Raymond has worked on many programmes, both for adult audiences
and children's shows. He has designed costumes for shows as diverse
as "Rainbow" (he did a lot for Rod, Jane and Freddy),
"Polterguests", "Mike and Angelo", and "Miss
World", but also for dramas such as "The Bill", and
sitcoms such as "Let There Be Love".
When working on the T-Bag series, he got on very well with Leon
Thau, the first director. He really liked everything that Raymond
did and consequently gave him lots of space to get on with his work.
Raymond likes to be given lots of rope, and he explained that "If
somebody is employed to carry out a certain task (such as costume
design), then they should be trusted to get on with it." This
made a lot of sense - you wouldn't employ a builder to build your
house and then build it yourself!
The look of the original show came largely from Raymond. The original
idea for the character of T-Bag was to be an old hag dressed in
a brown square of cloth, but Raymond thought that this would have
been incredibly boring. At first he thought of an archetypal witch,
but then he decided that he wanted her to be glamorous and imposing.
This is just my opinion, but I feel that this is probably where
the character as she appears on screen came from. The costume was
glamorous making the witch glamorous, imposing and vain. This gave
a much greater scope for comedy, and the writers could employ the
old mantra "pride goes before a fall" over and over to
get big laughs.
The children in the original series were supposed to be dressed
in jeans and t-shirts, etc. Raymond decided that this would be very
dull, and dressed them in fantasy costumes that fitted very well
with the other characters. This, I think was a very wise decision
because fashions change. We've all seen the "Red Hand Gang"
cavorting around in their 70's stripy skin-tight dungarees and flairs
and winced in agony. T-Bag, however, is timeless purely by dint
of the costumes.
Fantastic though the costumes were, they were not without their
teething troubles. Raymond remembers how he thought the original
T-Bag costume was lovely, a vision in shot taffeta, but it rustled
too much for the sound department. The Velvet dress that was made
for "T-Bag Bounces Back" that ran for two series, Raymond
thought all the gold was "tacky and over the top" looking
back at it. "I would have designed it differently now,"
he explains, "I never stand still - I think that I could do
T-Bag much better now than I did then".
The dress used in "Turn on to T-Bag" was made from heavy
silk chiffon in bright red. "It was lovely, but it bled a lot
on camera - I don't think that I would use bright reds again for
television". The only dress for Tallulah that Raymond felt
was absolutely spot on was the purple "Star Dress" used
for "T-Bag and the Revenge of the T-Set". "This was
really the glory of glories - the best costume that I made for Elizabeth"
Things changed when Georgina Hale took over the lead role. Raymond
only designed two costumes for her. "Nobody knew how the show
would last with a different actress in the lead, so we used the
same costume over and over again". Indeed, the popularity of
the show waned considerably over the next few years, until it finally
died out altogether.
The costumes were designed and made very rapidly by Raymond and
his assistant (notice no plural). Often, they were put together
at the last minute. The script would call for a certain costume,
so Raymond would dash off a design sketch, scoot off to Borovick's
in Soho in the West End of London for the fabric, and also to Ells
and Farrier (or Creative Beadcraft) not far from Borovick's
and he and his single seamstress (Sylvia Juren) would make the costumes
ready for the rehearsal.
The phenomenal and frenzied speed at which the costumes were put
together to meet the tight schedule sometimes led to mistakes. Raymond
points to a photograph of Major Happy's costume and says "The
musical notes were stuck on the night before filming, and my assistant
stuck them on back to front. I had letters from an angry music teacher
telling me off for that!"
The key costumes came with a bit more warning, and so more time
could be spent in their design. For some parts of the costumes (for
instance T-Bag's tiaras and the intricate trims and girdles for
the main costumes), he would enlist the help of his prop maker in
Dorset (Roger Adhampstead).
commented that he must have commanded a huge budget to make all
of these elaborate and sumptuous costumes, but he quickly put me
straight, telling me that he had very little money to play with,
despite the huge ratings the show was getting.
So, what had happened to all of these fantastic costumes? Most of
them were kept in storage in the Thames wardrobe department, but
over the years, he re-cut and recycled some of them, and others
were used for other productions. "The most important thing,
though, is that the costumes were all captured on film when they
were at their best. That is what they were designed for. They were
never made to last in the real world."
The costumes may have been scattered throughout time and space like
so many silver spoons, but Raymond's impressive portfolio of photographs
and sketches remains, and he went against his better judgement and
sold them to me, along with Elizabeth Estensen's "Merry Pippins"
jacket - one of the few pieces that he still had access to. He was
astounded at the reverence with which I treated the jacket, after
giving it close inspection and being too afraid to fold it up. "Just
fold it up, it's just a piece of fabric at the end of the day"
he said as I slowly fell to pieces as I held this piece of my, and
thousands of other T-Bag fans across the world's childhood in my
hands. A piece of fabric that had once been worn by the most powerful
and evil witch in the history of children's television, and a piece
of fabric that I was scared to death of damaging.
I felt bad about taking all of this away from Raymond, but as he
said, "Sometimes I wonder why I have been keeping all of this
stuff. Sometimes it has come pretty close to the bonfire."
I assured him that I would keep the sketches safe forever, and I
would never part with them. "Fine, but if I find that you have
made your fortune with them at Sotheby's in years to come, I'll
hunt you down and kill you." So it looks like I'm stuck with
them whether I like it or not. Good job that I like it then, really!