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Eliza’s passion for costuming leads to stage and screen

Mar 10th, 2014 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features, Front Page Layout, News

IRONING SKILLS: Eliza preps a costume for Broken River

IRONING SKILLS: Eliza preps a costume for Broken River

A LOVE of clothing and history has driven Eliza Thompson-Munn into a career in the competitive industry of costume design.

After dressing for the World of Wearable Arts and working for the Royal New Zealand Ballet as a machinist on Swan Lake, Ms Thompson-Munn has expanded her work onto both stage and screen.

Recently Ms Thompson-Munn worked on the new local stage production Broken River.

“I’m working closely with the director and making sure that his vision of the play and the characters comes to fruition,” she said.

Ms Thompson-Munn said there was a specific aesthetic the director wanted to achieve what she worked towards.

“I probably don’t have as much authority over the concepts as I thought there might be but since this is one of my first gigs as a costume designer it’s a very important lesson to learn.”

She says due to the budget she was mostly sourcing costumes rather than making them herself.

Through working with different directors she has learnt they have different ways of dealing with costumers.

“I like the idea of collaboration rather than dictatorship. It’s more of a collaborative rather than an ‘okay you go away and come back with your costume design and this is how it’s going to be’.”

Broken River, which centres on water quality and farms, featured a specially made stage and water machine.

“I’m really proud to say that I was and am a part of it. I think the show is amazing, it actually feels really special. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen or heard of before in theatre”

She said she hoped people found the costumes believable.

Ms Thompson-Munn also landed a job on two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films dressing stunt people and extras in armoury.

“It was a lot of fun meeting the most amazing people, long hours, very tiring but more fun than anything I can remember,” she said

Working with actors on the set was an interesting experience because she had to make it as stress free as possible.

“You kind of have to adopt a bedside manner. You just have to make it as easy as possible for them.”

Ms Thompson-Munn said she finds theatre actors more independent but at the end of the day they’re all there to do a job.

“They’re a person; they’re there to do a job. Just be courteous and help them in any way you can.”

“At the end of the day you’re all there for the same purpose and that’s to get the work done.”

Working with stunt people was one of the most interesting tasks on The Hobbit for Ms Thompson-Munn.

The hardest part of the costume industry is finding steady work. She left Wellington to spend time with her family in Australia for two years between 2010 and 2011.

“Since getting back I’ve kind of struggled to gain momentum, there’s not always enough jobs for the amount of people trying to get in.”

She finds job opportunities through word of mouth and approaching companies that might be interested in what she does.

Ms Thompson-Munn said she doesn’t like to blow her own horn but will take opportunities when they come.

“I randomly bumped into Tiaka Waititi and told him about what I do.”

She also runs a Facebook page featuring her designs. “Stuff I made in the past, stuff I’m working on now and hopefully advertising myself for things I’d like to do in the future.”




She said her costume ideas come from nature, costume books and period films.

She has studied Toi Whakaari’s Costume Construction Diploma and a Fashion Design Diploma at Massy.

“Toi Whakaari is a really interesting, fun, intense place to be,” she said.

Ms Thompson-Munn said although she does not intend to study any longer, courses she would be keen to learn are upholstery and leatherworking.

“I’m a firm believer that you should never stop learning.

“Personally I quite like action, blood and gore, guns, that sort of thing.”

She said she calls Wellington home and doesn’t want to move to advance her career.

“If you wanted to leave Wellington or leave New Zealand there’s no reason you can’t make it you fulltime career. I love Wellington and I don’t want to leave, it’s my home.”

When Ms Thompson-Munn is not working in the costume industry or at her day job she enjoys spending time with her cat, drinking tea, rollerblading swimming and crochet.

“I’m never happier than when I’m sitting behind my sewing machine or sitting quietly with a needle and thread.”

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is a Whitireia journalism student at the Media Training School. Originally from Nelson, Jacob is now covering the Te Aro area of the Wellington city. He is interested in the effects of social media on journalism and integrating multimedia in his stories.
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  1. Great article Jacob.

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