Water Cooler Conversations: Elizabeth Whiting

Elizabeth at the first reading of Welcome to the Murder House, showcasing a part of her working document.We sit down with Costume Designer of Dirty Work, Elizabeth Whiting to get some behind the scenes thoughts on the show.

What inspired you with your costume ideas?

The costumes are always inspired primarily by the script. The director’s vision and casting affect the realisation of my initial response. In the case of Dirty Work which is set in NZ now, my sources of inspiration were all around me.

How do you express your ideas through the costumes?

I used colour strongly in this design, partly in response to the fact that the piece is a comedy (with heart) but also in response to the set which was also quite playful in its use of colour.

Each character has a signature colour which reflects their personality.
They are each from a different socio-economic group so I used the styling to reflect this.

Joy’s costumes are op-shopped. Zara was bought online and her jewellery bought from trade shops. Neil’s was sourced from middle of the road menswear shops and was all new. He was not stylish but also not boring as we had to believe as an audience that there was a remote possibility that he and Zara would get together!

What do you use in the costumes?

I am aware that this show will tour so the costumes need to be robust and able to be cleaned easily. I chose Joy’s silhouette to be a bit lumpy and slightly unflattering to reflect her tiredness and poverty. Zara is sleek and stylish. Her garments are easy care and she is more interested in jewellery and decorative items than the others. Her accessories reflect her love of things Indian.
Neil is well dressed as a middle manager but not suited. As an actor Justin is very physical so the costume had to allow him complete freedom of movement.

Group of photos of Neil & Joy from Dirty Work, along with drawings of their costume ideas