Blog Post 12: The Journey of Costume Designer Julie Taymor and How She Has Inspired Me

The Journey Of Costume Designer, Julie Taymor And How She Has Inspired Me:

A costume designer is a person who designs costumes for a film, stage production or television. The role of the costume designer is to create the character’s costumes and balance the scenes with texture and colour. The costume designer works alongside the director, scenic, lighting designer, sound designer, and other creative personnel. The costume designer may also collaborate with hair stylists, wig masters and makeup artists. To me this seems like an exciting job prospect.

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Julie Taymor won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical and for Best Costumes for The Lion King. In 2000, she won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Costume Design. In 2008, the musical won three Molière Awards including Best Musical and Best Costumes.  She was the lead person in charge of costume design and I greatly admire her skills, expertise and leadership qualities. I have always enjoyed going to musicals and was especially fascinated by the costumes and puppetry linked with the ‘Lion King’ musical.

Julie Taymor (born December 15, 1952) is an American director of theatre, opera and film. In 1997 her adaptation of The Lion King, became the most successful stage musical of all time – 24 global productions have been seen by more than 90 million people. Having played over 100 cities in 19 countries, The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any entertainment title in box office history. It was honored more than 70 major arts awards worldwide.

Growing up in Newton, Massachusetts, Taymor developed a love of theatre at an early age. She enjoyed putting on shows at home and later joined a Boston theatre company. Also interested in other cultures, Taymor spent time in India and Sri Lanka when she was 15 as part of an educational program. She then went to Paris to study mime with Jacques LeCoq after finishing high school. This trip was also an introduction to theatrical potential of masks and puppetry, two art forms that would be reappear in her later work.

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After graduating, with a degree in folklore and mythology, from Oberlin College in 1974, Taymor travelled to Asia. She visited Indonesia, Japan, Bali, and Java during her travels and decided to remain abroad after her program ended. In Bali, Taymor established her own theatre company, Teatr Loh. She told Back Stage that she was impressed by theatre’s role in society there. “I was very taken with the fact that the theatre productions there were a part of everyday life. You don’t do it because you’re going to be reviewed in Time magazine, but it’s part of what it is to be a living human being.”

Returning to the United States in 1980, Taymor continued to pursue a career in the theatre. She won the American Theatre Wing’s Hewes Design Award for Scenic, Costume, and Puppet Design for her work on The Haggadah. For Juan Darien, Taymor won the Hewes Award for Concept Puppetry and Masks in 1988. She did not only design the puppets and masks for this production, however. She directed and wrote the book for this musical, which drew its inspiration from a story by Horacio Quiroga. For the music, Taymor had turned to her life partner, composer Elliot Goldenthal. In 1996, a Broadway production of the play earned five Tony Award nominations, including one for Taymor’s direction and another for Goldenthal’s score.

Propelling Taymor’s career to new heights, the musical The Lion King demonstrated her immense talents in many aspects of the theatrical arts. She helped translate a popular Disney animated film about a lion cub—and on a grander level, about the cycle of life itself—into one of Broadway’s greatest spectacles. As with Juan Darien, Taymor was deeply involved in much of the design work as well as directing the project.

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Her hard work paid off. After its fall 1997 debut, the production received a lot of critical attention and netted 11 Tony Award nominations, including two wins for Taymor for Best Director and Costume Designer. The musical featured an interesting fusion of actors and puppets. “You’re getting the human and the animal simultaneously. The audience is able to follow the story and the character, but you’re also enjoying the art of it,” she explained to Back Stage. The Lion King continues to attract eager audiences today—more than a decade after its premiere.

Julie Taymor for me is a truly inspirational person and I loved going to see The Lion King at a West End Theatre. I have always enjoyed making theatrical garments, headdresses and accessories. This is an area where I could see myself being imaginative, flamboyant and successful. I enjoy reading scripts and interpreting what the characters on the stage would be wearing. So, I have therefore researched the skills which would be required of me to become a costume designer in the future.

I need to be able to work with a wide range of people such as the director, scenery designer, the lighting director, dressmakers, hairstylists and makeup artists. I have had experience of this, by taking part in Fashion Show Live Academy shows, organised by the founder Adina Keeley.

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There was an art director there (Sean Christopher Winwright), who is directing a film locally (‘Memorie 8’). He has been on my Instagram and facebook, since working alongside him. I intend to liase with him very soon, with the offer of designing and making costumes for his shows and films. I intend to get work experience in the costume design department of one of the West End Theatres in London.

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I have also made a c.v. and a covering letter. My c.v. has a stylised self portrait of myself on it to make it eye-catching and to send the message that I enjoy creating flamboyancy with my designs.  It includes work experience details relevant to the role of costume design, such as working as a designer for Fashion Show Live and also as a costume dresser for P.F.W. (London).

To promote myself, I need to continue to develop contacts on Instagram and in particular to follow costume designers, not just within the West End Theatres but also across the whole world, eg Broadway (U.S.A.).  I will develop my professional website and check out the competition too. I could choose to shadow and also collaborate with costume designers too.

So, I conclude that as our lives evolve, we can always pick up and develop skills which we have learnt earlier in life but didn’t develop to their full potential at the time.  This is something which I am now doing through my fashion design work and I am very much looking forward to implementing these skills into the world of work very soon. The prospect of working in a west end theatre certainly appeals to me. I am aware that there are other fashion illustrators out there and some are more talented than me. So, I would be open to collaborating with them, within the world of designing costumes for stage shows. I have the fashion ideas, know how to tell the narrative behind them and understand the construction of them. However, as Hopkins J. has stated in ‘Fashion Drawing’ (2018), ‘respected brands including Tiffany, Mulberry, J. Crew and H&M have all collaborated with fashion illustrators to…..enhance the appearance of fashion merchandise.’ So, I would be more than happy to do this to project my ideas for stage costumes to teams of people. I highly respect John Hopkins opinion as he a Senior Academic of Fashion & Textiles within the Winchester School of Art and he has also been a lecturer at the University of Southampton too.


Hopkins J. (2018) ‘Fashion Drawing’, Bloomsbury Pub. (Ch. 5, P.136)

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