A Proper Wonka

Look, we all know I need very little excuse to dress up so when I got asked to busk science at the switching on of the festive lights in Sutton High Street. The fab team at Successful Sutton merely asked if I would perform as an Oompa Loompa and I didn’t hesitate.

Now there are two ways of approaching this challenge and my friend and theatrical costume designer Rachel Holmes advocates making your costume rather than buying something nasty and made of polyester. She is an artist and quite rightly, despises things that are nasty and made of polyester. Oh how I should have listened.

Time is a precious commodity and so I decided to hit Amazon and see what range was available. To my delight, Oompa Loompa costumes are quite reasonable, even if they are slightly incomplete.

Some come with gloves, none come with socks and some didn’t included the essential green hair. Some costumes consisted of straight-legged dungarees, while others had flared, pointy bits on the sides with stripped bottoms to them. But one thing they all had in common… they were all flimsy and practically see through; especially when your intention is to sew four hundred fairy lights on the inside of the dungarees.

Having experimented with sewing loops into the inside of legs of a pair of dungarees and realising how difficult it was to thread my legs through forty meters of wire, only to discover how see-through the ensemble was, I needed a new plan.

So back to Amazon for another costume, one to fit over the other, which then meant sewing loads of loops on the outside of the first costume. That in itself too ages. However, time spent on that effort was nothing compared to the time it takes to thread four hundred LED lights through all said loops. After eight hours of painstaking work, the costume was ready.

I know you can’t quite see the lights in these static images, but bear in mind that they would flash in sequences, and I was busking science until well after dark. In fact, I was still wearing this costume, resplendent with lights, orange face and green hair, when I entered a hipster wine bar in Peckham to meet my buddies. #MakeAnEntrance

The moral of the story is that it’s probably easier to make a costume from scratch and get it exactly to the spec you want rather than trying to cut the corner and get a ready made one to fiddle with. While I was unlikely to get exactly what I wanted in a charity shop, I was glad that I didn’t stand out when stood next to the other 154 Oompa Loompas (yes, that is the plural form).