Dressmaker and Costume Historian
Durham Alumni Spotlight
October 21, 2015
My moment in the spotlight on the Durham Alumni website! It is great to hear what other graduates have been up to since leaving university. Very few of us end up as archaeologists which goes to show how good a course it is for providing the necessary skills to get a job in a wide variety of industries.
Alumni Feature – Questions
- What and when did you study at Durham?
I studied at Durham University, St Aidan’s College, from 2006-2009 and completed a BA Archaeology course.
- What are you doing now?
I have been working as a freelance costume historian and dressmaker for the last four years after completing a course in dressmaking.
As a costume historian I help historic sites, libraries and social groups to add a unique element to their meeting by offering lively informative presentations on women’s history told through fashion, enhanced with an extensive visual display of original costume from my own private collection.
As a historic dressmaker, I help museums and historical properties to increase footfall and income by creating costume plus I offer made-to-measure period costume for private individuals looking for a unique or themed outfit.
I know I am jammy but I will not apologise for having arguably the best job ever!
- How do you feel your experiences of studying Archaeology at Durham shaped your life afterwards?
I did not take the most obvious route from archaeology into work but without my degree from Durham I would not be doing what I do today. The team work I experienced through projects, the small nature of the group and by doing fieldwork have helped me to interact with people in all parts of the heritage industry and has improved the way I work.
I would never have had the confidence to be self-employed or stand up in front of hundreds of people and present a lecture without the experience Durham offered me. The way I was encouraged to research the subjects I found most fascinating and forced to stand in front of my peers to present my findings are skills which are invaluable and I now take for granted.
- What are your favourite memories/experiences of studying Archaeology at Durham?
There are many to choose from, not least of which was the day I walked into the library and realised all these books were there for me to indulge my love of history – heaven!
I loved the fieldwork I did through the University both at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland and in Germany. Despite floods, large rocks and a shortage of decent tea (in Germany) they were a great few weeks. I learnt so much about practical archaeology and teamwork, though it also cemented my belief I was not destined to be a field archaeologist!
However, my lasting memory will always be the delight when you met someone, teacher or student, who shared your passion for the most obscure part of history (mine was blue dyes!) And who would chat with you, or argue with you, all day.
- What do you miss most about studying at Durham?
I miss the camaraderie of being in a large group of people with a common interest. As a freelancer I do not have that on a day to day basis. I also miss the ability to walk around in the most ludicrous fancy dress and no one looking at me oddly – or turning up to lectures with a faintly blue face after dressing as a smurf for formal!