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The Pete n Keely Show – interview with costume designer Emily Bestow

April 30, 2017

We’re very happy that Blue 17 is starting to get a reputation as a great place for costume designers to get inspiration and vintage outfits for their work. When the producers for The Pete n Keely Show approached us we were delighted to help with this lighthearted musical full of classic hits about a well-loved singing duo who may not love each other as much as their adoring public do. I spoke to Emily Bestow, who designed the wardrobe for the show about how she breathed life into the characters via their costumes.

The Pete n Keely show - courtesy the Pete n Keely show.

The Pete n Keely show – courtesy the Pete n Keely show.

The Pete n Keely Show – Genevieve Jones talks with costume designer Emily Bestow


Genevieve Jones: The musical is set in the 1960s – how did you approach your research? Did you decide to make everything strictly historically accurate or did you just go with a generally 60s feel?

While there was some research for materials and making sure things weren’t obviously anachronistic, we weren’t too strict by year. I did have great fun watching 60s entertainment shows, such as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and performances at the Hollywood Palace, to get references for clothing and set styles. A lot of my research is done by making a Pinterest board, and searching for patterns, colour palettes, dress styles, and any eye catching shapes from the time.

The show features flashbacks of the star’s hits – did you need to design lots of different costumes for each appearance? How many costumes did you need altogether?

As the Pete n Keely Show show doesn’t leave much opportunity for the actors to leave the stage, we thought it was more straightforward to go for one or two costumes and use accessories for flashbacks. Both actors had one formal costume, and one more casual (but still very jazzy!). We’ve also found things for the band to wear, as they are visible on stage too.

With the costumes, were you able to use lots of existing, vintage garments for the period, or did you design and make everything new, or maybe it was a mixture?

We’ve tried to use existing vintage clothes as much as possible, so everything is more accurate for the period. The real vintage clothes also tend to be a really good quality. Searching through Blue 17 was a real treasure trove! I loved how easy it was to go straight to the appropriate section. We found some fantastic vintage shirts with large pointy collars. A few items we’ve bought new but are vintage in style, like some go go boots for the casual outfit.

What’s your favourite part of the Pete n Keely show?

I really love the dynamic of the duo throughout; the way the characters bicker at each other but try to keep it together on camera is hilarious. My favourite song is a fantastic medley, where they take you on a whirlwind ride of all the places they’ve toured using snippets of songs. It’s really fun to listen to and hear the classics like “Meet me in St Louis” or “Oklahoma!”

And what was your very favourite costume?

That’s going to be hard to choose! I am loving the very 60s patterned dress Keely wears, but I think the tuxedo and bright red shirt that Pete wears may just top that. The moment we put them on the actor his physicality completely changed; it was wonderful to see him suddenly become ‘Pete’.


You can catch the Pete n Keely Show at the Tristan Bates Theatre, 1a Tower Street, London WC2H 9NP from Tuesday 2nd – Saturday 20th May 2017.