Every year when Strictly Come Dancing arrives on TV I say to myself, I really must organise a sewing interview. And every year I fail. Until today! The wonderful Gerald of DSI London allowed me to visit the thumping heart of the Strictly costume department. Turns out it’s in Surrey.
Creative director, Vicki Gill (as seen on It Takes Two), pattern cutters, seamstresses, diamante experts and a new apprentice turn round outfits in – gulp – three days. Tired just reading this? You should try attaching 8,000 diamante stones to a dress. And, oh, the dresses…
I spent an afternoon with Gerald and his team, learning all about the garments. Did you know that they source their two-way stretch lycra from Italy, that the laces come from Austria and the polyester is flown from Japan? That everything is bespoke dyed so that each detail in an outfit is correctly colour matched?
It takes a 60-strong team to turn these outfits round week on week and they have over 400 components in stock at any given time. That’s some stash!
I asked the chief pattern cutter, Teresa, what her most challenging brief was. A rip off! When one outfit is hidden beneath another, to be revealed during the dance.
Their head of mens’ outfits, Mike Delicata, told me that he’s often in the building at 7am. These guys work hard, but the results are exquisite.
When making outfits for Strictly Come Dancing, DSI work with a range of mannequins adjusted and padded to the dimensions of each dancer. The dresses are constructed in Surrey, then any final fitting adjustments take place at Elstree.
Fortunately, their high-quality lycra is forgiving so even if contestants lose weight, the dresses remain impressively fitted.
During my visit, there were shelves and shelves of gorgeous supplies to drool over.
It was my privilege to peer behind the velvet curtain of the Strictly Come Dancing costume team and see first hand what goes into these outfits. This is haute couture meeting performance wear in the most glamorous and practical ways possible. I’m almost tempted to start hand sewing feathers to Italian lycra. Almost…
Are you a fan of the show, and has it inspired your sewing? Who do you want to win in 2016?
With thanks to Gerald and DSI for their generosity and kindness.