Dressmaker and Costume Historian
January Issue of Best Job Ever!
February 1, 2016
One of the hardest things for self-employed to do is take time off. My phone gets dragged from my hands on the first day of a holiday. Once we do leave work behind we are just like everyone else when it comes to getting back to the desk. This year was easier than most with some fantastic projects starting off 2016.
Most people approach January with dread. The festive season is over and there is nothing to look forward to but dull winter days and the inevitable annual diet attempt. I disagree, I LOVE January! It is the only month I don’t travel (though I broke my rule this year!) which gives me a chance to rest, catch up and spend long days reading all those books that prop up my walls in front of my wood burning stove. Or at least, this is what is suppose to happen………..
I briefly mentioned last month that I was starting a project for an English Heritage site near London. It is still hush hush but I can tell you that next month I will be make eight try-on costumes for visitors to the property. January was spent sourcing all the materials, getting the designs and samples signed off and planning it all out. We are now ready and raring to go!
Another project that was waiting for the new year to get going was a set of three WWI costumes for the Greenwich Heritage Trust. They are doing a new exhibition called ‘Here Come The Girls’ which will travel to various sites in the area. The costumes I will be making are for actors and volunteers to wear. January saw all the fabrics sourced, signed off and patterns ready to go. Construction starts next week.
Excitingly, I also got confirmation of another big project for a property in Yorkshire called Oakwell Hall. They have commissioned eight try-on costumes for their new exhibition on the British Civil Wars. Time to get out my 17th century patterns again!
One project that was booked in for January was making a 17th century Cavalier costume for a gentleman in Henley-on-Thames who intends to do town walks and school sessions. Everything ran smoothly, with the breeches and shirt and doublet ready for the fitting at the end of the month. A few minor alterations to the doublet before I finish it off. I am now onto the fun bit of adding all the decorations.
History Wardrobe is preparing to launch its new talk for 2016 – Jolly Hockeysticks! School stories, sportswear and women in education. My job is to make the gym knickers! I am also making a school girls uniform, with the help of a 1940s pattern, and the headmistresses costume. These are getting made at the moment but I have to keep stopping as the awful memories of my school uniform overwhelm me!
As I mentioned, I broke my own rule and agreed to do an event in January. I normally don’t as it is not a good time to travel, most people are busy being reminiscing about Christmas and I need the break. However, I did, and for a very good reason. The Dyffryn Clwyd National Trust Association near Mold asked me to come and do a study day on hats. What a fabulous idea! The only downside was that they didn’ have a very big room so I could only take 30 hats from my collection (boo!). We started off with a talk on the manufacture of hats before moving onto controversial hats and the changing image of hats – I even dropped in a few anecdotes on crimes committed by villains welding hatpins and women’s self defence a la hatpin! Homemade pie and crumble for lunch restored us for the afternoon handling session. The audience members were all very appreciative and had brought some wonderful hats of their own to show to the group. These included Chinese, Mongolian and Australian hats and even a hat worn my Penelope Keith in ‘To The Manor Born’! Despite being stuck in Stoke’s rush hour on the way home it was worth breaking the rules for.
January is my month for organisation so between sorting out the upcoming projects I squeezed in sorting out my workroom, washing all my petticoats and mannequin covers and making padded covers for my original ones. One of those jobs that takes forever and it doesn’t seem like much at the end of it – like an ironing pile!
I am ready and raring to go for February and a lot of sewing!