Katie Ireland

Leading costume maker

…and Huddersfield tutor turns her hand, literally, from making film and TV garments to providing 160 face masks a week for NHS staff and key workers battling Covid-19. After the lockdown, she thinks that the face mask could even become a fashion accessory.

WHEN there is a costume emergency on the set of a TV or film production, Katie Ireland is one of the experts who make sure that the show goes on.  She has fixed up clothes worn by brooding hero Ross Poldark and by criminal mastermind Moriarty, among many others on stage and screen.

But now that there is a national emergency due to the coronavirus, Katie – who has also been instructing University of Huddersfield students in advanced sewing techniques – is using her skills to help ensure that key workers are equipped with well-made and efficient face masks.

Study Costume Design and Fashion Design at Huddersfield

The highly-experienced costume maker, who also makes up-market wedding gowns, was recruited to join a nationwide team of freelancers who are producing hundreds of masks and other forms of protective garb.  Using her home sewing machine, Sheffield-based Katie is concentrating on reusable face masks made from close-weave cotton that are close fitting, have wire across the nose and are equipped with a filter made from a proprietary vacuum cleaner bag.

“They’re for key workers in private hospitals, care homes and independent food retailers,” said Katie, who aims to produce 160 masks a week as her contribution to a nationwide project launched by Ani Stafford-Townsend, a costume supervisor and milliner based in Bristol.

Could face masks become a fashion accessory? Katie's creation

It is expected that demand for face masks will increase massively as the nation starts to return to work after lockdown, and it is possible that some wearers will seek a more stylish, individualised product, says Katie.

“I imagine that people might start to see masks as a fashion accessory after a while!”

The network of freelancers assembled to work on masks and other gear is helping to compensate for the fact that there is little clothing manufacture left in the UK, adds Katie, who has been working as a demonstrating technician with students on the Costume with Textiles degree course at the University of Huddersfield, introducing them to a wide range of techniques and technology.

This is in addition to a busy freelance career that has included working on costumes for West End hits such Mamma Mia and Phantom of the Opera, for theatre and ballet companies around the UK, plus  a wide range of TV shows including Poldark, Sherlock and even Deal Or No Deal.

“I’ve done a lot of period costume, but I’m often given jobs that are a bit more creative.  And I take on weird things that other people often don’t want to do!” said Katie, who herself trained at the London College of Fashion and has now worked in the field for 20 years.