Medieval & Early Modern History Research article

Sketches to Stage: The Making of As You Like It

Dive into the world of As You Like It with Costume Designer Max Johns, as he lets you in from sketches to stage…

3 minute read

Costume Designer Max Johns  shares the inspiration behind a range of his costumes from As You Like It taking us on a journey from the tyranny of the court of Duke Frederick to the freedom of the Forest of Arden.

Two actors onstage in front of an audience

Emmanuel Akwafo as Amiens and Alex Austin as Jaques in As You Like It (2023). Photography by Ellie Kurttz.

Rosalind / Ganymede (makers: Joanna Close)

The actors have had a really big input into the designs. Nina Bowers, who’s playing Rosalind, did an amazing thing in our research week. We dressed her in an Elizabethan dress with a bodice, skirt, farthingale and corset. And she transformed that into what looked like a doublet and hose, while it was still on her. She completely sculpted this new look, this new silhouette for herself. It felt like there was something in the spirit of drag as an improvised artform, that’s always been about using what’s available to you and what you have, that felt really right for Rosalind’s transformation into Ganymede. 

Two actors in Elizabethan dresses, with pearls in their hair, stand talking on the Globe Theatre stage.
An actor sits on the Globe Theatre stage, wearing traditional Elizabethan dress and looking to the sky.

Jaques (makers: Koral Sagular)

Together with actor Alex Austin we envisaged Jaques as a kind of time-travelling soul who, like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, transcends the constraints of gender, time and place.

They treat traditional Elizabethan dress as a toy box, blending elements of contemporary and period costume. They embody clothing according to their own rules, arriving onstage in an ornate doublet, floral corset, bloomers and nike air max trainers, with a pink bum-roll cross-body bag and an All The World’s A Stage baseball cap from the Globe gift shop – a nod to their famous speech later in the play.

An actor wearing a bright blue zip up doublet stands on the Globe stage.

Later they wear a royal blue doublet and homoerotic breast plate, designed and made by queer fashion designer Koral Sagular, who’s garments are known for reimagining period silhouettes through a contemporary queer lens.

Duke Senior (makers: embroidery by Maariyah Sharjil)

This look was born out of a dressing up session using garments from the Globe costume store during rehearsals. We wanted to find a costume that told the story of Duke Senior’s previous wealth and status in the court, but felt true to his new life in the forest where he belonged to a multi-species community of people, plants and animals. The weight of the gold brocade and fur lined cloak was offset by a simple linen smock beneath, which was hand embroidered with floral and bee motifs, using traditional blackwork techniques. His feet were bare and he wore a dried flower wreath in place of a crown.

An actor wearing a long golden jacket lined with fur, and a flower crown, stands on stage.

Touchstone (makers: Main costume by Janet Christmas. Millinery by Kate Freshwater. Heads sculpted by Emma Hughes)

A reinterpretation of the traditional court jester, Touchstone is the only character in the court to wear any colour – the bright reddish orange of their hat and shoes popping against all the greyscale tones of the other costumes. When we first meet her, Touchstone’s costume is so comically exaggerated with its balloon shaped breeches and multiple heads that it’s almost wearing her. But slowly, after arriving in the forest of Arden and falling in love with Audrey, we see the layers of artifice begin to unravel, gradually revealing a human beneath.

Two actors onstage in front of an audience

See Max Johns’ costumes brought to life on stage in As You Like It, now playing in the Globe Theatre till 29 October.

A group of actors onstage in front of an audience

The full company of As You Like It (2023). Photograph by Ellie Kurtz.