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The Cut: I'm the wardrobe stylist on the drama

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Gemma Swan Gemma Swan | 15:34 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

The Cut is a drama for young people about a group of friends (and some enemies) living in London.

I'm the wardrobe stylist so my main job is interpreting each of the character's personalities and reflecting this through their individual styles. I think about the look and the brands that they would buy. I then source the clothes and organise the whole costume department.

When we're filming, I have to make sure everyone's wearing what they're supposed to be, when they're supposed to be. I'd say I'm involved from the moment we first get the scripts, to the moment the character goes in front of the camera.

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Before The Cut, I'd done a lot of music videos and photo shoots, working with artists like K'naan and Mr Hudson. I've also made clothes for The Darkness and 50 Cent's dancers, and wardrobe assisted on a show called Move Like Michael Jackson.

I knew The Cut were looking for a relevant, youthful look, and I knew I could deliver that, so a nice chap called Terence put me in touch with Pete Gibbons, the producer. I knew about the show because my younger sister watched it and so I really wanted to get involved.

To source the clothes, I have an in depth meeting with the director for each block of filming, to discuss the scenes and any special requirements. I then look at what we need and either approach different clothing brands or shop for the clothes. I have to pay for everything as a normal customer, though I do look for deals.

My budget is tiny so I have to be really creative, buying cheap clothes where I can and customising a lot. For example, for the fancy dress outfits for Marla's party in episode 26, a lot of the outfits were customised by me and my team.

The director was really pleased with the looks and especially because we managed to do a lot for not very much money. It's important to spend the money on the right things, the character's capsule wardrobe, that they wear all the time, is more important than the one off things, even though it is tempting to spend your budget on princess dresses.

Catherine Cadence, played by Deborah May

I have myself and another stylist, Neesha Sharma, and we've got a couple of assistants who sometimes help us. I have heard of this BBC wardrobe department, but I have never seen it with my own eyes. It sounds amazing. We have yet to be given the keys to the BBC wardrobe, but we look forward to that day.

We don't get to keep the clothes, because they belong to The Cut and also we reuse everything. You might see characters in the show wearing the same thing quite a lot, or put together differently. It works because it reflects the way young people wear clothes, they don't have massive budgets either.

If a character leaves, I must admit we do reuse the basic items in their wardrobe on other characters.

This wouldn't work with something obviously belonging to another character though, like I'll never be able to reuse Olive Loxley's leather jacket, it's so clearly hers and always will be... so the jacket goes into storage for now.

I wouldn't say I have a favourite outfit of all the ones I've put together. I think each has their own distinctive vibe, but each character has key items or a signature look that I really like. For example, Stephen Mackinnon's long trench coat became really iconic for that him, Cameron Benedick's wardrobe is a lot of fun, he's got some very tasteful Hawaiian shirts, and then Catherine Cadence's straw hat (above) has become a central part of her look.

We've got a tiny room in the basement of the production office, which is where the actors all get changed. It's not glamorous. We have to make do with limited space, storage and time and it's hard to keep it tidy.

When the actors first started, they used to leave their clothes all over the place, they are all teens after all, but they are much better now. I've been really strict, so I hope their parents are grateful!

Gemma and fellow stylist Neesha in The Cut's wardrobe room

The best thing about my job is having the opportunity to work with such a great bunch of people. Everyone's got a shared goal and when you watch it back I think that really comes across. It's brilliant coming up with ideas for new characters also, I am given a lot of freedom and I know that my input is valued.

Even when the director wants to make a change it's cool being part of the exchange and making sure the results are to everyone's expectations.

Sometimes things move really quickly. When we did the fancy dress or Marla Mackinnon's party, I was in the fancy dress shop the day before filming commenced, getting Frankie Stern and Cameron's outfits, literally about to pay for them when I got a phone call saying the outfits had to change. Me and Neesha had to run around the shops in Oxford Street in London, putting together the homemade superheroes look in about half an hour, but they looked really hilarious. Looking back it's funny, it wasn't that funny at the time.

And sometimes, things go missing, and suddenly it's a continuity nightmare. A pair of Frankie's earrings went walkabout once and it caused real issues. You have to be completely meticulous, the smallest part of the costume is still really important.

When I sit back and watch it on TV it's an amazing feeling. Seeing it come together after the hard work is really, really good.

Gemma Swan is the wardrobe stylist on The Cut.

Watch daily online episodes every weekday at 5.10pm on The Cut website, and the omnibus at midday on BBC Two, starting Saturday, 2 October.

Plus you can interact with the show through The Cut's blog and submit your music to be used in the show through BBC Introducing.

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