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Studying the Screen – Jessica Martin

Gazing down over Jessica Martin’s office are Audrey Hepburn and Gene Kelly in framed photographs. Across the room are three words fighting for attention. “Dream,” “Create,” and “Inspire.” It’s the room of an artist but strewn with books, designs and photographs this is also the room of a student.

Jessica, 19, is the artist and the student. Currently studying fashion at St George TAFE, she can’t wait to design and create costume for film. “I’ve kind of always been interested in it,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed watching movies and I also

Johnny Depp in a Colleen Atwood design in the Tim Burton flick, Alice in Wonderland. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

Johnny Depp in a Colleen Atwood design in the Tim Burton flick, Alice in Wonderland. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

enjoyed sewing so I put two and two together.”

From childhood Jessica has always wanted to create. She remembers visiting her grandmothers home every winter, asking her to teach her how to knit. The Sydney local has come a long way since then.

Currently completing work experience on Channel 7’s docudrama, “Australia; The Story of Us,” she spends her days creating costumes for actors playing convicts and red coats. “I had to distress quite a few jackets with a cheese grater and make them look old and worn and put dye and grease all over them.” She sounded surprised as she laughed, “It was actually quite fun!”

Creating (or destroying in her case) costumes is fun but the reality for Jessica is that the best way to get into the industry is through work experience. “You’ve got to start getting contacts,” she said. “The more contacts you have, the more likely you are to get the job. And just work from there.”

The dream is to work overseas, designing costumes for well known movies and dressing the stars. “If it’s a well known celebrity it would be great just to say that I’ve worked with them,” she joked. “Anyone from Harry Potter would be amazing. Johnny Depp of course, because he’s a babe.”

It makes sense then that one of her favourite designers is Colleen Atwood, costume designer for Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Edward Scissorhands and just about every Tim Burton film. “It’s just those interesting quirky costumes,” she said to explain the appeal.

As a fashion student, Jessica admits that her designs can not be as theatrical as she would like, “They have to appeal to a fashion, sellable point of view but I have tried to get my influences from costume.” This may come in the form of a tailored jacket to give a vintage shape or a dress with a large bow at the back to mimic a bustle . “You look at an image and you think, “I really like the way that skirt falls,” so you’ll try to do that with something you can actually sell.”

A talented designer of wearable fashion, Jessica has created garments which range from softly dyed party dresses adorned with buttons to full-blown warrior chic for a “Brave,” themed assessment.

Jessica was inspired by Amazonian warriors for her "Brave" assessment. Image courtesy of Alyssa Montgomery Photography.

Jessica was inspired by Amazonian warriors for her “Brave” assessment. Image courtesy of Alyssa Montgomery Photography.

A dress made by Jessica. Image courtesy of Alyssa Montgomery Photography.

A dress made by Jessica. Image courtesy of Alyssa Montgomery Photography.

What Jessica really wants to make however, are gowns from the 1700s and 1800s. Eyes lit up as she said, “I really like researching [that era], they’ve got the different silhouettes with the corsets and the big bustle, just like the tabletop skirts…you should research the 1700s to 1800s. It’s really good!”

They are fairytale dresses. Full skirts, tiny bodices and completely impractical they hold Jessica entranced. The beauty of the designs seize her attention but the stories behind them hold it. “I like discovering something – why it was such a trend and how it affected their daily lives,” she said. “I mean, in the 1700s, their skirts were so wide that they had to widen doorways or you had to walk in sideways!”

She’s regularly inspired to create costumes like these. “I will watch a movie and be like, “Oh I love that!” and want to make that. Or I’ll just see an image on the internet and get really excited, but with TAFE I don’t have much time to do that. One day,” she said wistfully.

Regardless of the setting or time period, the best costumes will show the audience who the character really is but does not intrude on the action, Jessica believes. “It won’t stand out like a sore thumb, which is unfortunate. You want costumes to stand out but it’s the same as music in movies,” she said. “If it’s a sad moment you have to have the right music or people won’t get the right emotion…Everything brings it together.”

Constantly on the hunt for work experience opportunities, Jessica is fuelled by the necessity to gain those all important contacts. But she’s hopeful, spurred on by those three words on her wall.

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