Macbeth: Design Development

After feedback from my first few design ideas, I did a little more knit research before developing some new ideas for Lady Macbeth.


Macbeth research – knit (2)

I started thinking about layers of knits, contrasting fine with chunky, open and closed knits, loose and tight fitting. I began to think that trousers were not the right option for my Lady Macbeth. If she were that liberated and empowered would she not kill Duncan herself rather than have Macbeth do it? So while I tried her in knitted leggings I also put a knitted skirt with a slit over the top, so she while still having a relatively large amount of freedom of movement she is still a little restricted by the codes of her sex at the time. I scanned in some of my knitting samples and coloured them in photoshop before collaging onto my figure with them, and images of knitting from my research.


Macbeth – design development


Macbeth design development – Lady Macbeth


Macbeth design development – Lady Macbeth


Macbeth design development – Lady Macbeth

I was unhappy with these designs, I did not think they were quite the style I was going for with my production so I moved back towards my earlier silhouette and colour ideas. I kept a bit of layering and those chunky sleeves.


Macbeth design development – Lady Macbeth

My tutor still didn’t think I was capturing what my mood boards conveyed. She hinted it could be my method of drawing that wasn’t working. She also said that my designs had become too 20th century, which could be the fault of the boots. I was advised to go darker, so tried out my design in grey.


Macbeth design development – Lady Macbeth

Having my deign questioned made me a little unsure of myself. I felt a lot of pressure to have perfect design because it was going to be made, and would represent my skills in a costume show. I felt I needed to place it within the context of the other characters, and Lady Macbeth’s other costumes. So I set about designing the whole cast before I was ready to make my costume.

Macbeth: First Designs

From our mood boards we then began to design the costumes. I did a little extra research into interesting knitting stitches and pieces.


Macbeth research – knit (1)

I always sketch out my initial ideas onto little figures so I can work out shapes and proportions quickly before working up into larger costume drawings.


Macbeth – 1st ideas

We had been asked to design groups of characters. I used loosely Shakespearian era fashions, using some contemporary textiles.


Macbeth 1st ideas – men


Macbeth 1st ideas – women


Macbeth 1st ideas – witches

The feedback I was given was to definitely use collage on my drawings. I was also advised to loose the period, which in hindsight was a mistake. Without looking to period references I floundered a bit. I had my fabrics and textures, knitted and woven wool, and fur, but I didn’t quite know what to do for shapes.

I then tried out some machine knitting samples. It had been a while since using a machine on my foundation, but after short time it all came back and I had a lot of fun with different yarns, making holes and ladders, weaving things in and out, and fringing.


machine knit samples

Next I tried out some more ideas, and designed the Macbeth’s coronation costumes.


Macbeth – design development


Macbeth – design development


Macbeth – coronation

My tutor was still a little unhappy with these, we agreed that they didn’t look quite wild enough (though I do think fur trousers are pretty wild). My tutor felt I had lost what she like from my mood boards – more messy, less refined materials, think about layering knits. I was encouraged to continue working on Lady Macbeth, and to think about whether she would dress for practicality (trousers) or is she less gung-ho than that? More design development needed.

Gothic Design Project: Mood Boards

Next step after research for Macbeth and The Castle of Otranto was…mood boards! First came the ‘world mood boards’, which were meant to sum up the feel of the whole text: the story, the environment, its themes etc. Colour, texture and atmosphere are important here.

Through making my mood boards for Macbeth I began thinking about the symbolism of land and power, nature, and from that fur and wool. I really liked the misty and sort of desolate landscapes.


Macbeth mood board – world (1st)


Macbeth mood board – world (2nd)

For The Castle of Otranto I was thinking more about heavily decorated interiors, isolation, and the captivity of the female characters.

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The Castle of Otranto mood board – world (1st)

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The Castle of Otranto mood board – world (2nd)

After that we were asked to put our characters into groups and make mood boards for them. The men in Macbeth are mainly soldiers, roaming over a harsh landscape. They can be rough, and might be worn down by the violence they’ve seen and endured.


Macbeth mood board – the men

The women have to be tough too. Left alone for long periods of to run things at home they only have a little more delicacy to them. Between the two of them the Ladies Macbeth and Macduff have nurturing, controlling, and steely natures.


Macbeth mood board – the women

The Weird Sisters are above all things spooky, and they are at one with nature. It was at this point that I developed the idea that they saw animals as gods. In their pagan worship they try to undo the work of men, replacing reason with chaos. By planting the idea of being king in Macbeth’s head they throw Scotland into turmoil.


Macbeth mood board – the witches

The women in The Castle of Otranto are deeply religious. Seen by the men as existing purely for their desires, they are in fact more complex and can been seen to grow as characters through the piece.

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The Castle of Otranto mood board – the women

Onto designing costumes!

Gothic Design Project: Macbeth and The Castle of Otranto

Phew!! Second year is almost over and I haven’t had any time to upload my work so far, so here we go! The first project of the year was a ‘gothic’ design project. We were given the choice of designing the costumes for either Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. We would concentrate on one character and then make our final costume design. We began the project with an introductory lecture on the Gothick and Walpole etc. It turns out that at the time The Castle of Otranto was written (1764) people thought of almost everything that came beforehand as ‘gothick’, and so I drew influences all the way from Byzantine up until the 18th Century.

As per, I found it very difficult to make a decision about which text to design for. I loved the fantasy nature of The Castle of Otranto, with it’s heightened emotions and it’s tendancy to be a little ridiculous. But was also inclined to challenge myself with Macbeth, and found it hard to resist the chance to use tartan! I began by working on both, which became a bit of a mammoth task, and did cause problems for me later in the project.

Our first task was research. My mistake here was the assumption that reading the introductions and appendices to both texts, as well as my – generally quite good – historical knowledge of the periods involved, was enough. I did not collate my written research as I should have done, instead I created visual research boards. These were not what my tutor calls a ‘mood board’, which is a collection of evocative imagery not necessarily related to how you want your play/film to look, but rather to convey the mood of the piece using metaphors. What I produced were more similar to the kind of mood boards used in the film and television industries. I use them to pull shapes, styles and colours from when designing the costumes, I can’t design from thin air!

With Macbeth I was very influenced by medieval, viking and Pre-Raphaelite imagery. For The Castle of Otranto I found lots of gothic and renaissance paintings, as well as many from later periods, finding religious imagery especially relevant. For both I used the fabulously rich illustrations of Victor G. Ambrus.


Macbeth research – story


Macbeth research – Lady Macbeth


Macbeth research – Witches


Macbeth research – soldiers


Macbeth research – tartan

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The Castle of Otranto research – story


The Castle of Otranto research – architecture

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The Castle of Otranto research – Manfred

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The Castle of Otranto research – Hippolita

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The Castle of Otranto research – Matilda

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The Castle of Otranto research – Theodore

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The Castle of Otranto research – Father Jerome

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The Castle of Otranto research – Frederic

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The Castle of Otranto research – Isabella

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The Castle of Otranto research – Strawberry Hill House

Next step mood boards.