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Biography

Holder of the two highest honours in British drama, the Olivier Award for Best Stage Costume Design and the BAFTA Award for Best Film Costume Design – for more than 30 years Deirdre Clancy has played a key role in the development of modern theatre.

From her first successes with the world premiere of DH Lawrence’s Trilogy at the Royal Court in 1966 and subsequent world premieres of Edward Bond and Joe Orton plays, Clancy has worked on over 140 productions in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. She has designed for 18 productions at The Royal National Theatre, including the inaugural production of the present building in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth, and worked with many major directors including Adrian Noble in his inaugural production as artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Among Ms Clancy’s many successes are costumes for Kiri Te Kanawa in Cosí Fan Tutte at the Metropolitan Opera New York, Ian McKellen in Wild Honey at the National Theatre and subsequent major US tour, Glenda Jackson in Strange Interlude in the West End and on Broadway. More recently Clancy’s production design for A Doll’s House assisted Janet McTeer to win Best Actress in both the Olivier & Tony awards.

She won a BAFTA Best Film Costume Award for Mrs Brown featuring Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly in 1996. In 2000 the University of Central England honoured her with a doctorate.

In 2007 a new chapter in her life opened with an invitation to design historically-informed costumes for new productions of the classic 19thC Danish ballet Napoli in both Prague and Moscow. Long considered the corner stone of the Royal Danish Ballet, this collaboration with the former director of the RDB, choreographer Frank Anderson and designer Mikael Melbye, were the first productions of the work outside Denmark, and were hailed as a triumph.

In 1994 Clancy's book “Costume Since World War Two” was published by A & C Black. Written and illustrated by her, has been described as ‘this essential reference book’, ‘an intelligent and sympathetic assessment of social phenomena’, ‘a wonderful book … with inspired drawings, encyclopaedic knowledge - easy and very accurate connections between dress and society …’ Two new books written and illustrated by Clancy appeared in 2009: one is on settler clothes in the early American colonies; the other on street fashion since 1990. Also available on this site is “A Costume Designer’s Workbook”, written with her husband Maxwell Steer, which is a wide ranging exploration of all aspects of the art, craft, history and techniques, [both aesthetic and practical] of performance costume.

Cressida RSC
Clancy’s finished designs are a notable feature of her work, and are featured in many private collections, conspicuously the Royal Court Collection at Louisiana State University where her work and career was the subject of a doctoral thesis by Dr Amela Baksic. Her designs have been published in various collections of, and writing about, British theatre design.

She has taught at Birmingham Institute of Art And Design, now part of the University of Central England, Wimbledon School of Art, Central St Martins and The Motley School as well as giving talks and workshops on the history and the social history of costume to a number of societies including The Bristol Theatre Museum where she was invited to give the 50th anniversary lecture.

She paints contemporary icons, visionary paintings and is also an accomplished portrait painter.

In 2001 Clancy founded The Cherubim Music Trust which raises money for Instruments for young musicians.


In 2009 Clancy wrote two books and illustrated six others in the Chelsea House series Costume & Fashion series.

2011 Interview about Die Fledermaus ~ Cardiff, UK, Welsh National Opera