At this year’s BAFTA ceremony, the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema went to world’s oldest theatrical and film costumier, Angels.
Morris Angel opened his secondhand clothing and tailor’s shop near Covent Garden in 1840. Its proximity to London’s theatres made it popular with actors – who at that time had to buy their own costumes. When a thrift-minded thespian came in hoping to ‘borrow’ some clothes, a theatrical hiring business was born. 175 years later, Angels is the largest professional costume house in the world. Their giant warehouse in north London boasts eight miles of rails, storing one million items of clothing that has featured in famous films, including: James Bond, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Harry Potter.
For Shakespeare in Love, Angels dressed over a thousand extras in Elizabethan costumes. During the filming of Evita Madonna became pregnant, and they had to remodel her dresses to cover up the bump. When Robert De Niro was playing Frankenstein he couldn’t do a fitting, so he sent over a body cast.
The company is led by its seventh generation family boss, Tim Angel. Two decades ago he opened a fancy dress store on Shaftsbury Avenue, close to Morris’s original tailor shop. Some of the items hired to the public are from original film stock, so party goers can find themselves wearing original outfits from the Spice Girls Movie or Kevin Costner’s jerkin from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Apparently politicians and royalty are regular customers.