Secrets of All Creatures Great and Small brilliant 1930s costumes - and Helen’s wedding dress

The nativity costumes were a labour of love, as costume designer Ros Little tells Stephanie Smith - and Helen's wedding dress was inspired by a real-life royal fashionista.

When All Creatures Great and Small costume designer Ros Little set about creating the children’s nativity outfits for the Christmas special episode, which was screened twice on Channel 5 over the festive period, proper old-fashioned tea towels were at the top of her shopping list.

“The tea towels were mandatory,” she says. “The director said do whatever you like as long as we have tea towels.”

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The nativity costumes were hand-made by Ros and the costume team. “The children were excited to come for the fittings,” she says. “We really wanted to make this episode as special and as personal as possible and I thought it would be really lovely to make all the children’s costumes.”

Helen (Rachel Shenton) in her wedding dress inspired by Wallis Simpson's dress.

Ros was after a truly authentic, home-made look. “We did all the simple embroidery. I wanted them to look like a set that all belonged together. We had fun making them and it was a huge team effort. I bought the fabric locally - they are all made of wool woven in Yorkshire. I wanted them to look like something that belonged to the Sunday School, that perhaps these were costumes had not been made for this occasion but had been handed down.”

Ros and the team also knitted lots of items, such as the woolly hats seen scattered around among the crowd. “We wanted everyone to look cosy. The children are wearing sheepskin mittens or woolly mittens knitted by the team. It’s not always possible to make things on location but, because we were nearing the end of the shoot, without another block to prepare, we were able to do more ourselves. Everybody wanted to join in and get involved.”

In case you missed it, the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special repeat airs on Channel 5 on Boxing Day. To set the scene, it is Christmas Eve and James (Nicholas Ralph), his boss Siegfried (Samuel West), Siegfried’s younger brother, Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) and housekeeper Mrs Hall (Anna Madeley) are getting ready for their party. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, it is also the night before the wedding of Helen (Rachel Shenton) and local landowner Hugh Hulton (Matthew Lewis).

Darrowby market square (played by Grassington) is filled with villagers shopping and children running about in their nativity outfits. Later they attend the party and visit Santa Claus - or rather, Siegfried dressed up as Santa, not in red, but in green which, as he tells Tristan, is what the real Father Christmas would have worn.

Children getting outfitted on set in Grassington which plays Darrowby in C5's All Creatures Great and Small

“We made that costume specifically for him,” says Ros. “It was made by Janet Varley, the grandmother of Rebecca, our crowd supervisor. It’s got a very woolly fringe. The make-up department were making a big beard for him out of natural wool from Yorkshire sheep with lovely curly locks –and we ordered some more ourselves and felted it to integrate into a base of fake fur to give it a Yorkshire twist. We wanted it to look natural. It was quite a labour of love.”

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So, if you are re-watching the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas episode, take a closer look this time at the costumes, especially the children’s nativity outfits. Ros says: “I think it really helped to involve the children too, that their costumes were especially made for them." A labour of love indeed.

*All photos courtesy of Channel 5 and Playground Entertainment.

David (Jake Hayes) wears his nativity costume - tea towels were mandatory.

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Siegfried (Samuel West) and Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) entertain the local children.
Rachel Shenton plays Helen, pictured here in her wedding dress.