Costume Design alumni Lynsey Moore and Lara Jensen get together at LCF for exclusive conversation
BA (Hons) Costume for Performance alumna Lynsey Moore who was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Contemporary Costume earlier this year for her work on Michaela Coel's award-winning series, I May Destroy You gave an exclusive talk to LCF students last month. She was interviewed by fellow alumna from the MA Costume Design for Performance course, milliner and costume designer Lara Jensen, discussing their careers, the changing industry and working adaptively with varied budgets and directors. We handed over to two MA Costume students – Chloe Dootson-Graube and Imaan Ashraf to be our roving reporters on the day, covering all aspects of the talk and bringing the event to life for our LCF Stories readers.
At this exclusive talk for LCF students, Lynsey spoke about how she was initially interested in the sciences, with aspirations to become a doctor. She then found a love for textiles and decided to pursue this at UAL, thinking that she would continue to work in fashion. A mere week into her course, she realised that it was not for her. Retrospectively, she understands that this was due to her Tutors asking her to ‘find inspiration from the world around her’, but coming from a science background, she felt that she needed rules, or some sort of direction to help her throughout the creative process.
Lynsey decided to select a theatre unit and found that she absolutely loved it, especially now that she could follow a manual for her designs. From here, Lynsey realised that she was not necessarily a maker, but was better at breaking down scripts and managing budgets. Similar to many students in their studies, this was a period of insecurity for Lynsey, as she experienced an ‘artist’s block’ and felt as though she wasn’t talented enough - she found herself comparing her work to other students', and this led her to question her abilities.
Lynsey went on to speak about her first job in the industry. This was a job that she found through the technician on her course. Within a week of working on Waking the Dead, she was shocked at the 12hour days and recalls a teary conversation with her Mum. This brought Lynsey to comment on her opinions of the nature of the film and TV industry, and the long hours that can often come with working on set. She has been known to work 65 hours a week and reiterated that you must genuinely love your work in order to thrive, since these hours can be difficult.
“At the time, there wasn’t a great amount of TV, but now there are lots of new productions and lots of demand so it’s a really good time to come and work in crew.”
Whilst at university, Lynsey gained work experience in national theatre, opera, and various movie productions where she learned a lot as a trainee. Lynsey then discussed her work in the industry. Initially, she worked as a trainee and a standby, where she acquired a lot of skills through watching more experienced professionals' work. The early projects she worked on were primarily comedies - this experience, she recalled, really helped her as in that context you must fulfil the brief quickly. People need to know immediately who the character is so that the joke can land. Additionally, Lynsey said that she found it to be a fast-paced work environment.
More recently, Lynsey has been the designer for renowned TV series’ ‘Chewing Gum’, ‘I May Destroy You’, and ‘Anne Boleyn’. In a more senior role on these projects, Lynsey said that she felt it was the first time she really felt the concept was central. Different directors demand unique styles of working, she said, and her experience working on I May Destroy you with Sam Miller was comparatively very loose and free. The entire process remains consistently very collaborative, with writers, producers, directors, and actors all contributing to the overall realisation of the costumes.
A particular piece of advice that Lynsey gave, I found to be very crucial. “Keep the actors happy - it’s very communicative on camera when an actor is uncomfortable in their costume, whereas if they are comfortable, their whole demeanour changes, and they are able to fully assume the character.” Lynsey gained Michaela Cole’s trust after having worked with her on Chewing Gum, where they worked together to move away from the typical representation of young black people on council estates in ‘hoodies and track-suits, and instead created an incredibly unique, vintage-sourced wardrobe that reflected the characters personalities.
On the set of I May Destroy You, the design process was character led. Lynsey wanted the three leads to work together and appear cohesive and contemporary. Therefore, she chose to source her clothes from places that the characters would have actually shopped in. She went to high street stores and vintage shops, and also sourced from online stores such as ASOS and Boohoo. An additional challenge she faced was that Michaela Cole’s character was an influencer, and the fact that influencers are perennially current posed a challenge as she did not want to dress her in trends that would have evaporated by the time the show aired.
On her more recent project, ‘Anne Boleyn’, Lynsey stated that she felt it was more of a challenge because she envisages herself as a contemporary costume designer and therefore found period drama to be a daunting affair. The whole application was a bit of a gamble and was further complicated by the fact that she was only given 5 weeks’ preparation, a minuscule budget and the shooting took place mid- lockdown. Even more, she had a small crew, and many of the actors were breastfeeding, and thus the costumes needed to be able to be removed quickly. The concept for Anne Boleyn, then, needed to take all these factors into account. Therefore, Lynsey let go of her mental image of what Tudor costumes should be comprised off - out was her idea of sumptuous embroidery. Instead, she worked with colour palettes taken from contemporary tapestries. I was particularly struck how she ended up constructing the costumes for ease of access; the sleeves were secured by poppers, could be changed out, and taken off. The innovation of the process of making certainly reflected in the costumes on screen - they felt very fresh and unique.
Overall, the ethos of Lynsey’s talk was that costuming is a difficult industry, because of the nature of being a freelancer, and to succeed, you must really love what you do. Which she does, and you can tell.