Dressmaker and Costume Historian
February Issue of Best Job Ever!
March 12, 2016
I am a little late in getting this out as I barely noticed when February turned into March. I couldn’t believe it when I realised it was getting dangerously close to mid-March and I hadn’t posted my February edition of ‘Best Job Ever’. So here it goes…….
The month took off to a flying start with a commission to make an 18th Century East India Trading Company regimental uniform of coat, breeches and waistcoat for India Week at the Royal Armouries in Leeds at half term. A great project but with just two weeks to get the fabrics, make it and deliver it, there was no time to lose. Thankfully, delving into my trusty samples file I sourced the materials very quickly so I was able to get cracking. I got a buff coloured heavy drill cotton drill from Minerva Fabrics and a fantastic red military weight wool from Bernie the bolt. Next, the pattern. I had waistcoat and breeches already so drafting the coat was the only one to deal with. With no time for a fitting I worked from the measurements I had and hoped for the best. A few late nights and 74 pewter buttons later and it was done! Packaged off and safely delivered it proved to be a great hit with the audience and a near perfect fit!
I started off the History Wardrobe run of events this year with ‘Fairy Tale Fashion’ at Bagshaw museum. It is always a pleasure to visit this museum and the setting really added to the atmosphere of the talk. It was lovely to chat to the sell-out audience afterwards and wonderful to return home to find these two blogs which had been written in the interim.
Before performing at Bagshaw Lucy and I had a fun trip to Fabworks in Dewsbury, a fantastic treasure trove of a fabric shop. I picked up the remaining materials for the Jolly Hockey Sticks costumes, plus fabrics for upcoming projects for Oakwell Hall, the NCWC and the last few things for the WWI Greenwich costumes. I had to be dragged out by Lucy! When we got back to the car I realised that that the piece of remnant wool fabric I bought that I “just had to have” was in fact nearly identical to my jacket that I had left in the car……..at least I know I will wear it!
I also managed to squeeze in a meeting with the lovely team at Oakwell Hall whilst I was in the area to confirm the designs for their eight English Civil War costumes which I will be making in April. I will keep you posted on developments in the next edition.
Later in the month I joined History Wardrobe at Gateshead library for ‘A Very Victorian Lady’. It was fantastic to perform this on a stage to a familiar and packed out audience. Somehow it was inferred on Twitter that dressed as a Victorian seamstress I was “easy”! I am still struggling to salvage my reputation! The event went down a storm and, as usual, everyone wanted a closer look up my skirt at the end! Costume lovers are unstoppable!
History Wardrobe will be back there in October with ‘Jolly Hockey Sticks’ and I will be there in November with my talk ‘The Body Beautiful: the search for the ideal woman’ – get your tickets now!
A couple of days later we were back on the road and heading to Carlisle to perform ‘Titanic’ at Tullie House museum. Arriving a couple of hours early we were given a sneak peak into the costume stores by Melanie, one of the curators at the museum. It was a true delight! Having the chance to handle original garments is irresistible and a great way of familiarising myself to the feel of fabrics, colours and decorative details from different periods. Thank you Tullie House!
Between all the too-ing and fro-ing I created three WWI costumes for use by the Greenwich Heritage Trust. They are to be part of their ‘Here Come the Girls’ exhibition which will be travelling around the Borough. The costumes needed to be multi-sized as they needed to fit a range of actors and volunteers so they could be used as often as possible. The nurse’s uniform was copied from one in the History Wardrobe collection and made from light blue cotton with headdress, apron, cuffs and armband made from 20th century linen sheets (nothing beats them on the modern market!) and starched. The civilian blouse and skirt were copied from items in my collection. The blouse was made from a spotted cotton lawn with a drawstring waist and decorative buttons. The munitions uniform was copied from one in the Imperial War Museum collection, worn at Woolwich Arsenal. Made from buff coloured cotton drill with vintage white buttons and original On War Service badge. The waistbands of all the costumes had sections of elastic to make them multi-sized, the blouse had a drawstring waist and all the skirts had deep hems which could be adjusted. A wonderful project which I thoroughly enjoyed working on.
“Oh my word – the costumes are absolutely beautiful. I found myself welling up when I saw the Arsenal munition outfit. It was just like the one in the image.”
What a way to end the month!