The team at New Milton-based Carry on Costumes has been working seven days a week for the last four months, preparing showstopping outfits for dames, elves and all manner of other pantomime characters.

It's a hectic time of sequins and sparkle, but Sue, who has earned a reputation for truly spectacular costumes for the likes of Lily Savage, Christopher Biggins, Matthew Kelly and Les Dennis during her time in the industry, wouldn't have it any other way.

"It doesn't finish for us Christmas Eve," she explains.

"We do an awful lot for Butlins, so we come back in January and do three pantos for them at their three parks."

It was Sue's school needlework teacher who suggested she might try her hand at fashion design, which prompted her to study art and design at Southampton City College.

She moved to London, but found it impossible to afford the cost of living, so returned to the south coast and set up her own small clothing range.

"In those days, Bournemouth and Southampton had far more independent boutiques, so it was far easier to make a little collection and sell it to shops," she remembers.

A change of direction soon beckoned though, when a 21-year-old Sue applied for a job with P&O Cruises, creating costumes for shows on the SS Canberra.

"They had just started the concept of shows," she says.

"One particularly guy in Hampshire was looking for somebody to travel and make costumes. I got the job and went and made costumes for one cruise director. Then another cruise director from the Oriana asked if I could go with them for a two-week cruise and make costumes.

"Cruising took over. At 21 I had never been anywhere and it was lovely - it was a fabulous time in the cruise industry. It was still quite an elite holiday."

While she enjoyed the cruise work, Sue felt it might be wise to branch out, and began looking into producing costumes for pantomime.

"I was very lucky - a lady came to work for me doing things for the cruise ships. She was doing wardrobe at Cambridge Arts Theatre, working with Christopher Biggins.

"They couldn't find costumes and they rang me a couple of times and said could I find this, or that. Eventually, I went up there and met him and I worked with him for several years.

"We stayed at Cambridge Arts Theatre, we are still doing it now. We've now done that for 15 years. Then we just started getting other companies come to us from all over the country, and now we do bits and pieces for many pantos all over the country."

Sue has been working with Michael Rose Ltd since 2007, designing and creating costumes for many shows at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre, as well as Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Santa Claus, Monkee Business, Elf: The Musical and Big The Musical.

"We took Elf to the Dominion Theatre in London two years ago - that was my first real West End credit," says Sue, whose main focus for now is creating costumes for the Glad Rag Production Company's Christmas Spectacular, which has been staged at the Regent Centre in Christchurch for the last six years.

The show was set up by Sue and a colleague she met while working on the cruise ships and, while it's taken six years to build the audience, it has become one of the highlights in the Regent's calendar.

"It's just a nice feel-good show, it does what it says," smiles Sue, who also mentions plans to put on a similar Halloween production.

"But I don't think people realise what goes into these shows. It's gone from me being in my bedroom sewing all night - in fact I'm still sewing all night, that hasn't changed - but I have three or four people helping now.

"Both my daughters are back working for the business - Carly sews and choreographs and Ellie does headdresses."

Going into the New Year, there'll be no rest for Sue, as the team behind Elf the musical are in talks to take the show on an arena tour, or take it back to the West End.

"I love it," she smiles, "and it's just lovely to do things with my kids."

:: The Christmas Spectacular is at the Regent Centre in Christchurch from Saturday, December 16 to Sunday, December 24. Tickets and information are available from or 01202 499199.