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Costume And Make Up
The Elizabethan era was also highly fashion conscious age, a time when sumptuous fabrics, new dyes and exuberant dress prevailed

The Elizabethan era was also highly fashion conscious age, a time when sumptuous fabrics, new dyes and exuberant dress prevailed. Clothing was a primary indicator of wealth in those days so the more dramatic and opulent the costume, the better. Shakespeare himself was no stranger to fashion, using costume to greater effect than any dramatist before him.

The fashions of the day emphasized gallantry and beauty. For women, the hourglass shape was key. Wide shoulders at the bodice whittled down to a narrow cinched waist, then opened up to a belied skirt; the bosom was tightly lifted at the plunging neckline. For men, the silhouette was square, bolstered by an abundance of padding. Vents and slashes - attractive due to their relationship with sword battle - were common. Boots, breeches, a jerkin vest, a doublet and an adorned hat made for a dashing outfit.

Director John Madden knew that to really bring the Renaissance spirit of Shakespeare's times to life, the costumes and makeup would be vital. Thus, he chose two Academy Award nominees to take on the enormous task: costume designer Sandy Powell and hair and make-up designer Lisa Westcott.

Powell, who had designed in this period for Sally Potter's "Orlando" was thrilled to return to one of her favorite eras. "I was longing to throw myself into this time again," she admits. "It is really such a juicy period with these huge and rather crazy sculptural costumes." Like Martin Childs, she immersed herself in research, but enjoyed the freedom afforded by the lack of information. "My aim was not to create absolutely historically accurate costumes, but to use a bit of artistic license and as the script is so fresh and light I felt there was room for the imagination, whilst always keeping it convincing," she states.

Perhaps the most extraordinary costumes Powell was to create were for Queen Elizabeth, played with an intense presence that actually outdoes even her fashions by Judi Dench. Though her dresses and headwear appear almost surreally ostentatious - plumed with such finery as peacock feathers - Powell explains that this is one of those situations where fact is stranger than fantasy. "Queen Elizabeth apparently had over a thousand dresses - all hugely flamboyant and over-the-top - she basically carried all her wealth on her frocks, so they were literally piled high with jewels." she says. "She is also over 60 in this film, so I'm just presuming she has gone a little bit nuts. She was such an outrageous historical figure, we allowed ourselves to go completely mad."

The Queen's makeup is similarly extraordinary. Lisa Westcott explains that as "the Queen is quite old in the film she would have terrible skin - probably from mercury-poisoning - so it was covered in make-up and her hair was undoubtedly falling out, so she always wore a wig. Apparently she had over 80 wigs, all different colors and her hair line would have receded from the front, giving her that rather severe look." Lisa and her team spent 4 hours daily with Judi Dench to prepare her makeup and finery. But the work paid off - the first day Dench appeared on the stage, the entire production went dead silent in a hush. She was awe-inspiring - as Elizabeth is said to have always been in her time.

The Queen set the fashion of the time, so those around her in court copied her style. "Whatever the Queen did," says Lisa Westcott, "became de rigeur with the other ladies. Even in her old age, she was a rea


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