Cotswold Costumes was opened in 1982 by Maud Franklin and her friend Astrid at Days Mill in Nailsworth – though Astrid’s surname appears to have been lost in the mists of time.
“Astrid moved away from Nailsworth a long time ago and no-one seems to remember her surname,” said Ruth Druziakin, current owner of the business, who took over in 2017.
“In the late 60s Maud joined Nailsworth Dramatic Society as their wardrobe and costume person, along with Astrid, and they made loads of costumes and people used to hire them,” explained Ruth.
“In the early 1980s she was made redundant and decided she would set up Cotswold Costumes so they spent an entire year sewing, and there are books for each year describing what she’s made.”
The founders ran the business until 2005 when it was taken over by Jim and Glynnis Robinson. When they retired in 2017 Ruth stepped in.
“I studied costume and worked in theatrical costume so it’s something I love. Working in costume at the theatre you do the same thing every day, whereas here every day is different,” Ruth explained.
Customers range from schools, theatre groups, individuals, through to film and TV hire. There have been some unusual requests: “yesterday I dressed someone as a character from My Little Pony for a ‘weird and wonderful party’, and later a school came in for costumes for their production of Beauty and the Beast, so two completely requests!”
Costume hire businesses have suffered over the past two years and many have gone to the wall: “I know of 50 businesses across the UK that have closed. The pandemic wasn’t good for us – theatre shows took a long time to come back, there weren’t any parties either.”
Cotswold Costumes is based at the Tradeplas Building on the A46 near Nailsworth and prides itself on being slightly different to other costume hire businesses as individuals can call in and browse without an appointment, though appointments can be booked if necessary.
“Not everyone knows what they’re looking for, and I know the stock – 7,000 items – a customer could spend hours looking for something, but I’d know where it is and what fits you,” said Ruth.
November is the busiest time of year for Ruth when people start thinking about their Christmas parties, and another busy week is always between Christmas and New Year when people are on the lookout for costumes for New Year parties.
“I try to encourage people to book in advance, but nobody ever does – I know at least 50 families that will come in that week as it’s a Christmas tradition.”
The business has even had royal customers, including a notorious incident when Prince Harry was pictured in the tabloid press wearing a Nazi uniform rented from Cotswold Costumes in 2005: “It caused a big controversy and there were paparazzi outside the shop for weeks I think,” said Ruth.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary there will be a display of photographs and costumes at the Mortimer Rooms at Nailsworth Library on Saturday, May 21st, as part of Nailsworth Festival. Visitors can even dress up and have their photo taken in costume.
To find out more visit: www.cotswoldcostumes.com