In Stitches

27 March 2013


In Stitches, a new costume exhibition at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, will celebrate and share the fascinating costume making skills of the Company.

Visitors will have an exclusive chance to see rarely displayed costumes from RSC productions produced over the last 60 years. The 35 hand-crafted costumes were all made in Stratford and worn by some of the country's best loved actors including Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, Antony Sher, Juliet Stevenson, Patrick Stewart and David Tennant, , amongst others.

Costumes from the RSC's unique Collection and Costume Store, which houses over 30,000 items, will be on display in the theatre's PACCAR Room as part of Into the Wild, the first part of the exhibition, which opens on Saturday 20th April to coincide with Stratford's Shakespeare Birthday celebrations. It will also show how designers and makers through the years have responded to themes of nature in Shakespeare's work such as David Tennant's costume from the 1996 As You Like It and Judi Dench's 1976 costume from The Comedy of Errors, which incorporates a beautiful butterfly motif.

Every costume illustrates the skills and craftsmanship that go into each piece, such as tailoring, dyeing, printing, leatherwork, beading, corsetry, millinery, mask-making and jewellery making. All of these skills, plus new techniques developed in response to contemporary fabrics and designs, are used on a daily basis in the RSC's Costume Department in Stratford.

From the 4 May, a further part of the exhibition opens in the Swan Theatre's Ferguson Room - Costume Craft follows the journey of how costumes and wigs are made and maintained by the RSC's skilled teams. An interactive display details the fascinating process from the first stitch to the final performance, revealing the skills, knowledge and imagination involved in dressing each character on the RSC stage. The experience also includes a dressing up area where visitors can try on a professional theatre costume for themselves.

Alistair McArthur, RSC Head of Costume, said,

'We know from our theatre tours and open days that people love to know how we create our costumes. From the industrial strength magnets we use for quick changes, to the techniques used to distress fabric, boots and shoes, people often imagine that costumes are held together with a bulldog clip, but nothing is further from the truth. All of our costumes are made exceptionally well as they can be on stage day after day for well over 100 performances. The skill and expertise that goes into making them is extraordinary and it's wonderful that we can share these skills through In Stitches.'

As part of the exhibition, RSC Associate Designer Tom Piper has devised an installation in the theatre Colonnade. Rosalind's Tree is created from a swirling display of clothes and photographs from past RSC productions of As You Like It to spotlight the light hearted gender interplay that Shakespeare incorporates into this pastoral comedy (the current production of which opens in the RST in April 2013).

To coincide with In Stitches the RSC, a registered charity, will launch a Made in Stratford Appeal, which aims to raise £1million. This money will help to sustain the RSC's legacy of theatre making and support essential craft skills, facilities and training. People can donate by going to:

For further information and images of some of the displayed costumes and the productions in which they appeared, please contact 020 7 845 0512, 07966 295032.

Notes to Editors

MADE IN Stratford-upon-Avon - Seen around the world.

Everyone at the Royal Shakespeare Company, from actors to technicians, milliners to musicians, plays a part in creating the world you see on stage. The work, which begins its life at our Stratford workshops and theatres, is shared with audiences through our touring, residencies and online activity throughout the world. So, wherever you experience the RSC, you will experience work that is made in Shakespeare's home town.

Shakespeare has been performed and celebrated in Stratford for centuries and the RSC has trained generations of the very best theatre makers since the Company was founded in 1961. We pioneer contemporary approaches to Shakespeare's plays, as well as staging the work of those who inspired him, and today's writers.

Little known facts about the RSC:
• The RSC is the only theatre company in Europe with its own on-site armoury, where we produce breastplates, gauntlets, belts and weaponry
• The RSC lighting team invented and holds the international patent for RSC Lightlock, an oscillation damper that solves the problem of sway generated by the movement of automated moving lights. (Patent number WO 2009/010727 A1)
• We plan our work a long time in advance with some projects under discussion for two to three years. Matilda The Musical began its life seven years before it reached The Courtyard Theatre stage in Stratford-upon-Avon.
• Costumes from previous productions from the RSC's Costume Store have been hired out and seen in Film and TV across the years, from Shakespeare in Love and Braveheart, to Merlin, Dr Who and Don't Tell The Bride
• The RSC is a Registered Charity (No: 212 481)

RSC in Shakespeare's Birthday Weekend - FREE activities taking place on Saturday 20 April include music in the theatre's public spaces, craft activities and workshops for families and children, storytelling with Sally Pomme Clayton, theatre skills workshops and RSC actors speaking Shakespeare's sonnets on the chain ferry.

RSC Collection - The RSC's historic collections include costumes spanning the history of the theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, paintings dating from the 18th and 21st Centuries, designs, prints and drawings, sculptures, theatrical props, accessories and memorabilia. The majority are kept in museum storage, and put on display when required for exhibitions. To find out more about the RSC Collection visit  

RSC Costume Store - Home to over 30,000 costumes designed and made exclusively for our productions, our Costume Store is located on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon. As well as an extensive Elizabethan and Jacobean collection, we house a full range of weird and wonderful costumes from all periods, testament to the diverse range of productions staged by the company over the years. These items are available to hire for film, TV and theatre productions, schools, amateur dramatic groups, corporate events and for special occasions. For more information about the Costume Store visit  

As You Like It, directed by Maria Aberg, runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 12 April – 28 September and then tours to Newcastle Theatre Royal.

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