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Three images of a red and gold Captain Hook costume with a feather hat and ruffles on a mannequin, white background.

Ellie Waters – Creating Captain Hook's costume for SISATA Open Air Theatre

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For my major project in BA (Hons) Costume, I made a full Captain Hook costume for SISATA Open Air Theatre’s touring production of Peter Pan, taking place this summer. The company asked for four costumes to be custom-made by the course for Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, and Captain Hook. I made the one for Captain Hook, which included a shirt, breeches, waistcoat, coat, and cravat.

This production follows the trend of having Mr Darling’s actor also playing Hook, meaning the 19th century shirt and breeches worn alone portrayed Mr Darling, while the added 18th century coat and waistcoat transformed the actor into Captain Hook. I really enjoyed taking on this costume for my final project as it allowed me to develop my tailoring skills, with an allowance for creativity due to the fictional Neverland setting that Hook comes from.

To make the shirt and breeches, I drafted a base pattern using the actor’s measurements and then altered them at the fitting. I enjoyed making the shirt as it included a lot of new techniques, including a pin-tucked bib front, sleeve plackets and a stand collar. I had to sample these techniques many times as they were quite technical and fiddly, so I had to practise making them neat. The most important factor for the shirt was making sure it was crisp and neat, so I pressed the shirt at each stage of construction to make sure it stayed as creaseless as possible. Making this type of shirt was very helpful to me as it had a lot of similarities to modern-day shirts over pre-19th century shirts, which were more ruffled and baggier.

The coat was my favourite part of the costume to make, as this is where all the extravagance for the character could be added. In contrast to Mr Darling, we wanted Hook to be extravagant and adorned, but not over-the-top, with a burgundy wool used instead of a scarlet red. This jacket was supposed to represent an old coat of a grandparent found in an attic, so it's inspired by the red and gold combination used on British military jackets, but not accurate to military styles, as it's meant for a fantastical pirate captain rather than an army captain.

I started by drafting a 1780s-style coat, but then altered it to be in the 1730s style, which had lots of pleats in the coat's skirt. My actor really liked this in the fitting, as he commented that he now got to spin his skirts like girls in their dresses! The budget we had for this project was initially quite small, so a lot of the decoration was donated. The gold trim decorating the coat was all donated, and I cut and manipulated them to fit the desired look for the coat. Sewing it on was quite time-consuming, as they were separate pieces, rather than a long strip of trim. However, I am really pleased with the final outcome as I think the gold looks very effective down the front, paired with the gold buttons.

I’m glad I was offered the opportunity to work on an external production, as it allowed me to put what I have learnt in my time at AUB into practice with a professional company. I made for an AUB show – The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – in the autumn term, which was a lot of fun and set me up for the requirements of a show for SISATA’s Peter Pan.

In doing a project that took place outside my university course, it meant that scheduling – such as fittings or measurements – had to be flexible to meet the needs of the actors. This allowed me to adapt my time management to accommodate a schedule that could change constantly. I really enjoyed practising my skills in making for a live university show last term, as this made it a lot easier to be adaptable to the requirements of an outside production team in Peter Pan. Working on an external production in my last term at AUB has prepared me for industry, as I now know the practice of working with an external cast and crew.

I really enjoyed making this Captain Hook costume and I can’t wait to see the production in the summer.

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