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WWI Munitions Worker

A WWI munitions workers uniform I made for education use at The Forum in Norwich as part of their Colman’s Connections project.

This girl certainly looks the part! Her smile is so reminiscent of those you see on the women who worked in the factories 100 years ago. Proud as punch of their role and their uniform.

Taking inspiration from a mixture of original garments from the History Wardrobe collection and imagery from the Imperial War Museum, I created a long tunic and trousers in heavy cotton canvas. We had a one-size-fits-all attitude, as it needed to fit as many children as possible, and added the belt with elastic at the back to gain a better fit. To make them look worn and used I attacked them with sandpaper and a razor – very effective. They were also stained with various substances as I doubt very much a munitions factory was a clean place to work! Adding the cap and an original ‘On War Service’ badge finished off the ensemble.

http://www.heritagecity.org/projects/colmans-connections.htm

Cinderella’s 18th century ballgown

This gown was designed and made to feature in the ‘Fairy Tale Fashion’ presentation by History Wardrobe. The story of Cinderella, and other fairy tales, as told though the clothes.

Not only does Cinderella attend a ball at the end of the story but this leads to her wedding. Hence, it was decided the that dress should be off white with hints of silver, consistent with wedding gowns in Europe. The dress was designed in the robe à la française style of the 1760s, featuring a Watteau back.

Before starting construction, I visited York Castle Museum’s costume store to study original gowns to get a clearer idea of the style of construction. History Wardrobe has a 18th century skirt front in the collection which was invaluable when it came to creating the decoration.

Off white pure silk damask, featuring a self-coloured floral design was chosen for the gown and the petticoat. A plain cotton was used to back the petticoat and a white linen for the lining of the bodice. An antique silver braid is one of the key design features.

It was decided early on that the whole gown should be hand-stitched to increase its authenticity. Using the examples seen at York Castle museum and the extremely helpful publication http://www.amazon.co.uk/Costume-Close-Clothing-Construction-1750-1790/dp/0896762262 I constructed the gown using a mix of linen and silk threads and stab stitch, backstitch and running stitch. 18th century silk would not have wide as produced today, as seen on the skirt panel in the History Wardrobe collection. However, it was concluded that nothing additional would be learnt by cutting up the modern silk into modern panels to sewn them together again. One thing that interested me was how visible some of the stitching was on the original garments and it took some time for me to get use to sewing in that way. 

The decoration for the gown was made of the same damask silk as the rest of the costume. Around the bodice and down the front of the gown, box pleated serpentines, which gradually got larger, were loosely stitched with the silver braid added aditionaly. The petticoat was decorated with two sets of ruffles with box pleated trims at the top of each one. An extra serpentine was added to the bottom. Antique lace was added to the top of each layer of decoration on the petticoat and the sleeve ruffles.

The stomacher was embroidered by a specialist, Alyson Farmer, then made into its final shape. The design of silk ribbon roses with silver embroidery was chosen to encompass the ideas of innocent, bridal love and to hint at the thorny barriers often faced in fairy tales, most notably Sleeping Beauty.

This was a fantastic project which I was delighted to involved with.

Find out more details, and where you can see ‘Fairy Tale Fashion’ here  http://www.historywardrobe.com/ 

French Heraldic Agincourt Tabard

French Heraldic Agincourt Tabard made for use by staff at The Royal Armouries as part of  2015 October half term events at The Tower of London. The staff were commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt and demonstrating the fighting styles.

The tabard is made of linen with a layer of felt between to give it shape. The emblems are silk and were first attached using BondaWeb before being hand-stitched in place.

 

 

Vintage Fifties Style Wedding Dress

When Melissa commissioned me to make her wedding dress she had a very clear idea of what she wanted. Though the dress itself is extremely simple and elegant she had found it impossible to find one off the peg that suited her. Due to having a large bust getting the fit right proved difficult and so she approached me to make her dress.

I started by drafting a very basic bodice pattern and then sculpting it onto Melissa at the initial fitting to obtain the best possible fit. By adding an additional bust dart and darts at the front and back of the bodice I was able to get the fit right and create a usable pattern. I was keen to get a close fit over the bust, in keeping with the vintage style of the dress and to highlight Melissa’s figure.

Adding a large circle skirt was simple and was boosted by a super wide underskirt.  The wide skirt perfectly balanced the large picture collar I added to the dress – a distinctive design feature requested by Melissa. An invisible zip and stiffened lining completed the dress.

Melissa chose a bridal satin for the main body of the dress and a beautiful lace, both sourced from Fletchers Fabrics, York. The bridal satin has a lovely rich sheen and was a crisp fabric able to support the shape of the dress well. The lace, though only used on the collar and covered buttons down the centre back, was a beautiful choice and lifted the dress design to something really special.

A truly enjoyable commission and I wish Mel and her new husband all the best in the future.

 

 

Visitor Try-On Costumes for The National Civil War Centre

The National Civil War Centre in Newark commissioned a set of 10 visitor try-on costumes to be used by the general public within the gallery space of the museum. The brief was clear but gave great scope for creativity as well. The costumes had to demonstrate the range of different social, religious and economic influences there were on people during the 17th century whilst also covering a large age group and both genders. A great challenge.

I planned the costumes carefully and after discussing all the options with the client it was decided that the range would be as follows: a rich adult male Cavalier, a rich adult female Puritan, a rich teen girl Cavalier, a teen girl Puritan, a rich boy Cavalier (copying a portrait of Lord Belasyse hung in the gallery), a rich girl Cavalier, a girl Puritan, a boy Puritan and a Casque (cloak/coat). In addition 8 hats were also designed and decorated for use in the galleries and for education.

The next challenge was settling on the final designs and choosing suitable materials. As the costumes were going to be in the galleries they needed to be robust, suitable for dry-cleaning and easy to get on and off without sacrificing too much by way of authenticity so the visitors got the best experience of 17th century costume as possible.

I chose to make all the costumes but the casque back fastening to enhance the overall impression of the costumes for photos (a key requirement for the public). Sets of strong ties were placed down the back to secure the costume on the wearer. Velcro was immediately dismissed as an option as not only does it damage the fabric but also means the costumes would not be adjustable, and therefore able to accommodate a range of people.

The fabrics and trimmings were all chosen to mimic those seen in the 17th century. The Puritan and adult female Cavalier costumes were all made of pure wools, to give a level of authenticity. The rich Cavaliers and Puritan costumes were made using duchess satins or upholstery fabrics with patterns suitable for the era. These types of fabrics are much more robust than the silks  such costumes would originally be made of. All the costumes were lined with black cotton drill to make them as sturdy as possible and wadding, canvas and boning was used were suitable to enhance the overall appearance of the costumes, giving them an authentic weight, feel and silhouette on the wearer.

The costumes were in place for the opening of the new museum on May Bank Holiday Weekend 2015. The response was fantastic and a massive thank you to all the visitors who where happy to have their photos taken.

*Costume construction assisted by Ruth Watkin and Allana Marsh

Fifties style bridesmaids dress

In addition to her Medieval style wedding dress, Cath Baker commissioned the dress for her bridesmaid, her sister Jennie. Cath gave her a free rein to choose what dress she would like and so Jennie chose a fifties dress she knew would suit her style.

To ensure to two very different style dresses complimented each other Jennie chose a purple duchess satin which toned beautifully with the iridescent chiffon used in Cath’s overdress. She did not want the dress to be too decorative or fussy so we included no extras but a large bow at the top of a keyhole back. Concerned about the tattoo she had on her upper arm I added small cap sleeves to hide it from view.

Worn over a modest petticoat with a back zip fastening, it was a simple dress but had great impact as she walked down the aisle before her sister.

Medieval Wedding Dress

Cath Baker approached me to design and make her medieval style wedding dress. Her requirements were simple, it had to be blue and she needed to be able to dance at a ceilidh with her new husband. This is the result……

It was a summer wedding so Cath asked for the dress to be quite cool, should it be a nice day, but maintain the key features she liked of the medieval style, such as the long sleeves. I created for her a simple sleeveless full length dress in a royal blue satin, with a iridescent purple overdress, fastening under the bust and falling into a modest train.  This meant the dress was cool for the summer and she was able to remove the overdress for the dancing in the evening.

To add decoration and individuality to the ensemble, I had beaded a belt and cuffs with the white rose of Yorkshire for Cath and the thistle of Scotland for her husband. I added the date and their initials so they could keep them as a momento of their special day.

 

Photographs courtesy of Lauren McGlyn Photography

World War One Summer Dress

Cherie Lawrence, a historic tribute singer commissioned a Great War dress suitable for use in a variety of events. . Due to the requirements necessary to the practical use of the dress, it needed to be washable, light and cool and front fastenings. Hence I chose a design based on an original dress dating from 1915 in The History Wardrobe collection. This dress is made from fine cotton muslin, with a sailor collar, double layered skirt and decorative features including zig-zagged trims and pom-poms.

Lady Darnley’s 1914 Suit

The Rochester Bridge Trust approached me with a photograph of Lady Darnley at the opening ceremony of one of the bridges in Rochester in 2014. They wanted the outfit she was wearing recreated for their new exhibition.

The photograph did not highlight the details of what she was wearing so extensive research into the fashions of the period, including the fabrics and colours that were popular, was undertaken to get a clearer idea of how the ensemble would look. Magazines, original costume (from my private collection), swatch books, dressmaking guides, contemporary patterns, fashion plates and photographs were all used in the interpretation of this project.

The suit was made from dark red silk taffeta, as the evidence from the photograph indicated the suit was of a dark colour (red was a popular choice) and made of a fabric that was crisp in nature. It was lined in a striped collar as seen in the photograph. As the collar and fastenings could not be seen from the original image, a simple rounded collar was added and a hook and eye fastening with matching belt was incorporated in the design (similar to contemporary dress designs). The jacket was given structure by adding wadding to the shoulders and front and quilting it with the lining before attaching to the main fabric, as seen on a contemporary jacket I have in my collection. The ruffled effect on the bottom of the jacket was an intriguing feature of the outfit. I could find no evidence of anything similar in the sources I had at my disposal, and though peplums were popular in the years presiding the First World War, they were very different to this. Hence, I made the decision to include the ruffling onto the jacket rather than the skirt.

Original accessories of shoes, handbag, feather boa and gloves were all sourced for the display and a hat was commissioned from Farthingdale Hats.

Regency Promanade Dress

Created to be worn by Lucy Adlington in ‘Wish You Were Here’ presentation with The History Wardrobe.

Made from a very light cotton with a line and spot pattern. Extensive planning and care was taken in the construction to ensure the lines of the pattern ran straight throughout the dress and matched on the pattern pieces. The dress had long under-sleeves and short puff over-sleeves. Both sets of sleeves had piped cuffs in a contrasting cream. A back fastening dress, with self covered buttons and hand-stitched button holes.

World War One Bathing Suit

Fiona Francis, a WWI re-enactor, commissioned a bathing suit made from blue silk jersey with a short wrap skirt. Decorated with an embroidered anchor and a contrasting cream silk jersey trim. There were elasticated cuffs on the bottom of the legs and hand-worked buttonholes at both shoulders, with anchor stamped buttons for the fastening.

World War One Era Blouse

Fiona France, a WWI re-enactor, commissioned a lace blouse to wear with her silk suit. It was copied exactly from an original in The History Wardrobe collection. Featuring a cream silk, short-sleeved undershirt, with a long-sleeved lace overlay and deep falling collar. The lace was carefully manipulated to take advantage of the highly decorated pattern to the best effect in the final garment.

Victorian cycling suit

A red wool jacket and cycling bloomers made from an original pattern from the 1890s. The jacket is lined with cotton and both items feature hand-worked buttonholes and replica buttons.

Madeline Vionnet Evening Gown

Made from an original pattern from the 1930s, designed by the innovative designer Madeline Vionnet. The dress is made from silk crepe with a vintage buckle at the waist.

Cavalier and Bustle Gown

Calvalier

This ensemble was created at The Northern College of Costume. The outfit is based on a naval uniform of 1625-30 and features a long-line doublet without tabs. Made from blue wool and lined with silk, a gold and blue braid was used for decoration.

 

Bustle Gown

This outfit was created at The Northern College of Costume. Based on an example from the 1870s, featured in the Kyoto Fashion Collection, it has an oriental influence. The outfit is in three parts (jacket, skirt and bustle) and is worn over combination underwear, a corset, bustle cage and flunced petticoat (all made by Meridith Towne). The jacket is boned and front fastening with hand worked button holes and Japanese knots for buttons. The skirt features a deep pleated flounce with the tops turned down to reveal the contrasting colour.

Viking Costume Design

Viking Wedding Dress, The Jovik Viking Festival

This Viking outfit was created for the Viking Wedding event at York Minster, as part of The Jorvik Viking Festival 2012. The dress is made from wool, the hangerock is linen and both were trimmed with hand-woven wool tablet weave.

Viking Outfit

One of a number of authentic Viking outfits created for use by the staff at the Jorvik Viking Centre. Made from coarse linen for durability and dyed to suitable colours. Each item was stitched on the machine but linen thread was used in the hand finish of the neck and cuffs.

Battle of Agincourt Tabard

The recreation of a medieval knights tabard fighting for The Duke of York, worn for the re-enactment of The Battle of Agincourt, plus it featured on an episode of ‘Dick and Doms Absolute Genius’ on the CBBC. The project was extensively research to achieve the highest possible level of authenticity within the restraints of modern materials, with colour matched wool, hand worked eyelets, delicate hand stitched heraldry and lined with unbleached linen.

Aubrey Beardsley Evening Gown

A bespoke full length bias cut evening gown, unique in design, featuring hand-drawn decorative panels down the back, mimicking the fall of a peacocks tail. These panels were heavily worked into over a layer of fine black chiffon with beads and sequins. The top panel featured the head of the peacock and came round the hips to the front, where a clasp provided the fastening of the dress and gathered the material to give the gown shape and fullness. The dress was commissioned and worn by a young lady for her 21st birthday party.

Lute Players Gown

A Tudor open gown inspired by a contemporary painting for a lute player doing musical events. Made from heavy red and gold damask with gold petticoat, the bodice was stiffened with buckram and front fastening with hooks and eyes. Gold piping detail was added to highlight the waistline.

16th Century Gown

This gown was made to be worn for tours and education workshops at Conisbrough Castle, English Heritage. Made from blue wool and lined with linen, the bodice has a centre front fastening with hooks and eyes and long sleeves, with large turned back cuffs.

Archers Surcoat and Hose

Made to be worn for medieval archery demonstrations. The design was based on an original surcoat from the period but adapted for purpose with additional movement in the shoulder and back, plus drawstring waistband on the hose for ease of use. Care was taken to find wool and linen in authentic colours and crewel wool was used to hand stitch the finish.

Edwardian Corset

This S-bend corset was made to be worn for the ‘Votes For Women’ presentation with The History Wardrobe. A complicated design with 16 individual pieces, the corset was made from blue silk backed with coutil. It features hip pads, a front busk and lacing at the back, and spiral bones were used to provide the structure.

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The 1920’s women’s workhouse uniforms made for the Meeting Point project at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds are superb. The painstaking research into the design and materials, attention to detail and authenticity was exceptional. They look and feel completely genuine and are museum quality. These are very rare examples of a particular period of history and I will be donating them to the museum on completion of the project.

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1920s Workhouse Uniforms, Irene Brown, August 2016

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I absolutely love the dress, and can’t wait to show it to the public

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Tudor dress, Helen Atkinson, April 2012

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We have the dress out of its box and on our mannequin and it is fabulous! We are so excited to have it here. Thank you so much for all your research and hard work.

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Reconstruction of 1914 suit, The Rochester Bridge Trust, December 2013

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We are in raptures. Well done and thank you so much. Beautiful and truly Beardsley.

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1920s Aubrey Beardsley inspired evening gown, Rose Wallop, June 2012

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Superb service and unmatched quality. My 15th century archers kit has weathered many months on the archery range and at events without issue. The outfit was made with great care and consideration of my needs.

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15th Century Archers Outfit, Richard Jacobs, 2013

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I was really impressed by your professionalism, talent and attention to detail. Problems did arise but you were always there to solve them. Your friendly manner totally put me at ease, throughout the inevitable stresses of impending nuptials. Thank you so much for creating my dream dress. I truly felt like a princess on my big day!

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Vintage 1950s style wedding dress, Heather Fretwell, October 2013