge before they started. The MTG production is part of a Mamma Mia consortium that involves Gisborne, Whakatane, Taumarunui and Hamilton. The Whakatane show was up first so the MTG wardrobe team had to access fabrics from out of town (how they lament the loss of Arthur Toye Fabrics) to create costumes for bodies they couldn’t see.

The Whakatane cast eventually came to Gisborne for a fitting and are now wearing in their show costumes made by the MTG wardrobe team.

“We made eight costumes for their eight characters but we knew all of those eight wouldn’t fit our actors so we’re making a few extra costumes for our cast,” says Murphy.

“We are an endangered species. Costume-making is highly technical and takes a lot of skill and in generations to come, who will make costumes?”

Two young girls have apprenticed themselves to the sewing team.

“They’ve both done a bit of sewing and they’ve been very useful.

“They say they’ve learned a lot on the way.”

SEAMLESS TEAMWORK: Musical Theatre Gisborne’s heads of wardrobe Heidi Parkes (left) and Marie Murphy hang up a couple more spectacular costumes for the upcoming production of Mamma Mia. Picture supplied