As Wimbledon’s final year students prepare for their Summer Show to open on 13 June 2019, we speak to Twan Lentjes, a BA Theatre and Screen: Costume Interpretation student about preparing their pieces for exhibition, and how digital technology helped them to replicate traditional techniques and bring complex designs to life.
Can you tell us about the work you're going to show at the summer show and why you chose this concept?
I will be showing three costumes that are all just my work as well as one collaborative costume.
The collaborative one is inspired by the work of Italian Renaissance painter Lorenzo Lotto following an exhibition of his work at the National Gallery earlier this year. I made that costume together with Colette Robinson.
The first of my own costumes that I will show was created for the Real Lives project. I have recreated the suit of Otto van Randwijck who was the Dutch stable master for William V, Prince of Orange. I chose this as it's a fully embroidered habit à la française, which is a French court suit. I love glitzy and glamorous stuff and I wanted to do menswear. I saw one of these suits at the V&A and it's just mind-blowing. The detail of the embroidery is brilliant.
I did a lot of research and I found this one suit and I found out that it was worn by a Dutch person, so I felt like I wanted to make that particular suit as I am Dutch myself. It was going to be really expensive to have it embroidered, which would have been a cheat because I really should do it myself! But to do it by hand would have taken me way too long - I couldn't do that in the time we had.
So I looked into machine embroidery, which I had seen done by other people before so I knew it was possible. I tried out some free software which I really liked and then I used the professional version of the same software to finalise all the digital files, which were then stitched on to the fabric with a machine.
My feeling is that there is modern technology - why not use it if you can? And I did hand embroider the French knots (little tiny dots all over the suit) myself!
My second costume was for our Opera project and is based on a design from Erté’s Der Rosenkavalier. I chose the character of the Seamstress, firstly because she’s a seamstress and it references our course, and secondly because it was a really nice shade of yellow. Initially I wanted to make a massive ball gown, but with my first costume in mind, there was no way I was going to be able to achieve that as well. I really liked the silhouette of this costume - it was shorter than a gown, so you would see her legs. There were some props to make as well, such as a 3D printed heart-shaped pin cushion and show buckles as well so, again, I was able to use technology to realise elements of the design.
My final last costume is designed by my housemate Giusy Coviello. She showed me her portfolio and I saw this one particular design called Ondine which is for a water creature, like a mermaid. As soon as I saw the drawing I thought 'I would love to make that!'. There's lots of sparkle, beading, painting, dyeing. I dye lots of fabrics to shade for my costumes but for this particular one I had the opportunity to do a lot more in the Dye Room to produce the ombre dye effect, which I really enjoyed.
What has been the most enjoyable part of putting your final piece together?
It sounds silly but: finishing it! I think, particularly with the first costume, because I've been working on it for so long, the process can feel frustrating. But when you finish it and you see it on the person when you do the photoshoot it comes to life and that's so exciting to see. This is especially true in the case of my Real Lives costume, because my model was my flatmate who's an actor - he really brought the costume to life and he loved wearing it.
But I also just love the whole journey. We've learned so much as students and it's really nice to see what you what you were able to achieve in the final year.
How has your practice and your interest changed since starting your course?
When I started I wasn't too fond of hand sewing, which has changed a lot. I love it now because you have much more control over the finished piece and it's quite relaxing. Before starting the course, I felt like everything needed to be done quickly, but sometimes you just have to take your time. Depending on the industry you work in and what you do, sometimes you are able to hand finish a costume beautifully and that's one of the things that really excites me. I also have a lot more knowledge about the history of costume.
My interest in big sparkly gowns hasn't changed, that's definitely stayed the same!
What advice would you give to second year students for when they go into their final year?
Do your dissertation over summer if you can. Try to do as much of that as possible because it will be really busy as soon as you come back after summer.
Challenge yourself, but also keep in mind time because things always take longer than you want them to. Don't go the easy way - do challenge yourself, make something you want to make, but also be realistic. Think about it for a moment, think 'can I do this in the time I have?'
Reflect on your own work and think about what you want to achieve after graduation? Which direction do you want to go in? Might that influence the costumes you choose to make?
Can you tell me about your overall experience of studying at Wimbledon?
I think doing this has been the best choice of my life. I've been so happy to be here studying costume - something I've loved for such a long time.
This is not my first degree. I studied Hospitality Management in the Netherlands and then I moved here and joined a musical theatre group for which I make costumes as well. I've been sewing since I was little and at the time I knew it was something I wanted to do but for all sorts of reasons I didn't go into it to begin with.
Wimbledon was recommended to me by quite a few people, so I didn't apply for any other schools. And it's been great - I've learned and lot and had a lot of fun along the way.
Visit our Undergraduate Summer Show 2019
Find out more about BA Costume for Theatre and Screen