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Costume alumna on BBC’s Sherlock

BA (Hons) Costume and Performance Design Alumni Course news / Industry news – Published 14th Feb 17

BA (Hons) Costume and Performance Design alumna, Maudie Whitehead, graduated in 2009. She now works as Costume Standby, most recently on BBC’s Sherlock.

Could you tell us a bit about what being Costume Standby on Sherlock involved?

Being a Costume Standby involves many things. My main job is to look after the actors on set. I make sure they are in the correct costume for that story day/scene and keep accurate and detailed costume and continuity notes and photos.

In the morning of an average shoot day, I will have to put out all the actors’ costumes into their trailers, then go over any notes for the day with the Costume Supervisor. I make sure my kit is ready and take any extras e.g warm coats, bits of costume used for set dressing etc to set with me. All the crew then go through a rehearsal, before we then do checks to shoot on the actors. I have to make sure they are looking their best, and are the same as any previous continuity notes if we are matching.

As we don’t shoot in sequence, a huge part of my job is paperwork, making sure i am on top of each actors photos and notes for all scenes shot. Another part of my job is making sure the actor is comfortable, warm and checking if there are any problems with the costume. For example if something breaks or rips, I’m there to fix it.

How did you find working on the drama?

I loved working on Sherlock. It was tough with the long 12 hour days on camera and shooting away from home. An average day for me would start around 6:30/7am and I wouldn’t get home until 9pm. You have to enjoy what you do to cope with the long hours!

Sherlock is famous all over the world and we would have crazed fans follow us to all sorts of locations, which was interesting to deal with. All the crew and cast were a real pleasure to work with, so that always makes or breaks a job for me!

How did you find your time at AUB?

It seems a long time ago now that I was there. I graduated in 2009. I had great fun in Bournemouth and remember the course with great fondness. I specialised in design, but haven’t picked up a pencil  for to draw a costume design for a long time! All my work now is practical; dressing actors, continuity notes, alterations, buying and sourcing. I had to learn all of these things on the job and as a trainee, before stepping up to a standby.

What would your one piece of advice to current students be?

My one piece of advice for current AUB students is experience! I’m afraid it doesn’t matter if you are the best designer or maker, once you graduate, employers are looking at your CV for experience that you have.

You have to really want a career in this industry to stick at it, as its extremely tough. I’m especially realising this with a daughter at school.

I feel like my hard work has paid off though, and it will for you too! Once you have gone through the costume reel and worked your way up, you will build your contact list and then have regular well paid work. I promise!