A closer look at the Peter Pan costumes

The story of Peter Pan is iconic not just for its melancholy reflections on the nature of growing up, but for the characters that inhabit its fairy-tale world. For a costume designer, there is a huge variety of characters to bring to life, from Peter and his Lost Boys to Hook and her pirates, not to mention a family of human children. We spoke to Katie Sykes, the Costume Designer on the show, about her process, her career and working on Peter Pan.

Why did you want to become a costume designer?
When I was growing up the most important thing in our house was our dressing-up box. Being a costume designer means I still get to play with the dressing-up box, but it is much bigger now!

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A sketch for the costume worn by Anna Francolini as Captain Hook

Can you tell us a little bit about how you start the designing process?

I collate ideas initially by looking in books, reading any source material around the story, cutting pictures out of magazines and pulling images from the internet. I then make up a file which I use to help show what each costume needs to look like.

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Sketches for some of the costumes worn by two members of the cast, Ekow Quartey and Lois Chimimba

The initial inspiration for the costumes for the Lost Boys came from photos of children playing in the streets from the late sixties and early seventies. I then kept the other characters very eclectic in how they looked but worked closely with the actors to create what would work for them. However, this is a hugely physical show with loads of quick changes so all of that also had to be taken into consideration when designing the costumes.

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The costumes worn by Neverland’s mermaids.

What materials do you use when making costumes?

The materials we used for these costumes are incredibly varied. We have used silk, calico, cotton, sequins, rubber swimming flippers… the list of different things would fill this page. Within a single jacket like the one Captain Hook wears, there are three main fabrics plus braid, buttons, lining, canvas and thread.

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The jackets worn by Peter Pan and Captain Hook, part of the way through the production process.

What’s your favourite part about designing costumes?

My favourite aspect of designing costumes is getting to collaborate with so many highly skilled costume and wig makers. They all bring a wealth of knowledge and attention to detail which stretches my initial ideas into something even more exciting.

Paul Hilton as Peter Pan and his costume in all its glory during the show. Photo by Steve Tanner

What’s the most memorable moment in your career to date?

The most memorable moment in my career was seeing a class of five and six-year-olds physically respond in delight at a dance piece I designed a few years ago. I got a bit teary seeing their joy and wonder.

Anna Francolini as Captain Hook. Photo by Steve Tanner

Who’s your hero on the show?

All people backstage are heroes – but Ashley Holtom who is the Costume Supervisor on Peter Pan is my particular hero. Apart from striving to get the costumes to look as good as possible she also has the huge task of getting all the underwear sorted. None of it will be seen but it’s incredibly important on a show with lots of flying when comfort is so important.

Marc Antolin as John and John Pfumojena as Michael. Photo by Steve Tanner

Do you have a favourite spot here at the NT?

I love coffee – so my favourite part of the building is the Espresso bar – it smells so good.

If you could create costumes for any show in the world, what would it be?

I have been really lucky to have designed a massive range of shows in my career so I honestly don’t have anything in particular that I want to design – I really enjoy the surprise of projects that come out of the blue.

The pirates. Photo by Steve Tanner

Finally, could you describe the show in three words?

Thrilling, moving, playful.

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