Martha Mann: The Costume Designer Behind Your Favourite Period Dramas

Author: Adriana Pacheco

Have you ever watched Anne of Green Gables or its spin off series Road to Avonlea and found yourself commenting on the authentic and intricate costumes of the characters? The designs that catch your eye are likely the product of a singular creative mind: Costume Designer Martha Mann.

Martha Mann had a wonderful sense of style, a creative flare and an incredible knowledge of historical time periods, clothes, individual accessories and theatre and production design that made her not only a walking encyclopedia, but also allowed her to craft many genuine-looking period typical designs. This also provided her with a discerning eye for locating actual genuine authentic Period clothes that added a rich palate of dress, combining original costume designs with genuine period garments for the films, shows and stage productions she worked on through her long and celebrated career.

Mann was the principal designer for Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, the first two seasons of Road to Avonlea  and Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, along with other Sullivan films: Looking for Miracles, Lantern Hill, Krieghoff, and The Wild Pony. When it came to deciding what each character was going to wear, her research and planning were meticulous; each character's wardrobe would be crafted based on that character's personal history. It was paramount to her that everything be authentic, and so she took into consideration not only what the character would wear, but also how they would wear that particular garment. She even employed genuine boning in the corsets of the female characters, a detail that some might overlook, but that made the attire more realistic. If it looked realistic to her, it was allowed to go on screen. For many of Mann’s costumes and wardrobe concepts for Anne of Green Gables, she worked with London’s Cosprop Design Firm (who collaborated closely with Merchant Ivory Films) to obtain many of the supporting players' wardrobes, adding a special level of authenticity that fans have noted to this day.

Some might say that Mann’s involvement with Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea was meant to be. Her Grandmother was a close friend of L.M. Montgomery (whom Mann could recall having had dinner with as a young girl) and so Anne of Green Gables was always close to her heart. And like Montgomery, Mann was a storyteller; inventive in her tactics, like constructing costumes inside out to make them look more worn out, creating a visual story that the audience would pick up on before the character even spoke. She once said, “Just as everything that you see, (in a film) the clothes, too, have to tell a story.”

Martha Mann’s designs have inspired a generation of new costume designers and it is certain that for fans of Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea her attention to detail and creative ingenuity have not gone unnoticed.

To see Martha Mann speak on her experiences in costume design, watch this video.

And to experience her costume designs in the series she loved, visit GazeboTV.

Watch Sullivan Entertainment productions on our online streaming site called GazeboTV! Plus, explore tons of Anne-inspired merchandise at Shop At Sullivan!

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