Favourite Things: Costume Designer Lucy Jane Senior

Costume designer Lucy Jane Senior reveals her New York collectables

Chair; Hedgehog measuring cups; Collection of horse rosettes. Pictures / Guy Coombes.

On Sunday, a stylish crowd will gather in Clevedon for the Auckland Polo Open — and on a stage in central Auckland, the intrigue and raunchiness of the sport favoured by Jilly Cooper and the royal family will be examined in the Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Polo.

Written by playwright Dean Parker and starring Lisa Chappell and Harry McNaughton, the play is described as a “glossy summer satire with stick and balls”. Following a group of wealthy A-listers at the Clevedon Polo Club, the show needed an appropriately fabulous wardrobe which has been created by Lucy Jane Senior.

The costume designer, who has previously worked on shows including Other Desert Cities, has in the past lived in New York for 12 years where she worked as a stylist for various publications and brands. Previous to NYC she lived in Chicago, where she worked in the painting department at an art and antique auction house, “and learned about provenance, periods of design and anything that was collectable”.

As for the costumes in Polo — think tight pants and oversized rosettes — she explains, “The cast of characters is straight out of a Vogue magazine fashion spread, with high style to match big egos. So a custom-made rosette for the knock-out blonde MP in the play was no contest”.

• Polo, at SkyCity Theatre until February 28. Tickets ph (09) 309 3395 or visit atc.co.nz


1. Chair
I spotted this on a curb in Tribeca in New York and stuffed it into a taxi. It only fit because it is an early recliner chair, with a dowel rod and notches, and folded down upon itself. I lived on Perry St in Greenwich Village in a 250 sq foot apartment and this was one of two free standing bits of furniture. This was reserved for the visitor and I would sit on the fire escape or the Murphy bed. It now squeaks from little boys flopping into it but the plush cut velvet animal print upholstery is timeless and will forever be an incredible score.

2. Hedgehog measuring cups
I learned to cook — real cooking — when I moved to Auckland. I was surrounded by good home cooks and efficient home kitchens that were so so big compared to any kitchen in NYC. For over a decade in Manhattan I stored my Vogue magazines in the oven. We “went out” or “got delivery”. Needless to say my love for well designed cook wear is new and possibly impractical but I love these measuring cups. I got them from the fantastic Anthropologie store in Soho. The window display and shop fitting was like nothing any of us had ever seen. Such talent created scenes and room settings in the store that were an inspiration to my personal decorating style and an immediate visual when communicating with art directors and photographers.

3. Collection of horse rosettes
Framed in shadow box frames, one holds red ribbons, another white and one blue. I won some astride my dapple grey pony, Vanity Fair. (I later worked for Vanity Fair magazine; sometimes styling the column Vanities with photographer Jon Huba. Profiles featured up and coming actors and artists; the people I dressed are famous now but we had never heard of them at the time — which makes it hard to borrow clothes!) Vanity Fair the pony was the real recipient of each ribbon. A sure footed Welsh/Conamara with champion dressage lines and fearless over fences. Or at least this is how I remember us. There are many “fill in” rosettes in my collection, that I bought at flea markets and country auctions. Some were awarded to my great aunt in 1952 and the biggest is a “Champion Angus” blue ribbon from a Western Stock Show. The collection inspired my recent purchase of two custom made rosettes by an artist, Leila, off skinnywolf.com.au. They must have taken weeks to construct with metres of grosgrain ribbon. They are magnificent.

4. Anna Weatherly plates
These beauties were on our wedding registry. Against my mother’s better advice and experience, we registered for a place setting for 12. We got eight of these special porcelain plates, each hand-painted with fish with gold accents. The sales lady claimed it is 24 ct gold, but this is not what I love about them. My new husband’s second love was fish and fishing; I would learn to cook fish and we could entertain and talk about fish. See, nothing to do with 24 ct gold. I knew we were moving to Auckland but what I did not know was how much I would grow to love the Hauraki Gulf and the respect I would gain of the sea and conserving its bounty — sticking to the legal limit of course.

5. Tory Burch shoes
Especially the boxes. New York City in 2004 was very different to the NYC I had know 10 years prior. In 2004 I was getting married and having babies and spending money on plastic booster seats — not good design — but I did make it to Tory Burch’s newly opened Nolita shop with its massive gold doors and the now iconic TB monogram as door handles. Her carefully edited preppy-bohemian luxe designs made me high, and reminded me of where I had come from and what inspires me. I seem to find room in my suitcase for a pair of Tory Burch shoes each time I visit America. I pack the shoe boxes with socks or T-shirts and wrap them with sweaters and have been successful in getting them back to NZ in good shape.

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