Q&A With Costume Designer for the new Endeavour Series (Series 6), Molly Emma Rowe.

Dear Molly,

Thank you so much for taking the time to complete this Q&A. I hope you enjoy the questions and don’t find them too obvious or boring.

Question 1

This is the first time you have worked on the Endeavour series. How did you get the job?

I WAS REALLY KEEN TO WORK ON A MORE RECENT PERIOD, AS I WAS WORKING IN THE 9TH CENTURY PREVIOUSLY ON THE LAST KINGDOM – ENDEAVOUR IS PRACTICALLY CONTEMPORARY IN COMPARISON!

WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO INTERVIEW FOR ENDEAVOUR CAME ALONG, I WAS REALLY THRILLED. I HAD TWO INTERVIEWS VIA SKYPE WITH THE PRODUCER DEANNE AS I WAS AWAY FILMING TLK3 IN HUNGARY, AND WAS REALLY EXCITED TO BE OFFERED THE POSITION.

I HAVE WORKED WITH THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER PAUL CRIPPS BEFORE WHICH MADE IT EVEN MORE EXCITING, I LOVE WORKING WITH HIM AS I THINK THAT OUR AESTHETIC REALLY COMPLIMENTS ONE ANOTHER.

Question 2

How do you prepare as a costume designer for a series like Endeavour? Is the preparation more gruelling than on the day of filming?

IT CAN BE! EACH FILM HAS A DIFFERENT DIRECTOR SO WE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE A NEW LOOK FOR EACH FILM. WE START TO PREP THE NEXT FILM WHILST WE ARE FILMING SO ITS VERY FULL ON ALL THE WAY THROUGH.

I DID A LOT OF RESEARCH INTO THE PERIOD FIRST, AND ALSO INTO THE SERIES, DECIDING WHO WOULD HAVE A COSTUME CHANGE OR NOT. FOR EXAMPLE THURSDAY LOST HIS MONEY AT THE END OF SERIES 5 SO ROGER AND I FELT THAT IT WOULD BE INAPPROPRIATE TO SEE THURSDAY IN NEW CLOTHES.  EACH FILM HAS A VERY DISTINCTIVE AND DIFFERENT LOOK IN TERMS OF STYLE FOR THE NEW CHARACTERS WHICH WAS VERY FUN TO DO, AND THEN THE RETURNING CAST HAVE THEIR OWN STYLE JOURNEY, WHICH DRAWS FROM PAST SERIES AND WHERE THEY GO IN THIS SERIES.

Question 3

Is it difficult to step into a long running series when most of the crew and cast are already familiar with each other?

THE CAST AND CREW OF ENDEAVOUR ARE TRULY VERY SPECIAL. THEY WERE VERY KIND AND GENEROUS WITH THEIR TIME AND RESPECT AS WELL AS VERY WELCOMING SO IT WAS VERY EASY TO JOIN THE TEAM.

Question 4

Did you have much contact with Russell Lewis the creator and writer of Endeavour regarding fulfilling his vision of the episodes?

I DID YES.  I THINK RUSS IS INCREDIBLE, HE CREATES THE MOST AMAZING WORLDS AND CHARACTERS AND I WAS VERY LUCKY TO BE ABLE TO BRING THOSE CHARACTERS TO LIFE FOR HIM VISUALLY.

Question 5

Do the clothes Roger Allam and Shaun Evans wear in the new series widely different from what they wore in the previous series? If yes in what way and did the 1970s have an influence with the series being set in 1969?

AS I MENTIONED PREVIOUSLY WE FELT IT WASN’T RIGHT TO CHANGE THURSDAYS COSTUME. HE DOES START TO WEAR IT DIFFERENTLY THOUGH AS THAT FELT RIGHT FOR HIS JOURNEY, SO WE SEE A NEW STYLING FOR THURSDAY LATER IN THE SERIES.

MY JOURNEY WITH SHAUN WAS INTERESTING, AS HE STARTS THE SERIES IN UNIFORM, WHICH ENDEAVOUR HAS NEVER WORN BEFORE (EXCEPT ON HIS WARRANT CARD FOR THE EAGLE EYED!). IT WAS INTERESTING TO CONSTRAIN MORSE, HE FELT UNCOMFORTABLE AND RESTRICTED, AND I AM SURE IT FELT HUMILIATING TO BE BACK IN UNIFORM AFTER SO MANY YEARS IN PLAIN CLOTHES. HE LOOKED VERY HANDSOME AND NEAT THOUGH AND IT WAS A REALLY POWERFUL WAY FOR ME TO START THE SERIES WITH A NEVER SEEN BEFORE LOOK.

WE DECIDED AS HE HAD LITTLE MONEY AND WAS LIVING IN THE STATION HOUSE THAT HE WOULD WEAR HIS OLD SUIT IN FILM TWO, BUT I UPDATED THE STYLING WITH A DARK NAVY SHIRT AND MORE 70S COLLARS. I WANTED TO KEEP MORSE’S PALETTE VERY NARROW SO WE WORKED WITH BLUES AND WHITE ONLY. HE IS A CREATurE OF HABIT AS WE KNOW AND WE WANTED TO PLAY ON THAT.

IN THE LAST FILM SOMETHING HAPPENS THAT REQUIRES HIM TO HAVE A NEW SUIT, SO WE USED THIS OPPORTUNITY TO UPDATE HIS CUT TOWARDS THE 70S SUBTLY.  AS MORSE OFTEN HAS HIS HANDS IN HIS POCKETS I GAVE HIM A DOUBLE VENT, WIDENED HIS LAPELS SLIGHTLY AND WE ALSO CHOSE A CLOTH WHICH APPEARED MORE ‘WASHABLE’ THAN THE HEAVIER 60S WOOL SUITS USED PREVIOUSLY.  OFF THE PEG SUITS WERE BECOMING MUCH MORE POPULAR AND PRACTICAL IN THIS PERIOD AND WE WANTED TO EMBRACE THAT.

Question 6

Do you have to be on the set during each day of filming?

I AM ALWAYS ON SET IF THERE IS A NEW CHARACTER OR COSTUME TO ESTABLISH. I FEEL ITS IMPORTANT TO BE THERE FOR THIS MOMENT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS HAPPY, TO PROBLEM SOLVE AND TO SET THE LOOK FOR THAT OUTFIT. THEN THE LOOK IS LEFT IN THE HANDS OF THE MY STANDBY YOLANDA DAY TO DAY.  SHE IS BRILLIANT AND VERY INSTINCTIVE SO WE TALK ABOUT WHETHER A COAT OR JACKET IS ON OR OFF, WHETHER SHIRT SLEEVES ARE ROLLED OR TIES ARE LOOSE DEPENDING ON THE ACTION, TIME OF DAY ETC. SHE WORKS THESE THROUGH WITH THE DIRECTOR AND ACTOR IN THE MOMENT AND CALLS ME IF SHE WANTS TO RUN THOSE DECISIONS BY ME. I FEEL ITS VERY IMPORTANT THAT THE ACTOR FEELS ITS RIGHT AS THEY ARE IN THE MOMENT SO ITS A COLLABORATION BETWEEN US ALL.

Question 7

Edith Head is probably the best-known costume designer having won eight Oscars.  Is she an influence at all?

SHE WAS FABULOUS, AND CERTAINLY AN INSPIRATION FOR HER RESILIENCE AND LONGEVITY!

Question 8

Do you have contingency plans regarding inclement weather during filming and can it mean a complete change of costume? Did this happen at all during the filming of Endeavour?

YES! THE BRITISH WEATHER IS A FICKLE MASTER SO WE DO ALWAYS HAVE AN IDEA FOR CONTINGENCY, BUT OF COURSE IF WE HAVE ESTABLISHED A LOOK ALREADY WE ARE A BIT TIED AND HAVE TO LOOK FOR OTHER SOLUTIONS.

Question 9

Does the setting of the series, Endeavour in Oxford, influence what you costumes you choose for the actors?

MY DAD WAS FROM OXFORD AND I GREW UP THERE, I AM A LIFE LONG SUPPORTER OF OXFORD UNITED FC AND I ALSO DID MY A LEVELS AT COLLEGE IN OXFORD SO NATURALLY I AM VERY TIED TO THE CITY. I HAVE PHOTOGRAPHS OF MY FATHER AND HIS FAMILY WHICH WE USED FOR INSPIRATION, AND THE UNIVERSITY BEING A WORLD RENOWNED INSTITUTION MEANS ITS REALLY WELL DOCUMENTED WHICH IS A GREAT RESOURCE. THE NEUTRAL AND NATURAL COLOURS OF THE COLLEGES INSIDE AND OUT MEANT THAT WE COULD CHOOSE TO EITHER POP AGAINST THE LANDSCAPE AND INJECT COLOUR, OR WORK SUBTLY WITH THE LANDSCAPE DEPENDING ON THE SCENE AND MOOD.

OXFORD ITSELF IS REALLY ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS IN THE SHOW SO I WANTED TO WORK WITH IT.

Question 10

You also must dress the extras. I imagine that must be a huge task as you won’t be aware of their sizes. Is that part of the job time consuming?

WE HAVE A STOCK OF PIECES, AND THE DAY BEFORE WE FILM WITH EXTRAS WE GET THE SIZES AND MY FABULOUS TEAM PUT TOGETHER THEIR LOOKS. THEN THEY DRESS THEM IN THE MORNING AND LINE THEM ALL UP SO THAT WE CAN LOOK AT THEM AS A WHOLE, AND ADD ACCESSORIES OR MAKE CHANGES AT THIS STAGE TO GET THE LOOK FOR THE SCENE EXACTLY AS WE WANT IT.

Question 11

In respect to my question above, on average how many pieces of clothing did you bring to the set of Endeavour when filming a scene that involved extras in Oxford?

IM NOT SURE ON THE NUMBERS, BUT WE HAVE A SEPARATE COSTUME TRUCK THAT IS FIT TO BURSTING WITH EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE FROM COATS TO EARRINGS TO GLOVES AND JEANS!

Question 12

As well as clothes are you as a costume designer also responsible for jewellery, watches etc? If yes, how difficult are the items to procure?

I AM YES, AS I FEEL THEY NEED TO WORK WITH THE COSTUME AS A WHOLE LOOK AND THAT CAN BE DIFFICULT ACROSS MORE DEPARTMENTS WITH LITTLE TIME TO PREP. I WORK WITH A FANTASTIC DEALER IN OLD WATCHES, SPECTACLES AND JEWELLERY AND THEN WE ARE ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT FOR PIECES IN ANTIQUE SHOPS AND ONLINE.

Question 13

Are any of the clothes worn by the actors on the Endeavour series bespoke?

YES. I WAS VERY EXCITED TO DESIGN RONNIE BOX THIS SERIES AS WE GAVE HIM A VERY DIFFERENT LOOK TO THE LAST TIME YOU MET HIM IN THE SHOW. HE IS THE NEW GUARD AND A BIT OF A ROGUE SO I OPTED FOR FINE KNIT POLO NECKS AND POLO SHIRTS UNDER A REALLY STUNNING BESPOKE DOUBLE BREASTED SUIT. I LOVE THIS SUIT SO MUCH. I LOOKED AT MICHAEL CAINE AS INSPIRATION FOR BOX, AND SIMON INHABITED THE LOOK SO WELL, HES A SWOON WORTHY BAD BOY.

JIM STRANGE HAS HAD A NEW LOOK TOO AND HIS SUIT IS BESPOKE. AS HE IS MORE INVOLVED WITH THE MASONS AND ASSERTING HIS OWN INVESTIGATION FROM BANBURY SO IT WAS FUN TO GIVE HIM A REALLY COOL 3 PIECE LOOK, HE HAS GROWN UP SO MUCH FROM WHEN WE FIRST MET HIM IN UNIFORM AND I THINK THIS LOOK REFLECTS HIS NEW STATUS WELL. MORSE AND THURSDAY BOTH WEAR BESPOKE SUITS.

WE ALSO TAILOR PRETTY MUCH ALL COSTUMES TO THE ACTORS SO JOAN, DOROTHEA, WIN, MAX DE BRYN AND JAGO ALL HAVE ALTERED VINTAGE PIECES SO THEY FIT THEM PERFECTLY. WE MADE VIV KETTLES SUIT AND SKIRTS, AND DOROTHEA HAS A BEAUTIFUL SKIRT IN FILM 4 WE HAD MADE. WE MADE ALL OF THE UNIFORMS IN THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY WHICH WAS REALLY FUN TO DO.

Question 14

How much time did you have from being brought in as costume designer to the series being filmed?

I THINK I HAD 5 WEEKS INITIALLY, AND SHAUN DIRECTED THE FIRST FILM WE SHOT (FILM 2, ‘APOLLO’) SO I WORKED WITH HIM AS THE DIRECTOR ESTABLISHING THE SERIES WHICH WAS AMAZING.

Question 15

Was there any piece of clothing or accessory that you couldn’t find for the Endeavour series and had to find an alternative?

WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS, WHICH IT INEVITABLY DOES IN A DETECTIVE SERIES (!!) WE NEED MORE THAN ONE PIECE IN ORDER TO FILM OUT OF SEQUENCE – MEANING SOMETIMES WE FILM SOMEONE DEAD, THEN SCENES WHERE THEY ARE ALIVE. BECAUSE WE ARE A PERIOD SHOW AND DON’T NECESSARILY HAVE TIME TO HAVE COSTUMES MADE IN TIME, WE HAVE TO SOURCE REASONABLE ALTERNATIVES TO DOUBLE UP.

WE TEND TO KEEP THESE PIECES SIMPLE; MEN’S SHIRTING WITH GOOD COLLARS FOR THE PERIOD, SIMPLE CASHMERE OR WOOL ROUND NECK KNITWEAR IN 60S COLOURS AND SILK BLOUSES DO THE TRICK WELL. ITS VERY DIFFICULT WHEN WE NEED TO REPEAT MEN’S TROUSERS BECAUSE NOWADAYS MEN WEAR THEIR TROUSERS VERY LOW IN THE RISE, AND OF COURSE THE WAISTBANDS WERE MUCH HIGHER BACK THEN. ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS WE HAD TO BUY A MUCH BIGGER SIZE AND TOTALLY REWORK THEM TO MAKE THEM HIGH WAISTED, AND THEN DO IT MULTIPLE TIMES FOR THE REPEATS – ITS A BIG JOB!

THE OVERCOAT THAT RONNIE BOX WEARS IS ACTUALLY A CONTEMPORARY PIECE FROM PAUL SMITH AS I LOVED THE SUBTLE ORANGE AND NAVY CHECK FOR HIM, BUT IT WAS UNLINED WHICH IS FAR TOO MODERN FOR THE TIME.  OUR VERY TALENTED TRAINEE EMILY MADE THE INCREDIBLE ORANGE SILK LINING WHICH MADE IT APPROPRIATE FOR THE TIME, AND ALSO TIED IN TO HIS CAD STYLING.  YOU CAN SEE THE LINING FLASH AS HE CHASES A BLAGGER IN FILM ONE, IT LOOKS REALLY COOL.

Question 16

Do you have to collaborate with other crew members, such as lighting or cinematographers, before you begin working on the costumes? I’m thinking that certain materials may be too shiny or some colours too bright.

FILMING IS ONE GIANT COLLABORATION BETWEEN ALL OF THE DEPARTMENTS, BUT COSTUME MAYBE HAS TO INCORPORATE THE MOST! WE HAVE TO WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH SOUND FOR EXAMPLE AS WE HAVE TO CONCEAL RADIO PACKS AND MICROPHONES IN THE COSTUMES, AS WELL AS CHOOSE FABRICS AND ACCESSORIES THAT DON’T MAKE NOISE WHEN THE CAST ARE WEARING THEM! WE WORK WITH CAMERA ON COLOURS, HAIR AND MAKE UP OF COURSE HAS TO COMPLIMENT THE COSTUME CHOICES, WE WORK WITH ART DEPARTMENT MAKING SURE THE COSTUMES COMPLIMENT THE SET AND WE WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH PROPS TOO AS OFTEN WE HAVE ITEMS THAT CROSS OVER SUCH AS BAGS.

WE ALSO HAVE TO WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH CONTINUITY TO WORK OUT WHEN PEOPLE SHOULD TAKE OFF COATS AND JACKETS, AS WELL AS THE DIRECTOR AND ACTORS WITHIN A SCENE AS WELL AS THE OVERALL LOOK.

ITS WHAT MAKES FILMING SO SPECIAL, AND THE COLLABORATION OF EVERY PERSON INVOLVED IS WHAT CREATES THE WORLDS FOR THE AUDIENCE.

Questions 17

What was a typical day, (If there is such a thing), working on the set of Endeavour?

THERE IS NO TYPICAL DAY ON ENDEAVOUR! MY DAY USUALLY STARTS ON THE TRUCK GETTING READY FOR THE DAY, CHECKING THE EXTRAS AND TALKING WITH YOLANDA ABOUT ANY CHANGES OR STYLING FOR THE SCENES ON THE CALL SHEET.

THEN I WOULD WORK WITH LAUREN THE SUPERVISOR AND LAUREN THE ASSISTANT DESIGNER TO SEE WHAT WE NEED TO GET DONE FOR THE UPCOMING DAYS. I MIGHT HAVE FITTINGS WITH NEW CAST, OR GO TO A HIRE HOUSE TO PULL PERIOD COSTUMES. I MIGHT BE RESEARCHING AND PUTTING TOGETHER MOOD BOARDS FOR THE NEXT DIRECTOR, OR WORKING ON THE BUDGET, OR SHOPPING FOR PIECES. ITS EXCITING TO HAVE A JOB WHICH IS SO VARIED, KEEPS ME ON MY TOES!

Question 18

Did you watch any previous episodes of Endeavour to get an idea of what had been done before regarding costuming?

I DID BECAUSE I WANTED TO SEE THE JOURNEY OF THE RETURNING CAST AS WELL AS THE MOOD AND TONE OF THE SHOW. THE SERIES HAS ALWAYS LOOKED SO BEAUTIFUL SO IT WAS INSPIRING AS WELL AS A BIT NERVE WRACKING TO MAINTAIN THAT LEVEL OF PERFECTION! I WANTED TO PUT MY OWN TWIST ON THE SERIES, I LIKE WORKING WITH COLOUR AND WANTED TO INJECT MORE. I THINK FILM THREE, ‘CONFECTION’, HAS THE MOST DARING USE OF COLOUR EVER IN ENDEAVOUR. LEANNE (DIRECTOR) WANTED TO CREATE A REALLY WEIRD, LYNCHIAN (DAVID LYNCH, FILM DIRECTOR AS SUCH WONDERFUL FILMS LIKE BLUE VELVET) WORLD SO WE INJECTED SOME VERY SICKLY BRIGHT PASTELS AND BOLD TONES IN EVERYWHERE – I LOVE THIS FILM, IT LOOKS LIKE NOTHING ELSE AND WAS REALLY FUN TO CREATE.

Question 19

If Endeavour is renewed for a seventh series and it is set in the 1970s do you think there would a huge change in what costumes you would use?

THE THING ABOUT REALISTIC COSTUMES FOR THIS PERIOD IS THAT THERE WASN’T AN IMMEDIATE CHANGE IN EVERYTHING THAT EVERYONE WORE. FOR EXAMPLE THURSDAY IS OF A GENERATION THAT WOULD WEAR CLOTHING FROM THE 40S AND 50S. THE 60S AND 70S WERE EXCITING BECAUSE FASHION BECAME MORE ACCESSIBLE BUT IT REALLY WAS FOR THE YOUTH. YOU CAN SEE FROM SOME OF OUR COSTUMES WE ARE ALREADY MOVING TOWARDS SHAPES ATTRIBUTED TO THE 70S BECAUSE IN 1969 DESIGNERS WERE SHOWING THE COLLECTIONS FOR 1970.  WHEN THERE WAS NO SOCIAL MEDIA, OR INTERNET, FASHION WASN’T ‘FAST’ LIKE IT IS TODAY SO PEOPLE WERE SEEING THOSE DESIGNS IN MAGAZINES A YEAR BEFORE THEY WERE ABLE TO BUY THEM.  HOWEVER BECAUSE PEOPLE COMMONLY STILL MADE THEIR CLOTHES THEY COULD START EXPERIMENTING WITH STYLES COMING OFF THE CATWALKS STRAIGHT AWAY. I THINK THE WORLD OF ENDEAVOUR IS REALISTIC BECAUSE WE ALL DRAW REALISTICALLY FROM THAT TIME, WHICH IS A MIXTURE OF ANYTHING THAT HAS GONE PREVIOUSLY – FROM VICTORIAN TO MARY QUANT AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN!

Question 20

I ask this of everyone who has worked on Endeavour. Is Shaun Evans as nice and sweet as he appears to be?

YES! A MILLION TIMES YES!

AS I MENTIONED EARLIER SHAUN DIRECTED THE FIRST FILM WE SHOT, SO I WAS REALLY HONOURED AND LUCKY TO WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH HIM FROM THE BEGINNING OF MY TIME ON THE SHOW.  HE IS JUST BRILLIANT, SO TALENTED AND SO LOVELY, HE IS THE HEART OF ENDEAVOUR, TRULY.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

YOU ARE VERY WELCOME, HOPE YOU ENJOY SERIES 6!

Here is Molly hard at work.

Photograph is the copyright of Nasir Hamid. @simplyoxford

Molly’s Twitter is @missmollystyle 

Author: Chris Sullivan

After having looked after my mum for some 11 years she is now unfortunately in a nursing home. I'm afraid her dementia worsened as did her physical capabilities. So, for the first time in 21 years I find myself no longer caring for anyone. Apart from my mum I was also a single parent to two children and also looked after my dad who had Alzheimers, (he died in 2005). So, I have decided to return to University to try and get another degree this time in English Literature. (My other degree I got some 30 years ago is one in Ecological Science. Firstly I have to complete an intensive year at college which starts at the end of August 2018. If I pass the college year I will then be able to go straight into Edinburgh University. A busy time ahead made even busier by my writing a book on the TV series, Lewis.

3 thoughts

  1. Thanks Chris, this is super interesting!

    I did notice Box’s suit and how well it was hanging on him. I have to say the costumes, the set pieces and the visuals were absolutely stunning on this episode. It does seem that they had a bigger budget this time.

  2. Thanks, Chris! Maybe your best interview yet! Very informative and very interesting! And I love the picture! (Is that Shaun Evans? I can’t tell from the angle. Not that it matters that much, though I have a hard time picturing Morse punting with a boater on. Though we did see him punting last series, didn’t we? Somewhat under duress, I think….)

  3. What an interesting interview. We do tend to take the costumes on fairly recent historical dramas for granted, not realising the huge amount of work that goes into getting them right.

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