Strictly Halloween: Behind the scenes of Strictly's shock frocks!

Halloween Steve Backshall and Ola Jordan
(Image credit: BBC/Guy Levy)

Expect all manner of witches, ghouls and ghosts to creep onto the dancefloor as the stage is set once again on Saturday night for Strictly's Halloween special! Head costume designer Vicky Gill tells us how she brings the show to life...

Costume designer Vicky Gill tells us what goes into making the outfits for Strictly's fang-tastic Halloween show...

It's the 15th series of Strictly Come Dancing… do you always feel under pressure to create more eye-catching costumes to what we'll have seen previously?

"I suppose you always feel pressure but that's because you're always wanting to create fresh ideas where you can anyway and do a better job than you've done before to keep the energy flowing. The creating of the costumes is not so much of a problem, it's more the size of the show now, how much bigger Strictly is than it ever was. So that's more the consideration these days in terms of the number of production hours and how we're going to meet the deadline!"

vicky gill strictly costume designer

Vicky has been designing and creating Strictly's stunning costumes since 2004

We do love a bit of Strictly sparkle… In any given week, do you know roughly how many sequins, feathers and other embellishments you might use on the costumes?

"To give you an exact figure is a bit trying to find a needle in a haystack! I try to break it up, so that there are five or six heavily embellished garments, then there will be another five or six, which are middle of the road, then another five or six, which don't require anything at all. I look at concepts and try to divide the work up, so that it’s not everything on everything. One because it creates light and shade for the show and two because it's not physically possible."

It's Strictly's now infamous Halloween show this Saturday – does this put you under more pressure?

"I don't feel under quite as much pressure for the Halloween show because it always has to be more grubby than glamorous! Lots of the costumes have to be dirtied down and ripped up first, though that still takes us hours to do. But of course, it's Strictly, so once we've done that, we'll then add some sparkle."

Are there any standout Halloween costumes that stick in your mind from past series of Strictly?

"I enjoyed creating actress Helen George's mummy costume in 2015 for her spooky samba with dance partner Aljaz. We're always trying to achieve movement for the dance style that they're doing because, while it's great to have fun with the creativity, they still have to perform – whether it's a paso doble, a samba or a cha cha – so the costume also needs to enhance their performance. I thought Helen's was one where we got it right. She looked amazing and doll-like and the whole thing felt really strong."

helen aljaz halloween mummys

Actress Helen George and partner Aljaz Skorjanec danced a spooky Samba in 2015

We really liked TV presenter Anita Rani's Maleficent costume that year too…

"Yes, that was lovely but I probably get less excited when we're creating from a film. Not because I don't love the look but I always get really nervous because it's somebody else's creative, so I'm always careful and want to do it justice; for the film for them and everything else. But, you're right, I think we managed to recreate that in a way that was really strong. And Anita loved it!"

Anita and Gleb Halloween

That same year,  TV presenter Anita Rani dressed as Maleficent to perform a spellbinding waltz with Gleb Savchenko

Any hints as to what viewers can expect from Saturday night's spook-tacular?

"I can't give too much away but we'll have some funny moments, some sexy moments and, obviously, some scary moments – though not too scary for Saturday night telly."

The Strictly judges always get into the spirit of Halloween – last year Craig Revel Horwood wore a suit covered in cobwebs and the year before he was the bride of Frankenstein. Do you enjoy creating costumes for them?

"Craig in particularly is always up for dressing up – he'll pretty much do anything. The more we can throw at him the better. He loves it."

craig strictly halloween 2016

Straight-talking judge Craig Revel Horwood is even more scary on Strictly's Halloween special

How many people make up the wardrobe team, helping you bring the show to life?

"Well, on the manufacturing side we have got a core 15 people that are working on manufacturing and producing the costumes. Then, for a live show, we probably have another 15 again and that includes dressers, seamstresses, who are doing the last minute jobs; taking a hem up, tacking some straps or sewing celebrities into their costumes. Because of the nature of the performance, nobody can just pop their clothes on and go onto set, we need to make sure that belts are stitched down, skirts are stitched down – we don't want any wardrobe malfunctions on a Saturday night!"

Which of this year's celebrities have you particularly enjoyed dressing and why?

"There's a really great vibe backstage between the ladies and the men this year and they're having lots of fun with it. Who would have thought Simon Rimmer would have been happy to put on his purple headpiece to be Buzz Lightyear! When I first met Simon, if I had to put money on whether or not he'd agree to dress up as Buzz Lightyear I'd have thought: 'Mmm, I don't know'. Yet there he was. It just goes to show how everybody enters into the spirit of Strictly."

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 - TX3 LIVE SHOW

Simon Rimmer threw himself into character earlier this series to perform a Toy Story-inspired Quickstep with pro-partner Karen Clifton

It must be lovely seeing all your handiwork come together on a Saturday night…

"It is and sometimes you forget what it is you're doing because you're so busy doing it and then you're busy working for the next week. But it's 100 per cent a team effort and everybody who works with me on the show works incredibly hard. So, yes, it is my design and I feel very proud but I always have to mention that if it weren't for the whole wardrobe team working hard it just wouldn't be possible."

Is it your dream job?

"Yes! If you'd said to me when I was a little girl would this be my job, I'd never have guessed. But I do feel incredibly lucky that I do the job I do."

Strictly’s Halloween special airs on Saturday October 28 at 6.35pm on BBC1. The results show follows on Sunday Oct 29 at 7.15pm on BBC1.

Victoria Wilson
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!