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‘Gentleman Jack’ Costume Designer Tom Pye

'Gentleman Jack' Costume Designer Tom Pye

The costumes for “Gentleman Jack” are inspiring, a lot in order that certainly one of our writers intends to decorate as Anne Lister for Halloween, (despite the fact that it is going to in all probability take her from now till October to determine methods to replicate Anne’s coiffure).

Gentleman Jack, courtesy BBC One and HBO


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The costuming excellence is because of collection designer Tom Pye, who works internationally in theatre, TV, movie, opera and dance. Period drama fans might have seen Pye’s costumes in “To Walk Invisible,” the 2016 BBC / PBS film that introduced the Bronte sisters to life.

Under, Pye talks with Willow and Thatch about his artistic course of, and the challenges and delights of manifesting his vision of Anne Lister for the brand new HBO collection, the 1832-set drama based mostly on the true-story and coded journals of Lister (performed by Suranne Jones). “Gentleman Jack” follows her try and revitalize her inherited residence, Shibden Corridor, partially, by taking a wife.

The credit score sequence is a collection of cuts of Anne getting dressed. Her clothing is such a big part of her id, so this is sensible. However was it all the time the plan to concentrate on the garments for the opening sequence, or did it take time for everybody to choose that concept?

Tom: It was on the playing cards from very early on. The primary drafts I learn of Sally Wainwright’s script for “Gentleman Jack” – when the title for the collection was still going to be “Shibden Hall” – targeted on Anne Lister’s clothes within the credit. My understanding is that Sally was impressed by the sequence in Pedro Almodavor’s movie, Speak to Her, during which a feminine matador gets prepared for a battle and the elegant and complex particulars of their costume are honed in on.

We have been fascinated by the stability between male and female, the ambiguities that might be explored by going into shut detail, and the fascinating juxtapositions that could possibly be created between garments, reminiscent of male drawers worn over female corsetry. I used to be notably keen to incorporate details such as the corset busk with its delicate carving depicting the corridor and the Lister’s latin quote. So much of what Anne wore would have been dictated by the strict social conventions of the time, corresponding to corsetry and ankle-length skirts. I discovered it fascinating to imagine how she might have complied to those restrictions and how, on the similar time, she may need subverted them, creating what should have appeared as a very masculine silhouette to earn her the nickname “Gentleman Jack.”

Are you able to walk us by means of these sketches, and speak about your working technique?

Anne Lister’s spencer, Gentleman Jack, courtesy Tom Pye

Tom: This sketch (above) exhibits how a design can develop. The original concept for this came straight out of Anne Lister’s diary. Fairly helpfully she mentions a number of gadgets of clothing in her writing, so we do know a fair amount about particular gadgets of clothes she wore. There’s point out of numerous things together with a spencer, a greatcoat, wool waistcoats, gaiters and stays. And Anne typically refers to her sister Marian repairing garments for her or buying material to make specific clothes, such because the drawers she wore.

There’s even a packing record of the clothes she took on one among her journeys to Denmark that she would have shared together with her woman’s maid Eugenie, which we coated in Episode 8. You’ll be able to think about how excited I used to be to examine these sorts of details. I discovered it absolutely fascinating and massively useful to my design process.

So, armed with the information that Anne wore a spencer, and thru dialog with Sally about how we felt Anne would have loved some army reference in her clothing, I set about designing a spencer jacket that would do both. The hooked up sketch exhibits my strategy of reflecting on references and incorporating this analysis within the completed design. On this case, I modified my mind concerning the decoration after doing the first sketch.

Anne Lister’s business go well with, Gentleman Jack, courtesy Tom Pye

Proven on this illustration (above) is Anne’s sensible great coat. She would wear this for formal meetings, reminiscent of visiting the financial institution in Halifax. The design is predicated on an unique 1830s coat that’s part of the John Vibrant collection, which is such an exquisite useful resource. I used to be working with John’s company, Cosprop, to make most of Anne’s costumes and I was lucky to be able to look at the unique coat up shut.

Intently analyzing unique clothing is a vital part of my research. By doing this I really feel higher capable of understand development strategies and materials, and to realize a deeper insight into the cultural and historical contexts of the clothes. As well as the John Brilliant assortment, I additionally researched extensively at Tub Museum, Chertsy Museum, and Winchester City Museum. In doing so, I made appointments with the curators to realize access to see gadgets held of their archives that aren’t often on show. One other useful part of my design course of is analyzing the depiction of clothing in artworks, including unique drawings and work.

For “Gentleman Jack,” I spent a substantial amount of time with work by artists resembling Mary Ellen Greatest and George Scharf, in addition to the style plates of the 19th century periodical, “La Belle Assemblée.” I additionally researched satirical cartoons from the interval which give an exquisite perspective on how fashions have been seen at the time, socially and culturally.

Along with paying a substantial amount of attention to historic accuracy, I worked intently with one of the tailors at Cosprop, Dan Ashworth, to design Anne’s nice coat to fit Suranne in very specific methods. I needed its length and development to provide Suranne the power to maneuver easily, and it was additionally important for me that the coat itself would move in an exciting approach. This was achieved by way of the choice of materials and in addition by way of a selected development that allowed the coat to billow behind as she strode about.



About historic accuracy, how a lot did you weigh that vs. the need to convey character to viewers in 2019? On-screen Anne wears a corset and skirts, and so far as we know, the actual Anne Lister did not wear a prime hat, but a prime hat is such an effective means of conveying her character and social standing to a modern viewers.

Tom: I really like to start out with historical research, however storytelling is the primary focus of any design work and I feel it’s essential to know a period in addition to you probably can as a way to obtain this properly. It appears to me that solely once you’ve achieved a deep understanding of the interval you’re working with can you then discover ways to take liberties when wanted with a purpose to convey specific traits of character, mood, and the likes. Researching completely breeds ideas and this permits details to be included that wouldn’t in any other case be attainable.

My analysis into Anne Lister informed me she wore a small black gentle cap, in all probability created with velvet. I attempted a number of shapes along these strains, however it didn’t seem to be able to convey an understanding to a contemporary viewers of the facility or standing that might be achieved with a prime hat. I also undertook in depth research into different 19th century lesbians and was notably influenced by the Women of Llangollen, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, two upper-class Irish ladies whose relationship was notorious. Like Anne, additionally they wore all black, they usually wore prime hats. There’s no mention of a prime hat by Anne in her diary, however that doesn’t mean she didn’t own one – we simply don’t know. I worked with a wonderful milliner, Sean Barrett, to create all of Anne Lister’s hats and a number of other bonnets for Ann Walker.

We did discover the thought of Anne sporting pants. I fitted Suranne in pantaloons, but my intuition was they have been too unlikely. We know that the French novelist George Sand (who was one other prime hat affect) wore trousers on a few occasions in Paris round this time. But Paris is a very totally different place to Halifax, and Sand moved in inventive and bohemian circles that have been in contrast to the society Anne combined with. Have been she alive in 1930, I barely assume she’d have got away with sporting trousers in Halifax, let alone in 1830! Social conventions have been simply too strict.

I also feel have been she to have worn pants there would have been mention of this in her diaries or different contemporaneous accounts of her look. And the clothes which are mentioned in the diaries are fairly the other, together with petticoats, skirts, corsets, and no less than one pelisse. Nevertheless, I consider she toyed with breaches in her youth and we mirror this sometimes in flashbacks, using them to recommend Anne was a relatively a precocious teenager.

You have been the costumer for “To Stroll Invisible,” the PBS historical drama that chronicles the Brontë sisters’ battle to publish their novels. Like “Gentleman Jack,” it is set within the first a part of the 1800s in England, and was directed by Sally Wainwright. However “To Stroll Invisible” was a TV movie, as opposed to a full limited collection. Did your work as costume designer for the film prepare you for “Gentleman Jack”?

To Stroll Invisible, Courtesy of PBS

Tom: In many ways, To Stroll Invisible was an ideal heat up, however by comparability to “Gentleman Jack” it was a small and contained job with my essential focus being simply the Bronte household. I designed almost all of their costumes to be custom-made and the gang scenes weren’t as giant as these in “Gentleman Jack.” On both tasks, I was fortunate to be able to work with an excellent costume supervisor, Nadine Davern, who was a vital collaborator. It was Nadine who assembled my group within the costume department, and each member was excellent at their job. Having a incredible group is important for the department to run smoothly and have the ability to work successfully with the number and variety of actors we needed to costume.

It’s really rewarding to see your expertise manifest on-screen. Do you take pleasure in creating for tv as much as for the stage? Is your working technique very totally different?

Tom: It is exciting to have the ability to design for different mediums. Creatively, it keeps me on my toes and opens up nice opportunities for ‘cross-pollination’. I typically find it useful to convey working practices from one subject into one other.

Just lately I’ve been designing for ballet. Technically this can be a very totally different enterprise, in that the costumes need to enable quite a lot of movement for the dancers. It’s like dressing athletes. A current manufacturing was “Anna Karenina” for the Joffrey Ballet, which concerned later nineteenth century gown.

My work on this challenge immediately informed the technical aspect of my design for “Gentleman Jack,” enabling me to unravel a problem Suranne had together with her corset. The extra traditional corset Suranne wore started to offer her welts when she was required to be very bodily, doing issues like leaping up and down from stage coaches, and jumping over partitions. So, in collaboration with Parkinson Gill, my favorite costume makers for opera and dance, we used a way of changing panels within the corset with powernet, a cloth commonly used in ballet. This utterly solved the difficulty whilst retaining the corseted look, giving Suranne much more motion.

The eye to interval detail extends to the costumes of all of the actors, from what seems to me like a shepherd’s chemise in the first episode, to the aprons of the servants, all the totally different bonnets, and from the butcher to the banker, to all the choices that mirror the standing of the tenants. How on earth did you handle to try this?

Gentleman Jack, courtesy BBC One and HBO

Tom: That’s good of you to notice! I’d say that was truly one among my largest considerations. Over the course of the collection we had over 100 named characters from each potential degree of society, with many various professions and positions, from beggars to royalty. Alongside these characters we had a whole lot of background artists to costume. It was important that as new characters turned up, whether or not this was in the first or the last episode, we have been capable of convey their degree of wealth and social standing appropriately.

In Episode 8, there have been giant group scenes by which many characters beforehand seen independently all through the collection have been out of the blue in the same room. Making sure all of them appeared applicable collectively when it comes to their standing was a check for the entire costume group to convey together the months of work we had undertaken.

Marian, for instance, was a difficult one. Though when it comes to her social status as a Lister she was very excessive up, she had no private revenue and she or he was not as rich as her sister. So, it appeared to me she ought not to be wearing silk. Every thing I designed for her was created with wool or cotton, materials that have been far more readily available within the area and would have been a terrific deal cheaper. Actually, cash would have been scarce for a lot of the characters.

I don’t assume even Anne would have had an in depth wardrobe. It’s doubtless she would have worn the identical clothes for days and days. Usually, when costuming the variety of individuals required for “Gentleman Jack,” it’s all about teamwork. And as I mentioned earlier, I used to be very lucky to have a small but sensible workforce to work with.

Can you speak about using shade? Anne’s black is an obvious one, and her cause for dressing that means is given within the script, nevertheless it contrasts so nicely with the pastels of the harmless and sheltered Ann Walker. And Marion Lister’s clothes are typically dark colors or busy patterns. The servants put on rich mustards and burnt umbers, wanting like they have been achieved with plant dyes.

Tom: As part of my design process, one of the first issues I did was put a board of colour palettes collectively for the totally different groups of people, homes, and families. I had a palette for Shibden Corridor with rich, darkish earth tones, plenty of terracotta, mustards, ochres, and some darker blues. I needed their palette to really feel virtually Elizabethan to chime with the history of the home. Crow Nest was a Georgian Home and so I went for a much lighter palette that was deliberately opposite to Shibden with a lot paler pastel shades and typical pale Georgian mild greys, duck egg blues, pale yellows, and pinks.

Anne and Ann both put on rings on their index fingers. Was this an 1830s thing? It seems like a continuing visible reminder of the impossibility of marriage—so close but thus far.

Tom: You’re in all probability right about this. The rings have been a element steered by Sally Wainwright. I appreciated it and felt it was right. I felt it will learn as slightly extra masculine by a contemporary audience, than might be achieved by sporting rings on the fingers ordinarily related to ladies. And it immediately labored once we tried in on Suranne. I really like the best way by tweaking such a simple adornment on Anne we have been capable of layer in further narrative about her life and character.

What was the method of deciding on Anne’s hair fashion? How do you symbolize the era and the actual Anne Lister without it being distracting or wanting foolish? It’s such an incredible touch and thru line that Anne’s hair is usually just a little unkempt. Some strands falling around her face and so forth.

Tom: The thought to incorporate messy strands of hair was from Sally, however it was additionally in my very first drawings of her. When studying within the diary how Anne believed she might ‘stroll anyplace in 20 minutes!’ – it makes complete sense.

We have been very lucky to work with an excellent hair and make-up staff led by Lin Davie ( This could assist in the event you, like Willow and Thatch writer Ella Morton, need to obtain the Lister hair look). Together with Sue Newbould they created all the fabulous hairstyles for all the actors. We had an amazing collaborative working relationship and have been continuously out and in of one another’s vans with ribbons and hats figuring out how you can make our plans work with theirs. Hats and bonnets naturally have a huge impact on hairstyles, so collaboration was essential. I liked the whole lot they did- particularly Anne’s hair!

By the time we see Anne in a glamorous white gown we are so accustomed to her more androgynous/masculine physical mannerisms that, although she seems to be lovely, she also just seems incorrect. How did the design of the gown and her headpiece assist facilitate that?

Tom: I’m delighted you assume she seems to be ‘improper’, that was absolutely the intention. I needed to intentionally exaggerate Suranne’s silhouette, in order that each of the extra conventional clothes she wears in Episode eight emphasize the line and width of her shoulders as a strategy to make her appear more masculine. All of the strains of Anne’s white ball robe are very horizontal, with giant epaulettes capping the sleeves that widen the shoulder line nonetheless additional… and the sash at her waist is a reference to a hussar uniform.

The 2 birds-of-paradise feathers in her hair is straight out of the diary – she wrote about one falling out within the carriage on her means there! I chose a particularly giant, quite absurd pair of feathers. And Sally directed Suranne to adjust the feathers as she entered the ball, reflecting the point out within the diary. Much of the work to make Anne look ‘mistaken’ was achieved via designing clothes for Suranne to inhabit uncomfortably.

In scenes where Anne and Ann are striving for any intimacy beyond a kiss, there’s a lot material between them! Layers and layers of skirts and petticoats and bloomers and stockings. HBO might have chosen to be more specific (along the strains of Outlander) given the TV-MA score. Regardless that issues get pretty scorching and heavy between the ladies, there’s restraint relating to nudity that feels tied to the physicality of their clothing. What was the considering here?

Tom: I feel that was completely intentional. Sally and the actors have been keen that the intimate scenes have been believable to the characters, and to the state of affairs and period. In reality they might be having to navigate a ton of materials and corsetry, and this might be absurd to a contemporary eye. Nevertheless it additionally displays the realities of conducting a relationship while making an attempt to maintain the information of it hidden, despite having a large entourage of servants. Anne would have grow to be an skilled in navigating underskirts and drawers.

And for most of the actors, I made them wear three petticoats in an effort to obtain the silhouette and type I used to be in search of so sure that’s plenty of material to navigate!

“Gentleman Jack” concludes its eight-episode first season Monday, June 10, however might be back for a second season. The announcement of Season 2 has us questioning if we’d see an evolution within the costumes. Anne Lister may have higher access to wealth. And will Ann’s fashion be influenced in any respect by Anne’s?

Tom: Sure, undoubtedly, to each of your questions. I’m not totally positive but however I’d love to see both of their wardrobes broaden an incredible deal. And I’m positive we may even see some influence of Anne on Ann, and probably even the other approach round. A lot of the story-lines in season one are based mostly on issues that happen on or around the property inside the brief time interval of some weeks and until the last couple of episodes, there was little alternative to introduce new seems for either character. I’ve no concept what season two will deliver, however Anne definitely travelled extensively presently, so I should imagine there shall be plenty of excuses to progress each of their wardrobes.


“Gentleman Jack” is AVAILABLE to STREAM.

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Learn extra about “Gentleman Jack,” and watch the trailer, right here.


Tom Pye works internationally in theatre, TV, film, opera and dance. Pye has designed sets and costumes throughout the world for directors as numerous as Peter Brook, Sally Wainwright, Deborah Warner, Simon McBurney, Jonathan Kent, Diane Paulus, Chen Shi-Zheng, Yuri Possokhov, Maria Friedman, Phelim McDermott, David Leveaux, James McDonald, Phyllida Lloyd, Tom Morris, Fiona Shaw, Nicholas Hytner and Pierre Audi. He was the costume designer for the 2019 tv collection “Gentleman Jack” (BBC/HBO) and “To Stroll Invisible” (BBC, PBS) each by Sally Wainwright. Visit his website, and comply with him on Instagram.

Be sure you see The Period Films Listing,with the perfect British, historic and costume dramas sorted by era. You’ll particularly like the Greatest Period Dramas: Georgian and Regency Period Listing.