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Posted 25.04.19

Costume graduate reports back on touring with Diversity and Strictly stars

By Kat Peberdy

Kayleigh (front right) with with crew of the recent Here Come the Girls tour

BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts graduate Kayleigh Perry is dressing the stars of Strictly Come Dancing during their UK tour of over 40 UK venues.

Our costume programme prepares students with the skills to be costume makers and designers, stylists, wardrobe managers, theatrical milliners and prop makers, amongst the many other roles available to them in the world of theatre, television, and film.

We caught up with Kayleigh to find out more about her first steps after graduating, and what it’s really like out on the road dressing dance groups like Diversity before they take to the stage...

You graduated in 2016 with a BA in Costume Production & Associated Crafts, what happened next?
I got a job at Butlins as a Wardrobe Assistant for 15 months. This was a great opportunity for me and a huge step into the industry, however after a while I really wanted to progress with my career and I was offered a role within wardrobe to work with Diversity Dance Troupe in Southend, Essex and with no hesitation, I accepted the job.

After a great season with Diversity, I then landed myself a Wardrobe Supervisor role on a UK tour called Here Come the Girls. This involves six Strictly Come Dancing professional dancers, spanning over 40 venues.

Dance troupe Diversity, dressed by costume graduate Kayleigh during a recent tour

Diversity Dance Troupe and the Strictly dancers, both very exciting shows with elaborate wardrobes! How did it happen?
Over the last three years as a graduate, and building my reputation in the industry I have realised the importance of word of mouth. If you set great expectations on each contract your next contract will be even greater. I was approached after Butlins to join the Diversity Dance Troupe after working with them briefly at the resort. After that contract, I was approached by a producer to apply for, and join the Here Come The Girls show. When you are reliable and dedicated to your role, people want to work with you again.

What does your role entail?
Whilst on tour I am responsible for keeping every costume immaculate. Cleaning and laundering all costumes quickly and effectively to maintain a high-quality appearance. I attend long tech days to ensure each costume works with the professional dancer or singer. I also repair all costumes as and when required, and have to work extremely quickly for all costume changes during the show!  

"When I left university I was worried that I couldn’t see myself in the industry. I thought it would be too hard to get into, but actually, if you’re passionate enough about something you will succeed."

What's it like to tour with a show - what's your daily routine?
I firstly assist the get out (a term for unloading the tour vans). Immediately start a wash of all the costumes, repair any outfits with issues that have been noted from the previous show and then set all dressing rooms ready for the cast to arrive for sound check. I then assist them into their costumes and prepare their pre-set costume changes at the side of the stage. When the show starts I run around like crazy quick changing the cast making sure they don’t miss their cues!

What's the most exciting thing about your career?
I really do love the industry. Being part of big productions makes me really proud when it all comes together.

One of Kayleigh's colourful creations made during her time studying at the college

What would be your advice for graduates wanting to get into similar roles?
My advice would be to stick at it. Whether you want to be a Costume Maker, Wardrobe Mistress, Assistant or Dresser! When I left university I was worried that I couldn’t see myself in the industry. I thought it would be too hard to get into, but actually, if you’re passionate enough about something you will succeed. I still have a long way to go but I’m enjoying the journey!

What did you take from your time at college?
I found my degree difficult; being dyslexic the work was intense, but I had a great time. I worked with a one-on-one supporter who really helped me get through the degree and my tutor Marie Dunaway was also great. I recently reached out to Becky from the Careers and Enterprise Team as I needed help to update my CV and she was so quick to help me, this helped me land the job for Here Come the Girls.