The Gormenghast Collection: Gertrude's Wardrobe
Lady Groan with Master Chalk
Estelle Daniel, producer:
In the book, Gertrude is always dressed in black, but with her long dark red hair, we were worried that she would be too dark. And black tends to make people look thinner on TV, which was not what we wanted for this colossal creature, so we were led by Mervyn Peake's choice of green for her eyes. After giving her green contact lenses, we chose moss green as her defining dress colour, bringing in a colour from the garden for Mother Earth herself.

Celia Imrie had a corset which accentuated her cleavage, and then a chemise, petticoat and underskirt under the huge velvet dress. Since other actresses have experienced back problems with this kind of burden, the corset was designed to spread the load like a rucksack. Beneath it, for height, she wore her five-inch 'Spice Girl' shoes ... and above the corset she had a latex prosthetic, going all the way up to her cheeks, to give her bulk.

Detail of Dress with Hazelnut Buttons
Estelle Daniel, producer:
Odile picked up a useful devise form the Elizabethans, in the way they literally put their world on their clothes. A famous underskirt made for Elizabeth I is covered with animals and other symbols of the world seen from the Elizabethan view. Gertrude's dress, in its turn, is covered with birds and cats, and our invented heraldic symbols of Gormenghast: owls and snails. But to give them a twentieth-century feel the images are bolder and blown up in size. Much of the power of the costumes comes from details which may not be obvious on the screen. For example, Gertrude's buttons are made from hazelnuts....

Designer's Sketch
Odile Dicks-Mireaux, costume designer:
Andy [Wilson] had given me things like, "Gertrude is Queen Elizabeth crossed with a Wagnerian operatic character." He gave me little ideas, a guide as to how he felt each character went. So that kind of hid in the back of my head when ... I went to the British Library and got all the pictures [Peake]'d done in the books. There are a lot of pictures of Gertrude.

Turning Celia Imrie into Lady Groan
Estelle Daniel, producer:
Every night the prosthetics technician David White injected liquid latex into a fibre-glass mould made from Celia's face, and cooked it in the oven. Early every morning, as she sat in make-up as still as stone for two hours, he stuck the giant neck and face onto Celia with glue, working the edges onto her skin with a sort of elastic paint which would survive for about five hours before the heat worked its way in.... And whenever the camera was turning on her, David was close by with his glue and his paint, ready to make running repairs.

Celia Imrie, actress:
It has everything: wild birds, children, lots of cats, side-saddle, false teeth, contact lenses, Spice Girl shoes, a huge costume -- and a new neck. My earliest start was a four fifteen pick up to be here for five o'clock. But I can't do very much. I can't put my own wig on. I can't put my own prosthetic on. And once the contact lenses are in it is quite difficult to read. So I have to sit here. It is probably quite a good thing because Gertrude is a very calm person, which I am not necessarily....

Some text excerpts courtesy of HarperCollins Entertainment, The Art of Gormenghast by Estelle Daniel (2000)

 Costume Design:
Fuchsia | Lord Groan | Gertrude | Prunesquallors | Steerpike | Twins

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