Dressmaker and Costume Historian
November issue of Best Job Ever!
December 5, 2015
If October was my ‘quiet month’ then November proved to be my ‘stuck in traffic month’ as I travelled round the county with History Wardrobe and my own talks.
The month started with a trip to Birmingham, thankfully on the train, to complete a second fitting for a Regency ball gown (more on that later), before presenting Fairy Tale Fashion with History Wardrobe for the Townswomen’s Guild. It was a fantastic afternoon and made even better by the presence of my best friend in the audience who had never seen me perform – despite being friends since we were 9 years old!
I came away from my monthly trip to the Royal Armouries in Leeds with lots to think about, as they requested quotes for various items for the new year. They got sent off that week so fingers crossed for some interesting projects in early 2016! The day itself was spent hemming, patching, mending and button attaching as usual. At the end of the month I parcelled off more hose and shirts to keep the staff looking good for their fight displays.
Before too long I was on the road again to present my first Christmas talk of the season to the Aire and Went Ladies Luncheon Club. It seemed a little odd to be brushing off the Christmas tree, though I had been beaten by Tesco by a few weeks as they had theirs out in October, if not before! A lovely afternoon with a very hospitable group and the best fresh fish and chips away from the coast – yum!
I had been commissioned earlier in the year to make a Regency ball gown for a dance caller based in Somerset. It took time to come up with this final design with ideas flying back and forth between us and Pinterest boards filled to the brim with beautiful examples. In the end she decided on a simple and easy to wash under-gown in spotted cotton voile and a open robe in silk with a scalloped edge. The back of the open robe was to be a copy of an original she had seen which had to be specially drafted for her. Due to the lightness of the material chosen for the under-dress a fitted petticoat was made with pin-tuck detail at the hem. Due to the distance between us we the logistics of getting together proved difficult but between family visits and events in Birmingham we managed it. I spent a week this month putting the final touches to the full ensemble, which included creating a scalloped edge on silk crepe – a daunting task but the end result was worth it. We were unable to meet for a final fitting so the gown was sent off with the promise of alteration should it be needed. It was greeted with gasps of delight from the client which made me very happy. A fantastic project with a fabulous result.
Once the Regency ball gown was posted off I was back in the car and heading up to Gateshead Library to present ‘Glitz and Glamour: getting ready for a party!’ – or I would have been had there not been a crash on the A1 at Retford, delays at Doncaster and roadworks at Gateshead which resulted in us being an hour and forty minutes late! We arrived just after the start time and must say a massive thank you to the staff and audience at the library for their help and patience as I got my breath back and unloaded some of the key display items. I never let my audiences down and I was not prepared to start then!
Later that week I headed north again to present ‘Women and the Great War’ as part of History Wardrobe for a fundraising event at Malton School. The organisers went to a huge amount of trouble with a scrumptious tea and one of the Tower of London poppies in the raffle!
Joining the History Wardrobe again the following week we heading south to Woodley Library to delight audiences with ‘Fairy Tale Fashion’. However, once again the traffic was against usas we sat near Luton for a hour before our sat nav saved us with a diversion and we arrived in time to make a speedy unpack and change – though we missed out on our usual Costa hot choc and cake fix!
Plus I was able to deliver some 17th century accessories to a client who has commissioned a Cavalier costume. We confirmed fabric choices and design and confirmed a fitting date in January. Another great day and a, thankfully, clear trip home!
I barely noticed the month change into December as the events came thick and fast and commission requests flew in. It looks like December will be spent happily quoting and tendering for some exciting projects!