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John Napier – Cats Costume Designer

October 20, 2010

John Napier is an English costume designer, some of his best designs are for Cats, Les Miserables, Sunset Boulevard and Starlight Express. He was the Associate Designer for the Royal Shakespeare Comapany and he has designed for the National Theatre. He also also designed costumes for Hook, the disney film and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Looking closely at one  musical, i decided to study his designs for CATS, as in my opinion it is really hard to transform a person into another animal form.

Napier’s design for the different cats makes their characters come to life. The one cat in particular, ‘Bombalurina’ who is a main female character has been given a bright red fur, which is un natural and so immediately draws attention to her.


Her outfit gives some sexual implications, such as having a white bust and black cross hatch markings around the chest area.
this means that people give her lots of attention, and she has the ability to strut around and be flirtatious and confident.
Materials used for her costume are lycra and satin, the satin adding class but the lycra letting her become more flexible.

Her costume also consists of a wig which napier adds flaps to in order to hide the human ears and to suggest that the cat ears on top are what she uses to hear with. The wigs are made larger than life and this attracts attention the the face. Naiper chooses to add lots of make up on the face in order to show she is cat-like. All the cats have the same makeup which exentuates her jaw and makes it more muzzle like. Whiskers are also suggested with makeup by using black dots to represent the base of the whiskers. Another part of the costume is the collar, which suggests that she is an owned cat – and this gives an explaination of why she is so well groomed.
The collar has jewels on but also spikes which reflects her character of femenine yet fiesty.
The tail is probably the least realistic part of the costume, being made out of cord and yarn and tied at the waist, the appearance of frayed fabric on the yarn represents the fluffyness of fur – as the tight fitting lycra costume does not represent this though there is also some of this on the shoulders too.
all the cats wear leg warmers too as this makes the costume appear more furry and it hides the human form of ankles and feet. The cast wear little jazz shoes which make thier feet seem smaller – like cats feet – but also give comfort when dancing.

Another good example of a costume in Cats is that of Macavity:

Other examples of his work include, Les Miserables

 and Jesus Christ Superstar

He won awards for all of these costume designs and has also worked on others such as Miss Sigon.

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