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Five minutes with: BA Costume student Jess Iliff who worked on new Daniel Day-Lewis film

Daniel Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps
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Published date
02 February 2018

Third year BA (Hons) Costume for Performance student Jessica Iliff did her work placement at a film costume studio in Holborn. Part of her work experience included working on costumes for a new film called Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, which is released in UK cinemas on Friday. Her role was assisting other makers and the cutter in the principle womenswear department. It allowed Jess to make elements of and whole costumes, assist on fittings and be involved in breakdown of costumes.

Daniel Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps

Last month we hosted a workshop for journalists to get an insight into dress making and the construction of garments, at our studios in Lime Grove (read about that on the Independent and The Culture Trip). Jess helped to deliver this workshop and we caught five minutes with her afterwards, to find out about the experience.

The top 5 things about my work placement…
  • It gave me my first insight into a costume work room. Previous work I had done was always on a smaller scale, it was exciting to see the busy and hardworking costume department for a film at work.
  • Meeting people with experience in making costumes on films and learning so many skills from them.
  • Being able to work within a team. During university most of the work we do is individual, so this highlighted the importance of developing my teamwork skills and abilities for when I graduate.
  • Being able to work with beautiful materials and fabrics that as a student I don’t usually get to use.
  • Gaining a better understanding of how the design process is communicated to the cutter and makers to produce a final costume.
Working on the film itself…
  • Some of the actors such as Danial Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps would come into the workroom for fittings and would come see the work everyone was producing for them to wear. I thought the story of the film was really interesting and captivating, it also some surprises along the way. I loved how the costumes, cinematography and soundtrack brought the story to life. Having seen the film three times now I can honestly say that each time it drew me further into the story and the interesting characters.
The workshops with journalists…
  • I think the press workshop went really well. I was assisting costumes technician and maker Jax Black as she taught the journalists about period fashion, fabrics and how to drape, just as Danial Day Lewis learnt as part of his preparation for the film. I feel like they came out of it knowing a lot more about fashion and costume than they came in at the start of the day.
My placement helped me see the variety of jobs that can come through working in a costume department
  • Instead of there just being a costume designer and costume maker, my placement has shown me there are so many roles to experience such as a designer’s assistants, supervisors and buyers. Since my placement, the contacts I made gave me many opportunities, from making costume and on set work, to costume supervising on a touring opera.
After my degree…
  • I enjoyed my placement so much and if I could be in a costume work room when I graduate that would be amazing. However, I am also excited to try other roles within costume departments and see where these take me. The making skills I learnt I have carried on using in my own work. I have improved sewing ability as well as my confidence just in time for my Final Major Project. These skills I will take with me when I graduate.

Set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the centre of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Phantom Thread is out in UK cinemas on Friday 2 February.