Ren (Sophie Skelton) is a young woman from the small, rural village of Lyngarth. Losing her mother when she was only around nine years old, she has become fiercely independent, taking care of her brother and father.
For me, Ren’s costume had to echo the fashions of Lyngarth. Aware of her father’s need to fit in, she carries traits typical of that world. But Ren doesn’t conform. Unlike other girls in the village, she often spends her time in the surrounding forests, hunting with Karn, which is why her colour palette is geared towards blending into the foliage. She is camouflaged.
I wanted Ren’s dress to be practical and yet feminine. The flares in the skirt kick out as she runs, flashing the contrasting colour beneath her leather overdress, which, unlike other female aprons worn in the village, is split into four sections. For her, Ren’s overdress isn’t to protect her garments beneath from the tribulations of washing clothes in the river, it’s to stop it snagging on brambles and branches when tracking deer.
The villagers that Ren interacts with are aware of her difference. (“You’re not a right sort of girl,” says Ida, the character Ren is supposed to be washing for). But she carries many secrets about her person, hidden in plain sight, depicted in her costume. Each element has a purpose.
The knife she carries, seemingly to perform domestic tasks, is something I think she uses to sharpen her pencil.
The cross-body bag holds not only mushrooms to trade, but her sketch book also. (Books and writing paraphernalia are banned by the Kah’Nath.) Director Kate Madison and I discussed Ren’s cross-body bag at great length. Lovingly crafted by Ann Smyth, we included detail which makes the bag appear used, repaired and worn.
Unbeknownst to all but Karn, Ren is a skilled bow-woman. Her gloves give her grip, to maintain steady hands for precision. Ren’s gloves originally started life as a jumper found in the depths of a charity shop.
There are many elements to the costumes in Ren that have been reinvented, “Ren-invented” if you will. I am predominantly focused on texture and authenticity when sourcing fabrics; they have to make sense for the world. How would it be made? Who made it? The answer is nearly always that they made it themselves.
A huge proportion of the costumes in Ren were hand-finished, or made to look as though they were. You can see this clearly in Ren’s hood: it is stitched with leather thonging, a material the inhabitants of Lyngarth would have regular access to. This hood was one of Sophie’s favourite elements of her costume, a sentiment shared by many a female set visitor.