Meet the bridal designer who created 20 sausage costumes for a protest against 'sausage fests'

Bridal and costume designer Caitlyn Elliott from Studio C Bridal. Photo by Content Productions Bridal and costume designer Caitlyn Elliott from Studio C Bridal. Photo by Content Productions

Last week Caitlyn Elliott took some time out from her usual delicate work of designing and making wedding gowns to do something a little different. 

She'd received an urgent - and unique - brief from Sophie Mathisen from Women In Film and Television: to design and make twenty sausage costumes for a protest WIFT had planned on the red carpet at Thursday's AACTA awards.

"I had a week to turn it around. They explained they were a not-for-profit and the budget wasn't massive. So I got to working on producing the best quality and the best calibre of work with what was available," she tells Women's Agenda.

Elliott got the job done well in time and the costumes promptly received national media attention when twenty 'sausages' crashed the Red Carpet at the AACTA awards. The well-organised protest succeeded in highlighting the serious gender imbalance in Australian film and television, advocating for an awards shows that better represents our diverse screen culture. Just two of the 28 narrative feature films pre-selected for AACTAs Screening Tour, were directed by women, with many of the key decision makers in the industry still being male.  

Like any great production, the protest that came about after Mathisen and her friend and filmmaker Megan Riakos realised this year's nominations were yet another "sausage party", needed specific direction and great costumes to bring the characters to life. 

"The criteria was that the sausage costumes had to be comfortable, wearable, easy to move in, and with a level of support as they didn't know if they would get crash tackled," Elliott explains. "So that led me to yoga mats and lycra, gaffa tap and cable ties, because there wasn't a lot of time!"

She adds that fabric choice was particularly difficult, especially in finding the right colour. "My choices were skin tone and chocolatey brown… And I knew that skin tone would create the wrong connotations."

Elliott worked all Sunday to produce 16 costumes before running out of fabric and having to wait until Monday morning to return to the store to get more. She went for a one-sized-fits-all approach, using her own body size and shape as a base. 

Elliott got the gig through word-of-mouth and her theatre connections. A NIDA graduate whose created costumes for a range of theatres, she currently spends most of her time on her bridal business offering custom-designed gowns from her Studio C Bridal in Sydney's Alexandria, usually starting with a Pinterest board or some initial concepts and ideas from clients. 

The theatre work can be limited, she says, with theatres only requiring a limited number of costumes a year. But brides are always getting married.  

She says her love of costume making goes back to high school, when she got kicked out of art class. "I always loved sewing, whether it was for making dress ups or fashion for myself. So when I   got kicked out of art because I couldn't draw well enough, it was easy to transition into drama, and I then got to costume for the drama play," she says. "I never wanted to be a fashion designer, or have a label, the passion came from creating characters, and the exhilaration and thrill of seeing them on stage."

Elliott says bridal work has similar themes to designing costumes, in that brides are also dressing to play a part in a show. 

Angela Priestley

Angela Priestley is the Publisher and founding editor of Women's Agenda. She's an author, journalist and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality and diversity. Her first book is Women Who Seize the Moment.

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