How did you go about getting the clothes right?
You have to immerse yourself in the period, not only in terms of the clothes, but also what was happening in society, technology and the arts, as they all influenced what people wore. At initial 'look meetings' with the director, producers and writer, we discussed how we wanted Quacks to look real, vibrant and unique.
Looking at real garments of the period (the V&A have a great archive) is a good starting point in understanding the cut of clothes, how they're made, the fabrics and colours. Our perception of early Victorian London is influenced largely by paintings and previous productions and films we've seen. However, it was interesting to find that it was a surprisingly colourful period for fabrics and not everything was black or brown. This was perfect for our production.
Robert is a 'peacock' so I used vibrant jewel-like colours to reflect this, with complementary patterned silks for his waistcoats, to create an air of opulence and swagger. John is a penniless dentist who cares little for his appearance, and whose clothes are faded, well-loved, and show wear and tear.
It's very important that clothes reflect social status as it gives depth to a character and the show. I worked very closely with Sands Film, who have a fantastic collection of clothes which helped inspire me and the look we created.
The bloody smock worn by Rory Kinnear’s character Robert is especially gory…
The earliest photos I found of an operation were from around 1850 and, although it was later than our date, it gave me enough clues to inform what our surgeons should wear. Operating gowns weren't worn in the 1840s but we wanted something that would be seen as a badge of honour and reflect Robert's great medical prowess. We had great fun recreating the blood spurts!
What was it like dressing Lydia Leonard’s character Caroline?
Caroline is very forward thinking, and an early 'suffragette' in many ways. I didn't want her to be overwhelmed by petticoats and crinolines, which was the norm for the time. Her costumes are freer than the other women in the show, simpler and more practical, but still feminine and in some cases alluring.
Dressing women as men is always a challenge for obvious reasons! The fact that Caroline had to dress as a man to gain access to a lecture clearly shows society's attitude to women of the time. There are some instances in late Victorian England of women who lived and dressed as men. While this didn't directly inform Caroline's look, it was interesting to read about.
We wanted our world to be populated by real people and facts, but we were making a piece of entertainment not a documentary. In a few scenes Caroline wears purple, which didn't exist until the 1850s, but we chose that colour as it was later used as a colour of emancipation; it's about what adds value and helps the story.
‘Quacks’ is a Lucky Giant production for the BBC, created in association with Wellcome Trust.