Whoosh! Issue 54 - March 2001

By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
1927 words

Author's note:

Jane Holland is affectionately known as "Beanie" by Pacific Renaissance Pictures staff. She took over when Ngila Dickson left and runs the costume department. Even with many decisions to make and lots of work to do, she took a few moments to explain a bit about what she does and how she does it. This interview was done November 2000 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Jumping onto a Moving Train (01-02)
Background (03-04)
XENA Challenges (05-10)
Gabrielle's Costume Changes (11-12)
Egypt (13-17)
Troublesome Moments (18-20)
CLEOPATRA 2525 (21-24)
Costuming Details (25-28)

An Interview with Jane Holland

Secretly allergic to nylon

Jane Holland, in her natural habitat (her office at Pacific Renaissance Pictures)
Note that the sketches behind her are of costumes for Xena, Gabrielle, Aphrodite, and Caligula in THE GOD YOU KNOW

Jumping onto a Moving Train

How long have you been the costume designer for XENA?

I came on at the beginning of Series Five. I had a one episode overlap with Ngila Dickson. There's much to be done and the turnaround is fast. I did work a little with Renaissance at the start of the HERCULES telefilms, so I had insight into the systems there, and we just built on them. I designed YOUNG HERCULES, which was a similar kind of experience. I was lucky to come into a well-oiled machine. A lot of things were already in place.


How did you get into costuming professionally? Did you study it specifically?

I didn't study costume specifically. I studied design at the Australian Film Television and Radio School for a year, which was production design. Part of that specialization included costume design. It was more of an understanding of the complete filming process, but it was really useful. The specifics of costumes came from working in different places. I started as a costume standby and gained a good understanding of what happens on set. It was a gradual thing to become a costume designer.

XENA Challenges

When you started XENA on Season Five then you had to deal with things like angel wings and such. Did you make those here as well?

The angel wings weren't us. The costume part was, so part of the costume design had to accommodate the angel wings. KNB Effects did the wings themselves. They were part of a large harness, and I had to work the costumes around that.

You had the additional challenge of Lucy [Lawless] and fitting costume during her pregnancy.

If you thought she was irritable *before* she was pregnant...

For much of Season Five, costuming had to deal with pregnancy for the XENA character, and Gabrielle's costumes continued to evolve.

That was my first challenge. When I started was when she stopped wearing the signature XENA costume.

A real baptism by fire.

It was. And if I had any concerns about coming on to an established show and not having any creative input, they were dispelled immediately. It was a huge thing, really. It's only in retrospect when I thought that was a big thing. I had to design and make everything in my particular way, but obviously I was injecting a different flavor than what was previously. Different designers approach things quite differently. I sort of blindly went ahead and only later paid attention to what people thought about it. I knew, fanwise, it would be quite a big thing.

Gabrielle's Costume Changes

Any abrupt change like that will catch attention. We've had Gabrielle's evolving costume get a lot of comment, when she went from the "peasant dress" outfit through a series of ever-shrinking costumes.

That happened at the same time. Both of them were changed at the same time when I started. I felt quite confident about Gabrielle's costume and thought she looked great. With Xena's costume, we were working against her signature costume. We had to disguise as well, and the Xena costume had to do a lot of things. That was very challenging.


You also got to go "around the world," so to speak in that season. I've heard people comment quite favorably on the Egyptian costumes, for example.

No alt tag could top the episode itself

MARRIED WITH FISH STICKS was... different.

Each episode has a different requirement. Sometimes there's a geographical element, and that's quite a good reference point to start from. Or it could be a style thing, when you do something mad like the MARRIED WITH FISH STICKS (105/515) episode. The script will often give you some point to start from.

For a brief moment, Gabrielle considered giving Xena a whack on the back of the head but thought better of it.

Very new looks were seen in Season Five.

Hang on... do I put my left foot in again or do I shake it all about?

The Egypt costumes were intricate and beautiful.

[15] So I'll look at reference material which comes from all over the place. It develops from there. The Egyptian episode [ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (108/518)] took a lot of style from traditional reference, but we changed it because we want to achieve a particular look. The broad stroke that was there was a lot of white and gold, and that came out of a meeting with the director. I really enjoyed that episode and felt it was really beautiful. It was one of the first episodes after we'd gone through the whole Xena pregnancy. Since it was post-baby episodes, it was again an episode with the Xena character we know well.

[16] Lately we've been doing a lot of different costumes for Xena. It seems like every other episode now we're doing different costumes for her, sometimes multiple ones within an episode. But that signature costume is so important, so when we returned to it after awhile, there was a feeling of relief. I think Lucy felt that way as well.

[17] And when it comes to historical costumes we take a lot of liberties. I play around a lot with color depending on the mood we're trying to achieve.

Troublesome Moments

Any particularly troublesome costumes?

I did have a lot of anxiety at first when we were making costumes for Lucy when she was pregnant. She always looks amazing. The physical aspects of that were hard work. We're used to cinching people, and you can't really do that when someone is pregnant.

Hey!  Sabu!  Peel me a grape!

LEGACY had tons of fabric.

[20] There are some episodes I really like, such as LEGACY (117/605). That was all about fabric and movement. I think we did very well to get done what we had to for that episode. Gabrielle and her beaded dancing costume worked well. I really like how Lucy looks in this current episode [THE GOD YOU KNOW (124/12)]. We have a couple of contemporary episodes in there as well.


To contrast what you did on XENA with a show like CLEO. That's a completely different ball game. So many fans have said they love the costumes on that show. I have to ask about one in particular. Victoria Pratt's character Sarge wore a costume with a lot of fiber-optic lights on it in one episode That was amazing.

The down side to electric clothes is that shocks deter stage tipping.

In the 'strip club' scene, Sarge's costume was actually self-lit.

Thank you. It took a long time to make that. There was a meeting and the director said Sarge needs some kind of futuristic feather boa. It was one of those things where I opened my mouth and said, "Wouldn't it be great if it would light up?" It was history then, I was committed. I really like things like that. We threaded fiber-optic cable through a urethane coat. We actually made the coat. We also threaded through a lot of lines with beads on the end so they caught the light. A torch (flashlight) lit up the fiber-optics. The torch was strapped to her back. The reason we had to do both was because the fiber-optics didn't move quite the way we liked, so the extra lines and beads helped that out.

[23] Also, CLEO was a very effects intensive show. There was a lot of blue screen. So we had to take that into account when making costumes. All of the departments worked together, so things worked out pretty well. One of the major things on CLEO was there were a lot of "explosions" and squib hits on costumes. [Note: a squib is a small charge that emits a spark or sparks.] That doesn't happen in the XENA world very often, and, when it did, things tended to be made of leather. In CLEO, no animals, no leather, so everything was synthetic. When you heat that, it melts. So that made things difficult, though interesting. You have to adapt to those challenges.

Costuming Details

You and your people also put in such detail in the costumes, above and beyond the call of duty.

You have to. If you don't do it, you can guarantee there will be a close-up on it. You just never know. They also have to stand up through a lot. All of our costumes go through a lot. They have to be strong enough to do the distance. They have to be well made.

What are your preferred materials?

Auditioned for QUEEN OF SWORDS

Xena's face mask in THE GOD YOU KNOW was expertly crafted.

Anything really. I loved the challenge on CLEO because we invented a lot. We use a lot of metal and leather on XENA. They're good materials to work with. The jeweler will start off with a sheet of metal and end up with a beautiful mask that fits Lucy's face. To start with an unyielding thing and make it work, I love that sort of stuff.


Schmoozer Spice Bret Ryan Rudnick
WHOOSH! staff
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons"
When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art. He and his dog hunt down stray Bacchae in New England.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206); Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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