An Introduction to Costume Design for Ex – Prisoners

February 16, 2013

To complement the major exhibition Hollywood Costumes, the V&A worked with Synergy Theatre Project to deliver on-site costume design classes for ex prisoners.  These 4 sessions were designed to give an insight into the role of the costume designer, with particular focus upon the collaborative nature of this profession. 

We were delighted to welcome costume designer Jane Petrie (credits include 28 Weeks Later & Harry Brown- to the museum for these workshops.  Jane used these sessions as a means to convey how a costume designer plays a pivotal role in bringing characters to life in film, TV and theatre productions. 

Theatre and Performance Galleries - © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Following a tour of the museum’s iconic collection of costumes, Jane helped attendees to understand how they would go about researching and designing costumes for the characters in a short film script.

The script we worked from (The 10am) was kindly provided by director Colin O’Toole (  As a group we read through the script (some great acting skills demonstrated by the group this week!) and started to think about the characters Colin had created. 

The script focuses upon Aeron and son (wearing matching work wear with Aeron & Son Ltd stitched onto the breast pocket) who are en route to a job for regular customer Mrs Jones (late 40’s, covered in make up, jewels, wearing a revealing a low cropped tight fitting mini dress).  Arriving at Mrs Jones house, we also encounter the dishevelled Mr Jones (looks as if hasn’t slept for days, surrounded by filled ash trays and empty whiskey bottles).  It soon transpires that Aeron and son are not your run of the mill work men…Without warning Aeron Jnr pulls the wire around MR JONES throat and with a professional and new found vigour commences to strangle the life out of the man..

Sketch of Aeron & Son logo-Image 2

We produced quick sketches of  the characters introduced throughout the script, before focusing solely upon the charming Mr & Mrs Jones.  Embracing the theme of colloboration, we worked with fashion designer Rowena Luke-King ( during our third session to produce mood boards of the Joneses. 

Mood boards-Image 3

Jane took direction from these mood boards and selected a huge range of clothes, shoes and accessories, which she brought along to the final workshop.  During this session we were joined by make up artist Mel Winning (, actors Shane Morgan & Moira Hunt and director Colin.  Working with theatre/film professionals, our attendees were able to bring their designs to life, as they dressed our actors and watched Jane demonstrate costume fittings. 

Make up applied by Mel (as per the groups instructions) completed our characters.  The results were fantastic, and we were able to compare the characters we had created with those in Colin’s film-as we surprised attendees with a screening of The 10am at the end of the workshop.

Mr & Mrs Jones-Images 4 and 5

It was a real pleasure to work with our attendees each week (around 16 people came along to each session).  And you know a workshop has been well received when an evaluation form reads as follows: ‘When is the next one?!’

Established in 1999 Synergy Theatre Project works towards rehabilitation with prisoners, ex-prisoners and young people at risk through theatre and related activities whilst placing the wider issues surrounding criminal justice in the public arena.  For more information please visit

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