What’s Your Craft – Costume Designer Susannah Buxton

What’s Your Craft – Costume Designer Susannah Buxton


I think I’ve probably always been interested in antique textiles. Probably since I studied the Renaissance at school. I think that the main interest came from working in
the theatre as a scene painter. I was asked to go with a costume designer on
a long shoot about Mary Queen of Scots and I just went as a wardrobe assistant and completely got a passion for the whole thing and I’ve never really stopped working in the industry since then. Probably the first exciting project that I worked on was with Danny Boyle and I did a
series called Mr. Wroe’s Virgins and I did the first two series’ of Downton Abbey. The reason that I was so keen to work on
that series in the first place was because it was a new script, it wasn’t
from a classic drama and in a period of time that often gets overlooked in drama. It’s a change in style, it’s almost the
beginning of the 20th century. Anytime you are doing a project, even if you’ve
worked in that period of time before, you start again. So I always go to museums, art galleries,
and of course the internet. So there’s a mass of information. Cosprop, where my office is often, have
45 to 50 thousand costumes of all different periods so you have a lot of work to do
to find what you want, and where you want it. The hardest part of our job is to make the
clothes look like they belong to the person. You’ve failed if it looks like costume. Working with Helena Bonham Carter,
who was playing Elizabeth Taylor I could not put on her the clothes that Elizabeth Taylor
wore, they were completely different shapes but we had to capture the essence of Elizabeth Taylor. I think that’s what people watch for. They have to believe that was
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Otherwise we’re lost aren’t we? (laughs) You couldn’t be a costume designer without collaboration. However skilled the costume designer they’re
not going to be able to be tailors, milliners they bring in the specialist skills. I think the problem now is that the funding has been withdrawn and we’re really having a problem in the
film, television, theatre, and opera industries that not enough people are specialising and if they want to, there are not enough opportunities for them. My generation with some absolutely brilliant milliners,
tailors, corsetry makers, are getting to the point they’re going to be retiring and who’s training the next generation. I have a lot of interest now in putting back. I’ve been working in costume for 35 years and the way I feel I can do that is with symposiums and with encouraging some funding, and some training
to go into the different crafts. The industry has such high production value throughout
the world, our series are the best really. We need the best technicians. My name is Susannah Buxton. I’m a costume designer and I’m London based.

2 Replies to “What’s Your Craft – Costume Designer Susannah Buxton”

  1. Wonderful to watch Susannah talk and to hear about her story. Just so sad to hear that the opportunities and funding are still disappearing. These skills need to be passed on for generations to come.

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