A chance meeting with a movie cameraman gave Huddersfield bridal gown designer Adam Shaw the opportunity to launch a new career in theatrical costumes. Hilarie Stelfox meets the man who dresses screen stars

THE FIRST theatrical costume created by Huddersfield designer Adam Shaw was a simple shroud for the dead Cathy in the ITV dramatisation of Wuthering Heights.

It wasn’t quite the glamorous period costume that he imagined he’d be making, but it was, he says, a start.

“I was just a costume trainee, which means that you’re there on set to make sure the necklaces are on straight and to do any repairs or alterations that are needed. The shroud was the first thing I was allowed to make,” explained Adam, 28.

Since then, however, he’s been entrusted with more challenging projects, including the creation of an evening dress from an original 1814 pattern for actress Maxine Peake, who is playing the lead role in the Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (filmed in Oakwell Hall and due to be screened on BBC 2), and a real-life wedding dress for actress Rebecca Night (Catherine in the 2009 ITV adaptation of Wuthering Heights).

Adam’s first costume trainee position was at Castle Howard for the filming of the Brideshead Revisited movie, released in 2008, where he met Emma Thompson and other members of the cast. He has also worked with Sarah Lancashire on the series All the Small Things and Lucy Davis on Married Single Other.

“How it works is that there’s a costume designer with a budget to make costumes. Some of the costumes get hired but other things are made for the principal characters,” explained Adam.

“When you get asked to make something you don’t very long to get it ready. I had one week to make a military style riding jacket and the evening dress for Maxine Peake. I had to dye the fabric as well as cut the pattern and make the outfits,” he said.

Although being employed as a ‘daily’ on location is well paid and interesting, Adam knew that he needed another source of income.

Since leaving Derby University with a BA Hons in Fashion and Design he’s made couture wedding dresses for individuals who seek him out. It was through a bridal client that he met a movie cameraman and found work on Brideshead Revisited. He liked it so much that he decided to get as much experience as he could while also building up his bridal business.

“If I can I’d like to do both,” says Adam, who opened a bridal design studio in January this year in an unlikely setting – a room at his uncle’s engineering company, Olympus, on Firth Street in Huddersfield.

At the moment Adam, who lives in Birkby, is working round the clock on gowns for Rebecca Night’s society wedding on May 2 to fellow actor Harry Hadden-Paton – he’s making three bridesmaids’ and two flower girls’ dresses as well as a pageboy outfit, the bride’s mother’s outfit and the bridal gown. After meeting on set, Adam and Rebecca became friends and he will be attending the wedding in Port Isaac, Cornwall, as a guest as well as her couturier. “But I will be taking my mending kit with me, just in case,” he said.

Rebecca’s dress is in oyster duchesse satin with silk tulle and Nottingham lace. It has been hand beaded by Adam and has a certain theatrical opulence, which is typical of his designs.

“I have always loved period costumes and dramatic, theatrical design. It’s my belief that no-one should be able to take their eyes off a bride,” he explained.

He is also a believer in detail. “I really enjoy all the hand-beading and the finer details. It’s the best bit of making a dress,” he said.

One-off couture gowns are usually made to a budget but Adam estimates that they average out at around £1,500. “It is couture and it is labour intensive but I work with what the bride wants and had budgeted for,” he added.

l To view more of Adam’s designs check out www.adamshawcouture.co.uk