Joanna graduated from the City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University) with a degree in Theatre Design.
Her first design job was with a Theatre in Education group run by the National Trust. They toured the country creating experiential shows for primary school children in NT properties. For the show to work effectively the characters had to look correct for the period of house in which each show was set, and this need for accuracy fired her interest in the history of dress.
Joanna became a freelance designer and maker of period costume, often collaborating with the choreographer Mary Collins – who she met through the YNTT.
In 2012 they wrote a joint paper for the Oxford Dance Symposium about the development of choreography through the 18th century, and how dance costume was affected by styles of dress. Through this work Joanna discovered that although the development of ballet in the 18th century has been widely examined, very little has been written about the costumes, which have such a key role to play in the overall look of the performance. She has always been interested in the relationship between the performers in live performance and their audience, that strong emotional, and yet intangible, connection that develops when watching an effective performance.
In the late 18th century there was a relationship between costume for performance and fashion, and this is evident from the various garments named after actresses or the parts that they played. There is scope for greater analysis of how the fashionable body shape dictated form for some costume, how female dancers pushed the boundaries of acceptable forms of dress, and how fashion was itself influenced by styles seen on the dance stage. Joanna’s research is examining that relationship.