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Behind the scenes of the most eccentric TV outfits: Dionne Warwick declared “I will never wear that again!”
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Behind the scenes of the most eccentric TV outfits: Dionne Warwick declared “I will never wear that again!”


Over the weekend, three contestants, Piranha, Cricket, and Bigfoot, competed in a singing contest. They had already defeated other competitors such as Dippy Egg, Weather, Bubble Tea, and Air Fryer. The Masked Singer, a popular show that involves guessing which celebrities are performing under extravagant costumes, has gained global success and received awards like a TV Bafta and an International Emmy. But where do these eccentric characters that captivate audiences originate from?

“It all begins with a spontaneous idea during a phone conversation, like ‘Let’s have a Dippy Egg!’ or ‘All the kids are crazy about bubble tea,'” explains Tim Simpson, the costume designer for the show. He continues to multitask, chatting on the phone while creating a large martini glass in his workshop at Plunge Creations, filled with costumes and props. “Before you know it, someone suggests adding a landmark, like the Eiffel Tower.”

The individual will create approximately 25 sketches, stating that they are typically unaware of who the performer will be. The producers then attempt to pair a vocalist with a character – or intentionally mismatch them to deceive viewers from discovering their true identity. Afterwards, the designer focuses on ensuring that the costumes are comfortable for singing in and allow for good visibility (“This can be challenging, especially when creating a Chicken Caesar outfit”). However, the celebrities may not always immediately approve of the designs.

“Dionne Warwick was unable to have her costume fitted due to being in the States,” explains Simpson. “After trying it on and taking it off, she declared that she would never wear it again because it was uncomfortable and not to her liking.” With only four hours left, Simpson had to quickly adjust the internal mask. “I nervously entered her dressing room and told her I hoped it would fit. She confidently replied, ‘It will fit.'”

Cricket, Weather, Maypole, Bigfoot, Dippy Egg and Rat on The Masked Dancer.View image in fullscreen

Next, we encounter some technical challenges: “The Air Fryer really scared me this season – I had to figure out how to program [her LED face] and leave the crew with the technology during filming. Even when I watched the show, I was still worried that her face wouldn’t function properly.” He also successfully brought to life the season three creation of Robobunny, a large robot with a singing bunny rabbit in its front compartment: “My son designed it. I loved incorporating a puppet into it – when it came on stage and sang with two different voices, it truly came alive.”

Besides the dramatic elements and advanced technology, it is evident that a great deal of passion is poured into these designs. The fandom’s attachment is so strong that one woman has written a movie script featuring all the characters. Simpson explains, “We all develop a fondness for characters from our childhood, and I believe people are connecting with these in a similar manner.” She also acknowledges the responsibility of ensuring there is at least one character that will capture someone’s heart, stating, “This season, it seems to be Dippy Egg – who would have thought!”

A series that, 60 years on, continues to captivate fans with its strange and spectacular costumes is Doctor Who. Louise Page was the award-winning costume designer on the first Russell T Davies era between 2005 and 2010 – and she introduced many aliens and villains to Who’s legacy with her terrifying designs, including the Sycorax, the clockwork droids, the Judoon, the scarecrows and the Sisters of Plenitude (“the cat nuns”).

Page credits Russell for bringing the new characters to life during the script read-throughs, stating that “everything” originated from him. She praises his amazing scripts, which had a way of captivating readers.

Doctor Who’s Madame de Pompodour episode.View image in fullscreen

The collaborative efforts of the costume, special effects, hair and makeup teams, along with the use of props, were crucial in completing each series within a 10-month time frame. Page was recognized with a Welsh TV Bafta award for her work on the clockwork man and woman in the Madame de Pompodour episode. She acknowledges that the most chilling aspect of their appearance was the masks, which were created by Millennial FX, the team responsible for all the prosthetics. These masks were particularly frightening for children. Additionally, there were numerous stunts involved in the production, including knives and arm-mounted weapons that were a last-minute addition.

The cat nuns were a beloved choice: “They wore the typical nun attire, but their faces were completely covered in prosthetics. Each strand of hair was painstakingly applied, taking about three hours for makeup.” This was crucial: every bit of skin had to be concealed. “This is definitely a top priority when creating any creature or monster for Doctor Who!”

Although there was pressure to meet the expectations set by previous designs, Page found the outcome to be almost unbelievable. She shares, “It’s rare for costume designers to see their designs turned into action figures… it’s quite wonderful.” Page also had the opportunity to attend a major convention in Los Angeles, where she saw fans wearing their own interpretations of her designs, including the iconic 10th Doctor costume worn by David Tennant. She even had some young teenagers approach her, inspired to become costume designers after watching the series.

Another beloved show that continues to wow audiences with its wardrobe department is Strictly Come Dancing. Since it started 20 years ago, the development of theme weeks and slick top-tier productions have demanded spectacular costumes, especially during the Halloween and Movie weeks. Vicky Gill, who has been the show’s Costume lead since 2012, says they have fewer than seven days to turn round the next live show’s costumes (last year there were 875 items in total, made by a core team of nine). Anyone who tunes in will agree it’s an almost incomprehensible achievement.

“It can be quite overwhelming. Throughout the years, we have developed a process that gives the impression that anything can be achieved with little notice – we have become victims of our own triumph,” she explains. Following a brainstorming session every Tuesday, her team has a tight window between Thursday and Saturday to ensure the costumes are perfect for the live performances. “This is our superpower for Strictly.”


Dianne Buswell’s Marge Simpson outfit, including the iconic blue hair, was a standout during her energetic performance. How did she manage to keep her hair in place? According to Gill, it was a result of the efficient collaboration between the hair and makeup team within a limited timeframe. This aspect is often overlooked by viewers, but it is a challenging task that everyone handles admirably.

Dianne Buswell as Marge Simpson on Strictly Come Dancing.View image in fullscreen

Her team – who already knows the professionals’ likes and dislikes (and what scares them) – speak to the celebrities to learn theirs. “We don’t want unhappy people, we just want people to feel comfortable and able to perform their best. But it’s not always the most favourite thing they’ve ever worn … ”

Over the years, there have been several malfunctions, with some being more serious than others. During last year’s Christmas show, Dan Snow, who played the gingerbread man, experienced a wardrobe malfunction when his trousers split while attempting to break a record. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done about it. In 2015, Jay McGuinness performed a Pulp Fiction jive that earned him a perfect score of 10s. However, Gill couldn’t help but cringe as she watched, knowing that he had to use safety pins to secure his trouser hems. She felt disappointed and frustrated by the situation.

Gill, known for creating iconic costumes on a popular British show, is never satisfied when rewatching the series. She constantly believes she could have done better if given more time and is very critical of herself. However, she does not want it any other way and jokes about never retiring because she is so used to working with adrenaline. She wonders what will become of her when she finally stops.

Most of these works of art are stored away, which is unfortunate. However, this allows room for creative ideas to keep flowing. Some of them have been recycled, displayed in exhibitions, or sold at auctions. According to Simpson, some costumes from The Masked Singer are even being used for performances at Butlin’s on weekends. It’s heartwarming to see that people still want to see these characters.

Source: theguardian.com