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Musical memories


For every programme you watch on TV, there's a large team of people you never see, who are working to bring that show to you and to make it as good as they can. There are the cameramen, make-up artists, producers - and the people who design all those gorgeous costumes for historical dramas, rock shows, etc. Watch Out decided to find out more about the costume designers, so we went along to meet two of Thames TV's brightest young ones!

Caroline and Jenny in their studio

YOU'VE probably seen the work of Jenny Tate and Caroline Middleton hundreds of times without even realising it. They design the costumes for lots of TV shows, from "Opportunity Knocks" to "Rock Follies"!
   And both girls were hard at work in their light and airy studio, in the Thames TV complex at Teddington, near London, when Watch Out went along to see them.
   We found Caroline sketching a few ideas for the Victorian heroine in one of magicians David Nixon's elaborate illusion sketches.
   "The only trouble with this job is that the costumes keep disappearing!" she joked.
   Meanwhile, Jenny was sewing Essex constabulary badges onto heaps of policemen's uniforms.
    "We have to be careful with uniforms," she explained. "The costumes mustn't be exact replicas of real policemen's outfits so I;m busy providing the wrong badges."
   Both girls usually work individually on shows, but they did team up to provide the dazzling costumes for "Rock Follies".
   How did the girls set about dressing this show?
   "Well, first we carefully read all the scripts," Caroline explained. "Then we discussed it with the writer and attended  planning meetings to get a good idea of what everyone was attempting to do.
   "Then, once we'd got our budget, 2000 per show, we sat down with our sketch pads and a huge pot of black coffee!"
   "Yes, it was a question of drink, doodle, drink, doodle," Jenny added laughing. "Of course we also had to take into account what the actresses liked and disliked.
   "For instance, Julie Covington's crazy about pink, Rula Lenska loved greens, blues and purples and Charlie (sic) Cornwell wanted lots of yellow,"

   MANY of the clothes, worn in the series, were bought in London shops like Che Guevara, Bus Stop and Peter Robinson.
   "We went shopping with the girls and kind of dragged them down the Kings Road," Caroline said, smiling at the memory.
   "But it was very interesting to see the kind of things they went for," she continued. "Julie almost lives in tight jeans and skimpy T-shirts. Charlotte loves sporty shorts and sneakers, whereas Rula tends to be more feminine"
   "Actually though," Jenny added, "we suggested camisole and frothy lacy petticoats for Rula, which she hadn't really considered until then. And she discovered she loved them!"
   But, naturally the clothes the girls enjoyed the most in that particular series were those they designed themselves.
   "I must say I've got a soft spot for those Carmen Miranda outfits the girls wore in that outrageous advert in the first episode," Caroline grinned. "We watched masses of Busby Berkeley 1930's musicals to get in the right mood and then just let our imaginations run loose!"
   "That's the best part of being a designer - when you can let your imagination run riot," Jenny agreed enthusiastically. "And funnily enough, there aren't always that many opportunities.

Two sleek girls about town, "Rock Follies" style.

   "You see, with historical dramas, the costumes have to be so accurate that they're basically just copies of the fashion of the time. And with most modern series, you can just go out and buy the right clothes in the shops."
   But what kind of clothes do Caroline and Jenny like themselves!
   "I'm rather a bad advert for my job!" Jenny confessed. "I tend to be rather cautious in the way I dress and just go for practical things like jeans."

"whereas I'm the complete opposite!" Caroline grinned, "I live out my fantasies in my clothes. I love them.
   "When I wake up in the morning I might be feeling like a carefree gypsy or a conscientious career girl, so I dress accordingly."
   "I mean, for my gypsy fantasy I might wear an antique lace dress and masses of jewellery, but I'm also into very smart suits with high heels. Though I think wearing a bowler, like the Rock Follies girl, might be going a bit far!"

OBVIOUSLY both girls are very knowledgeable about and involved with clothes and fashion. After all, they have to dress some of the top stars in TV. So I asked them if they had any advice for Jackie readers on how to look your best.
"I think the most important rule is to know yourself," Jenny said decidedly. "Get used to your own body and get used to what you can wear and feel really confident in.
   "That means being pretty tough with yourself," she continues. "You really have to look at your own figure critically, then try to emphasise your good points and draw a veil over the not so good.
   "For instance, if you're a big girl you shouldn't begin to think about pleated skirts!"
   "Yes, I agree," Caroline said. "But I also think you should be prepared to experiment. Nowadays in fashion, anything goes, so you should take advantage of it.
   "OK, occasionally you may look ridiculous, but you learn by your mistakes, and you could discover something you never suspected, makes you look stunning!"

   BOTH girls obviously find their work as costume designers in the busy, informal wardrobe department at Thames, totally absorbing and fascinating. So how did they get into it?
   "I went to Hornsey Art College, hoping to be a fashion designer, " Jenny explained. "But there weren't any jobs in fashion going.
   "So I started work as a wardrobe assistant at the Royal Court Theatre in London.
   "From there, I went to the Royal Opera House, which sound very grand, but all I did was wash hundreds of tutus! Next I did the costumes for a couple of films, freelanced for a while, and then joined Thames."
   Caroline also started in the theatre, working as a set builder, then for Berman's, a theatrical costumier and finally as a wardrobe lady at the Shaftsbury and Regent's Park Open Air Theatres.
   So, how should a Jackie reader interested in becoming a costume designer for TV begin?
   "First go to art school and do costume design or fashion," Jenny said. "Then try to get experience in the theatre before applying to a TV company. Well, it worked for me!"

Checking some of the costumes!

   As I left Jenny and Caroline to their sketches, I asked them which TV stars they'd really like to see wearing one of their designs.
   "Cilla Black," Jenny said, without hesitation. "She has a marvellous figure for clothes and always sets them off beautifully."
   "Barbara Dickson," Caroline said thoughtfully, "I admire her whole approach, her colours, her style, the way she experiments with her make-up and hair.
   "Yes, I'd love to see her in one of my dresses!"
   So watch out, Cilla and Barbara, two very determined young ladies have designs on you!

The Rock Follies girls in thier Carmen Miranda outfits.




  When she's not appearing as Anna in "Rock Follies", Charlotte Cornwell spends as much time as possible with her other main interest in life - animals.
  "I really wanted to be a vet, " she says, "not an actress at all, but at school I was hopeless at maths and science and you need them both to be a vet,
  "Nowadays I've got three dogs - two lurchers and one mongrel that came from Battersea Dogs' Home - and some horses which I breed down in Wales. So far there hasn't been much conflict between the horses and my work, though I do need to be down there when the mares are foaling. Ideally I'd like to be successful enough to pick and choose and split the year between the two things.
"I've also got a boa constrictor. He stays in my London flat in a sort of dry aquarium. He's not supposed to be able to get out, though he did escape last summer and spent about five months under the floorboards!"
   "At the time I didn't know, of course, and thought he was dead, until October I was talking on the telephone and he suddenly reappeared. I thought I was having hallucinations, but he'd just come back because it was getting cold!
   "It sound worse than it is," she went on. "He's actually too small yet to be dangerous. He's about five foot long and only four inches in diameter. When he's twelve foot and thickened out it might be different! He stays in London while I'm away, of course, and scares off the burglars!"

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  Rula Lenska, who played 'Q' in "Rock Follies" has been on the road again - but this time as an actress in a tour of a play called "Flare Path."
  "It's a revival of a war-time play," she told me," and very nostalgic, which I love."
   How different is this tour to the rock 'n' roll group's life she portrays in the series?
   "it's a completely different situation, really," she said. "In this show it's all arranged for us, the venues are all there. It's not like in 'Rock Follies' where every night was an unknown quantity.
   "As far as audiences are concerned it still is, but at least we're doing the same play each time and know more or less how it'll be received.
   "So far I've stayed in digs, not hotels, and that is left up to us to find our own, like in 'Rock Follies' but I've been lucky in that for three or four of the weeks I've been near enough London to commute from home.
   "Later we're farther out and whether it's digs, hotels, or flat will depend on whether my husband, Brian, is free to come with me or not. He's just finished the new 'Feathered Serpent' series. "Rock Follies" was the series, of course, that changed Rula's life.
   "Oh yes, completely," she agreed. "Before that I was struggling. Even though I'd been lucky getting into a West
   End show straight from drama school I still had long periods out of work."Since 'Rock Follies' people acutely ask me because at the moment

I'm known and therefore have a certain amount of box office value.
   "I did have a single - which flopped completely! - but I haven't given up singing, I'm nor (sic) pursuing a solo career as such, but if the opportunity comes up again I'd like to have another bash, though not change gear completely.
   "Theatre is harder work, but more satisfying if it succeeds. Television's probably more exciting, and you can see the finished product afterwards - you never see yourself on stage."
   But sadly, because of travelling Rula wasn't able to see herself on telly this time round, either!"Theatre is harder work, but more satisfying if it succeeds. Television's probably more exciting, and you can see the finished product afterwards - you never see yourself on stage."
   But sadly, because of travelling Rula wasn't able to see herself on telly this time round, either!m.jpg (6068 bytes)

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   In between filming "Rock Follies" and recording the latest single from the show, "OK?" Charlotte Cornwell didn't find much time for shopping.
   "I'm not really too worried," she laughs. "Most of the year I wear jeans anyway, and even when I worked in a boutique, I never really followed the fashion trends.
   "But every time I see a fashion magazine, I go on a complete fantasy trip. In my mind, I spend about 400 on clothes in one go, and although I'd never really spend as much as that, it's great to dream!
   "If I'm not wearing jeans, then I like those super American striped dungarees

which I get from a friend in the Kings Road.
   "To be honest, I never wear a dress; I don't even own one. Although I sometimes go and have a look the nicest ones are always about seventy pounds, and I just wouldn't pay that.
   "Some people think that 'Rock Follies' is very much a fantasy world, but I live in the real one, and that means wearing jeans!
   "The one real luxury I allow myself is a passion for tailored silk shirts, especially French ones! It doesn't matter if I go out in the evening wearing faded jeans, because in my 50 shirt, I feel like a million dollars!"

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