A rich costume for King Henry VIII sits next to designs for Egyptian mummies and Robin Hood — all costumes designed by the same couple, who are considered to be amongst the UK’s most successful designers.

A new exhibition has opened at the BFI Southbank to show off some of the designs created by Ann and John Bloomfield, looking back over their 40-year career. The exhibition also coincides with the donation of their collection of original designs in its entirety to the BFI National Archive.

The display showcases some of their best known work including The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970, BBC), Doctor Who (Tom Baker’s costume) and the original Poldark series (1975-76, BBC) through to big budget blockbuster films such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Mummy.

As a display it’s a mix of mainly their costume sketches along with some newspaper cuttings and a few photos of the actors in the costumes that were designed for them, one with admiring comments from said actor written on the original sketch.

Dominating the display is the costume for King Henry VIII, with a very noticeable codpiece thrusting out between his legs. What’s impressive is how much effort has gone into making the costume, with a lot of fine decorative stitching all over the piece, and while the jewels are obviously paste, they still look good. In fact, it almost raises the question as to why so much effort was made considering that the average TV screen size at the time was just 14 inches, and most were still only capable of showing black and white programmes.

Despite that, such was the interest in the costumes that they went on exhibition at the V&A Museum, before touring the world.

There is a lot more in the exhibition, with a lot of space given over to more recent works such as The Mummy and Kevin Coster’s Robin Hood, and at the end, a mask of Anubis from The Mummy.

It would have been nicer to see more of the tangible costumes included in the display, but the documents on show demonstrate how much effort went into each show the duo worked on, and will be of considerable interest to costume designers, and fans of the shows.

The exhibition, Costume Design: the Alchemy of Ann and John Bloomfield is in the BFI Southbank on their mezzanine level and is free to visit. It’s open until 15th January 2023.

John and Ann Bloomfield’s work also features in a future BBC100 episode of Antiques Roadshow later this autumn.


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  1. Ian F says:

    I miss MOMI.

  2. Alex says:

    This exhibition is interesting but just to set expectations for journey planning it’s tiny (like 3 meters in a hallway) and won’t take more than a few minutes to see everything

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