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Hannah Varley


Course studied: BA (Hons) Costume Design and Making

We now offer: BA (Hons) Costume Design and Construction

United Kingdom
I really enjoy having such a variety of projects that have allowed me to develop both my design and making skills in a variety of performance areas, such as ballet, opera, theatre, and film. It has allowed me to consider what route I want to take in my career.

More about Hannah

Hannah was awarded a scholarship in her first year to spend a summer at Linnaeus University in Sweden studying art and landscape painting.

What made you choose to study at NTU?
“I chose to study at NTU as it’s the only costume design course where you get to study 50% design and 50% making, as well as the contextual history of dress and costume, and life drawing classes. The course staff were amazing at the interviews and open days, which really made me want to study here as I knew I would be engaged and interested. NTU is also a really welcoming university with a good choice of extracurricular activities and ways to get involved.”

What do you enjoy most about your course?
“I really enjoy having such a variety of projects that have allowed me to develop both my design and making skills in a variety of performance areas, such as ballet, opera, theatre, and film. It has allowed me to consider what route I want to take in my career, and learn the relevant skills. I also really enjoy working with everyone on my course, both staff and students. I’ve learnt so much from everyone and their different backgrounds and skillsets.”

What do you think about the course staff?
“The course staff are phenomenal. Absolutely everyone, from tutors and technicians to administrative staff are super supportive and always willing to share their knowledge. They’re all responsive to any questions and queries both within lectures and also outside of scheduled lessons, which is extremely useful when you have even the smallest of issues.”

What do you think about the facilities available to you?
“The course is really lucky to have two workshops that we share over the three years, as well as a dye workshop. They’re all equipped with the top professional technology like industrial irons, sewing machines, overlockers, body forms, and mannequins. We also have our design spaces and areas like the conservatory, where we do our life drawing sessions. The library is really useful, and has a great selection of relevant books for research as well as great study spaces for both individual and group work.”

Have you completed any work placements?
“So far I’ve completed one work placement at the Royal Opera House Costume Centre in Thurrock, where I was able to work with seasoned professionals, understand how the industry works, and identify new techniques used specifically in opera and ballet. I was able to work in the costume store and see over 50 years of retired costumes, and construct new garments for the company. Work placements are really important for our course, as gaining connections and working in professional environments are a big part of our learning. I’ve already got more placements lined up to gain more experience that will hopefully allow me to pursue a future in costuming ballet and opera.”

Tell us about your experiences on the University Language Programme.
“I study Spanish as part of the ULP and I’m really glad I chose to pick it up again as the staff are amazing and helpful as well as experts of the language. I am learning useful language that I can use while abroad and that will help me in my future.I believe that studying a language along with my degree can increase my career prospects as it opens up a whole other part of the world and gives me the ability to communicate with many more people, which is particularly important in my industry.”

What did you do with your ULP Clear Thinking Scholarship?

"I visited Spain for three weeks as research for my third year project, a ballet based on Federico García Lorca’s ‘Blood Wedding’. I visited Barcelona to learn more about the style and techniques of Antoní Gaudí and the Catalan culture. I also spoke to people about fabric, textiles and clothing in Valencia and was able to visit the costume department of the Opera House. A highlight was the silk tour, which took me to different museums, markets and shops that sell the espolin fabrics and create the Valencian Fallera costumes.

I visited Seville to learn more about flamenco, as well as Madrid, where I visited a number of museums and galleries where I found artefacts, images and other things that I am now using in my design process. Without visiting Spain, I would not have such a large foundation of research for my project. I was able to use my language knowledge and learn new vocabulary. I feel that I now have much more confidence, as this experience has opened up the possibility of a future living and working in Spain."

Exchange to Linnaeus University, Sweden

Can you tell us about your exchange to Linnaeus University in Sweden?
“I spent six weeks studying art and landscape painting as part of the Summer Academy. I first heard about the opportunity through an email I got from the global lounge team; it was advertising summer abroad which I was really excited about as I wanted to go abroad at some point in my course, but didn’t want to go during term time because of the commitment to my course.

“NTU offered me a scholarship that included paying for my fees, and also an extra £550 to cover accommodation and flights to Sweden. This was really useful as it meant that I could use my own savings to fully experience Sweden while I was there. The application was super easy. I simply had to fill in an application form and give a brief explanation of why I wanted to join the course, and my course attendance details."

Was there anything you were particularly worried about before leaving the UK, and any advice you’d give to future exchange students?
“My main concern was navigating the Swedish rail system due to the language, but in reality Swedes probably speak better English than we do! The only bit of advice I would give is to plan ahead for train times as they don’t run quite as reliably as they do here at home.”

How did you find your course?
“I had a great time on my course. The approach to teaching was very relaxed and holistic, which meant that I could work in a really calm and thoughtful way. It was a lot more relaxed than I expected, but it worked well for the course and my tutor was lovely.”

How was your social life during your exchange?
“I had a great time in Sweden socialising with other students on the Summer Academy. I was able to meet and become really close friends with people from Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, the US and others from England, which meant I got to learn so much about other cultures and other people’s experiences. I know some of the people I met will become my lifelong friends. In my spare time, I was fortunate enough to go on the trips organised by the Summer Academy. These included a weekend trip to Stockholm, a moose farm, and the IKEA museum.”

What was the highlight of your exchange?
“Honestly, I can’t just pick one! I had such a great time in Sweden and left with so many amazing memories and skills that I wouldn’t have had without this opportunity. The most valuable thing I learnt while there was to embrace other cultures and people and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone – I had the best time!”

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