The Weaker Sex? 1915

Having just moved before Christmas and this being my quiet time of the year I have been having a bit of a clear out, one of many odd items sold on eBay was this magazine from 1916.


Brought as a prop I have never read it, however my attention was grabbed by the cover article.

Scan 2

Is woman the weaker sex? Is there, in fact a weaker sex at all? The writer of this article maintains that so far from woman being unfitted for the many strenuous tasks she is now undertaking, they are almost a rest-cure to her after the toil of domestic duties. This being so, is it likely that in time to come she will fold back to the few overcrowded occupations that were formerly her lot.

In the midst of the WW1 anniversaries, it is amazing also how many of these costumes I have recreated in the past year, maybe it’s just my customers but there has been a real interest in women’s war time.

Anyway I’m just going to leave this here for your perusal, enjoy.

Scan 3

Scan 4

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Styling Austen, The Regency Fashion show

This post is based on a presentation for The Glasgow School of Arts Crafting the look Fashion styling conference, click below to find out more about it

For those of you who have lived your whole life in a cave, Pride and Prejudice, the infamous novel by Jane Austen was first published in 1813. It has now been one of the nations best-loved stories for over 200 years.

The story follows its protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England.

Long before Bella Swan tripped into the lives of teenage girls, before even Scarlett O’ Hara suffered, struggled and captured our hearts, there was Elizabeth Bennet.

Lizzie’s mix of intelligence and cheekiness has made her, as Jane Austen herself put it “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print” for 200 years.

Although the story is set at the turn of the 19th century, it retains a fascination for modern readers, continuing to top lists of the nations most loved books. It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature.

Continued interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen’s memorable characters and themes. To date, the book has sold some 20 million copies worldwide.

It is not hard to see why the story, which is both funny and romantic has remained so popular, many of the themes the story covers still resonate with young people today.

It is always hard working on project themed around a much-loved book, but this was the task that faced myself and my wonderful team of volunteers, once the Jane Austen Festival director had agreed to our show proposal.


The Jane Austen Festival started in 2000 as a small event run over a weekend at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. The 2011 event ran over two weeks and attracted over 600 people just to participate in the promenade around the historical Georgian town centre.

People travel from all over the world to observe or take part. The festivals aim is to bring people together, to celebrate the work and world of Jane Austen, and to attract new audiences to her work. In 2013 the festival wanted something special to mark Pride and Prejudice’s 200th Anniversary, what we came up with was a fashion show with a difference.

This was to be a show on a grand scale, one which would be shown to an ever-growing group of costumed promenaders as well as being shared with fans across the world.

Many, if not all of the audience would be in costume, they would have read the book numerous times, many of them will have made their own costumes or at least know their Regency fashion better than most, our show had to live up to the expectations of this challenging audience.

Everyone creates a picture in their minds when reading a book, Jane Austen herself had a view on how her creations would be dressed, as she writes following a trip to a gallery.

“Mrs. Bingley’s is exactly herself — size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs. D. will be in yellow”

And then there are the many film and TV adaptions, which have added to the story and defined each characters look, often inline with fashions of the time it was filmed, they often but become so popular they become almost inseparable from the original story.

However we didn’t want the show to be too safe, we wanted to challenge the audience’s expectations as well as recreating key moments in their favourite story.

My first step was to reread the book and read, watch and listen to as many adaptations a possible, creating a bible of key moments and references to fashion, from this we selected the scenes we felt would work best on stage.

The show itself was structured in the same way as a standard Fashion show, starting with daywear working through to evening wear and ending with the wedding dress but throughout the show, we planned short narrative sketches from the story. We were fortunate that many of our models had acting experience and were able to swap from standard catwalk modeling with a regency twist to playing (in some cases more than one) character.

No new costumes were made for the show, aside form Lizzies wedding dress which I will get to later. We had an open submission for models and outfits, alongside this we had my own studio’s stock of costumes. This was all we had to work with and as such, the narratives sketches had to be created out of what we had, although, we knew there were some “moments” which simply could not be left out.

I am going to look at three in more detail

The first is Lizzie’s “muddy heam”

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.26.52

Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise”

It is the reaction of Bingley’s sisters that most people remember

“And her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office”

This moment is so important as this is when Mr. Darcy first starts to fall for Lizzie, so enamored is he with her pretty flushed face he simply states

Her dirty Petticoat quite escaped my notice”

But that first image of Lizzie, on the way to see her sister, enjoying her walk is able bring to mind what follows and that is what we focused on,

We knew we didn’t need to tell the whole story just to tell enough and let the audiences imagination do the rest.

So for this sketch Lizzie wondered across the stage bonnet in hand, admiring the nature that surrounds her and oblivious to her muddy hem and dirt caked boots


Image credit Justin Gist Preuninger

Image credit Justin Gist Preuninger


This required a little help from the model herself, Katie who was dressed in a Regency day dress and was sent into Bath to find puddles and dirty her heam and boots.

The second is not from the book at all but the BBC’s 1990’s adaptation for television, in which Mr. Darcy, played by Colin Firth takes a dip in his lake and emerges in that wet shirt.

To do this properly we knew we needed a wet shirt and thankfully one of our Models, Richard was willing to stick his head under the tap and slip into a soaking wet shirt just moments before walking onto the stage, dripping wet, in his breeches and stockinged feet, he made a good many peoples day. He was so popular we had to have a second showing. He could almost be accused of milking the attention.

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.31.10

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.33.03

It’s uncanny, right?

Lydia is an eternally popular character, I like to think we all have a Lydia side and her elopement with the handsome cad Mr. Wickham is one of those moments which could not be missed out.

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.27.35

Much as we wanted this in the show we did not have access to any uniforms and so on the day of the show, when Bath is filled with “officers” we sent our own giddy group of boys and girls out to find us a Mr. Wickham. Up until the last moment we were not sure if it was going to happen, but thankfully Mr. Wickham was able to join us and return our Lydia’s Hankie.


Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.27.27

Sadly our Mr. Wickham had a ball to attend, and no doubt many other girls to seduce and so was not able to stay for the second half of the show, so when It came to Lydia’s wedding we had to make do with his jacket and Lydia showing off her wedding ring to the audience. Which worked very well, again proving how little of the narrative has to be involved for the whole story to be told.

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.27.17

As our models and outfits came from all over the world to take part, the whole show had to be styled and ordered on the day of the show, before this we had a basic plan on the outfits, models and key narratives we wanted to include.


Image by Owen Benson Visuals

Image by Owen Benson Visuals


On the day models had to be matched with outfits, ordered to allow time for changes, allowing for a total lack of zips and the presence of corsets!


Image by Owen Benson Visuals

Image by Owen Benson Visuals


Accessories multi tasked, covering tattoos, giving the models a way to give catwalking a regency feel, marking the occasion and often helping to tell a part of the story


Image by Annie Lucas

Image by Annie Lucas


The over all look was more of a collative decision, overseen by myself and the producer, Kirsten Stoddart, with everyone mucking in to make it look and feel the part. As well as creating a feeling of collective ownership, the book after all is owned, loved and imagined anew by each fresh reader.

We didn’t want the show to future the classic catwalk strut and pose, live music from the BBC production helped set a more suitable pace and fans, reticules and even quill pens allowed for more regency poses. Stairs had to be negotiated carefully and delicately with long gowns and trains adding to the gentle pace which allowed the audience to admire the details.

It was important for us that our show reflected a wide range of different people, just like the story, our only requirement for models was a wiliness to take part, and much like the fuss created by Mr. Bingley arriving unexpectedly at the Bennet household, the buzz backstage included everyone turning their hand to what they could, be it sewing, hair, make up or helping with the show plan. It simply would not have happened without everyone involved’s hard work and ideas.

Alongside this and reflecting on the theme of inclusion we wanted the fashion of Austen’s devoted readers to play a part, we chose to do this by taking the audience through 200 years of changes in fashions, both in dress and in reading, the one constant being the continued popularity of Austen’s work.

We also wanted to ensure we started by telling the audience not to make any assumptions about what they are about to see, starting with the modern day and rewinding 200 years of readers fashions taking them back to 1813.

The show opens with this song



To this, Richard appears, wearing a kimono loaded with swords, worn over jeans and a t-shirt, reading the graphic novel of Pride and prejudice with zombies, sadly not captured on film, shown here is a picture from the rehearsal

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.33.34

At a fast pace models then tag team a copy of Pride and Prejudice, each reader is shown fitting the book into their life with music from their era. This gave us about 30 seconds to “pitch” each decade or era to the audience




The film starts in the 1990’s, which I ended up modeling;some of you may remember this film;

Only when we have returned to regency times then did the piano start and the story begin

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.36.03

Both the story and the show end with a wedding, the book features four weddings, we have already spoke about how we portrayed Lydia’s and before we finished on lizzies wedding we also show Jane’s wedding to Mr. Bingley.

Screen shot 2014-04-24 at 19.45.17

The one dress made for the show was Lizzie’ s wedding dress; Annalise Harvey Bridal and Occasion Design created this especially for the show.

Rather than being a replica of the type of dress worn for weddings at this time, this stunning design it is a reinterpretation made by a true fan of Austen’s work. Read more about the design here;

I have worked at the festival for the past three years running last years regency fashion show was by far my biggest challenge,  I spent much of 2014 locked away, as I have been busy working on a book on recreating Georgian and Regency women’s clothing, which will be published later this year

Creating so many styles over a short period has required a clear out so if you have been inspired to go to the festival, many of the dresses from the show are for sale in my Etsy store

Should you want to you can see more stills from the show here

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The finished WW1 Trench Coat!

The trench coat is finished and on display at Whitchurch Silk Mill, here are a few pictures I managed to take before it had to be shipped, my husband very kindly agreed to model.














Posted in Costume | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Almost every man looks more so in a belted trench coat

“Almost every man looks more so in a belted Trench coat”

Sydney J Harris

This is my second post on the trench coat I am currently making for Whitchurch Silk Mill. The design is complete and the fabric and notions have been sourced. The next step is creating a pattern and in this post I’m going to discuss cut, fit and size.

Not every soldier would have had the luxury of heading over to Haymarket and having his uniform plus extras such as an all-weather coat especially made. While the lower ranks uniforms were off the peg, officers could afford to head to a tailor to have their items bespoke made.

Tailors were sent instructions from the war officer on how each item of uniform was to be made, to ensure uniforms were in fact uniform. Books were published focusing on creating military patterns and aimed at tailors.These books are a great source of information for costumiers today looking to remake WW1 uniforms. The book I am using is one I have used before for creating WW1 uniforms.


The publishers also printed a magazine, which they mention above. Here is an example of that magazine during the war; it included different patterns in each issue.


This is the pattern closest to my final trench coat design, which I plan to adapt.


This is how the patterns are presented in the book, if you have any experience of pattern cutting you will see that they are quite different from how patterns are laid out today, I imagine this looks fairly abstract to non cutters!


The book also gives very detailed instructions on how to take measurements


But what size should this trench coat be? What size was the average man in 1914?

Any man willing to enlist and join the army could do so providing he was of the right height, age and he passed a set of physical tests. He needed to be taller than 5 feet 3 inches and aged between 18 and 38. Remember many man were so keen to go to war they lied about their age!

The average height of the recruit in 1914 appears to have been around 5ft 5in, with anyone above 5ft 7in being considered quite tall by the standards of the day. The Average weight would have been around 8 stone and the average age would have been around 30 with a chest measuring 34”

This is quite a bit smaller than today’s average

It just so happens that I am 5 feet 5 inches tall, but I must be considerably better fed, as I weigh nine and a half stone, even at my thinnest, aged about 30 I was a good half a stone heavier than our average soldier. If we look at today’s BMI charts I now sit smack bang in the middle of the healthy weight section, our soldier falls just into the underweight section. So why was the arrange recruit so small?

In 1915 the total available number of men of military age was 5.5 million, with around 500,000 more reaching that age each year. By late September, 2.25 million men had been enlisted with a further 1.5 million in reserved occupations. Of the rest, the recruiters had uncovered a shocking fact; almost two in every five volunteers were entirely unsuitable for military service on the grounds of health.

Some men were disabled by accidents, others suffered from inherited conditions and many had diseases, which are although almost unheard of today were common in 1914. Skeletal tuberculosis affected bones and joints and was a major cause of physical disability, as was Polio which could have a lifelong impact. Poverty also gave rise to another common cause of childhood disability; rickets, a bone-weakening disease. This might help to explain why so many men were turned away.

The sad fact is that many men at this time were under-nourished and enlisting offered them the change of three square meals a day. This is reinforced by the fact that after enlisting many young men put on a stone in weight and grew 2 inches while being properly fed and taking part in physical training.

Officers generally came from more well off backgrounds and as such could expect to be better fed and perhaps a little larger than the average soldier. All of this was taken into account when deciding on the size of our Trench coat.

I am told the silk for the lining is being woven as I type so it wont be long before I can start construction, expect more news quite soon, bearing in mind my blog has its own time, just like Narnia, which is much slower than your real world human time, oh and I have a book to finish

Posted in Costume | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Critical Incidents

I completed my PGCE eightish years ago, one of the course work assignments was a journal of ten incidents and my reflections on them. We were told we could present them in any format we liked as long as we stuck to the word count. Being an art and design teacher, I made mine an illustrated scrapbook. My tutor was so in awe of it, she asked to keep hold of it when I finished my course.

Many a poor student had it inflicted on them over the following years, who my husband says must have considered it the work of a failed artist, and to those people I apologise, it is over the top, to say the least!

All these years later my journal ended up back in the art office and my old colleagues returned it to me. I enjoyed reminiscing and seeing my past self, I had forgotten a lot of the work that went into it.


It’s hard to share in pictures, there are so many interactive elements, but I have done my best.

The book starts with a portrait of me, based on one of my favorite paintings (I was a contextual studies teacher) I wonder if any of you can guess the painting? A clue: focus on my stance, not the backdrop! I think a prize might be in order for the first person who manages to guess correctly!


Issue 1 explores an incident in which one student attacks another. The notes and drawings are based on the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the evidence bag is a real one, I sweet talked my way into a wodge of them when I was at Uni, the text is in the evidence bag.


Issue 2 is about re-enactment and teaching history, this page has lots of pull out flaps, and fold out diagrams, the pictures show me playing Emma Hamilton!



Issue 3 is based on my WW2 work, there are flaps that fold out at the side, every inch is covered with period images, some of photos are of my own relatives, the text is inside the envelope.


Issue 4, on the challenges of teaching fashion construction is printed on hand decorated fabric which I made into the dress shown on the left. Talk about time to kill!

20140602-191143-69103192.jpg 20140602-191145-69105071.jpg 20140602-191144-69104120.jpg

Issue 5 is based on an experiment I conducted to discover what impact what I wore had on how people reacted to me in the classroom


Issue 6 explores teaching numeracy in art and design

20140602-191249-69169721.jpg 20140602-191250-69170704.jpg

Issue 7 is about teaching students what the industry is really like


Issue 8 is about history, fashion and fur


Issue 9 is based on a college trip to the V&A, the pages on the right fold in and down, the drawings and pictures are all my own, which I managed to complete in between stopping the students from setting fire to things in the gallery and hauling them out of McDonald’s

20140602-191518-69318986.jpg 20140602-191519-69319943.jpg 20140602-191516-69316117.jpg 20140602-191518-69318000.jpg 20140602-191517-69317056.jpg

Issue 10 talks about me learning a new skill knitting, and reflects on teaching traditional female crafts and women’s suffrage, I wrote a history of women’s suffrage on the yarn before knitting it, there is a picture of me, which I have misplaced, knitting this sample. I remember writing on the yarn between classes, it took ages, as you would expect.

20140602-191612-69372788.jpg 20140602-191611-69371807.jpg

The whole book feels like a time capsule, from a place long ago and far away. somewhere I enjoyed revisiting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The best sporting weather proof that the world has yet seen or is ever likely to see”

Sometimes I get projects that are simple, client A wants costume X, I make costume X and everyone is happy. Simple.


Sometimes however I get the chance to work on much more complex projects, projects that require research, thinking, testing and decisions, these are generally more interesting if a little more challenging.


At first I thought making a WWI Trench Coat for Whitchurch Silk Mill was going to be one of the simple projects, but this is turning out to have so much more depth than I imagined possible and as much as I can I’m going to share my process with you as this project unfolds.


Whitchurch Silk Mill is the oldest silk mill in the UK, still in its original building in rural Hampshire it is a working Georgian water mill that still weaves silk using 19th century machinery. They used to weave silk for linings for Burberry coats and for this project I have been commissioned to make trench coat to be lined with a special one off commemoratory silk to mark the anniversary of centenary of the First World War.


The “trench Coat” was really the first raincoat, made of gabardine a waterproof heavy-duty cotton fabric invented by Thomas Burberry in 1880. worn by officers in in the Boer war, where they were a real hit, being lightweight, waterproof and hard-wearing.


They became called “trench coats” in World War One, in which they proved to be ideally suited to trench warfare. Their popularly has continued and they are considered a design classic today. You may have spotted one being worn in episode 4 of the BBC WWI drama The Crimson Field.

Screen shot 2014-05-16 at 15.27.13

The design changed during the Great War as improvements were made to assist the trench bound wearers. The first challenge was for me to choose which version of the coat to make (Cue Lindsey following white rabbit down research black hole…)


The trench coat you see today is typically double-breasted with 10 front buttons, wide lapels, a storm flap, buttoned pockets, belted at the waist, buckled straps around the wrists and buttoned shoulder straps.


The early coats were quite different;

Screen shot 2014-05-16 at 15.36.50

Single breasted, plain, long and full, these coats from The Burberry Catalogue in 1905 are much the same design officers took to war in 1914.


During the war the design changed to suit the needs of modern warfare, key changes were the wrist straps, to keep the mud out, the the storm flap to keep the rain out, shoulder straps to keep kit straps fully on the shoulder and D loops on the belt which allowed for carrying more items of equipment around (not hand grenades, that’s just silly) shown here on an original coat.

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 12.11.58

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 12.11.35

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 12.11.46

We wanted our coat to tell the story of the Great War, so we chose to go with a later design allowing us to explore all of the above, but we were also keen to make sure it is not just a modern coat, our final design is very similar to this design from this poster from the IWM collection.

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 12.05.54

Now we have the shape, next is the Fabric, we need a gabardine or drill cotton in the right colour, but what is the right colour?

Officers heading over to Burberrys Haymarket store could have coats made up in a range of colours, this was after all a bespoke item, but there was only really one colour suitable for a war time coat, especially if it was to be worn as part of your uniform.

Khaki, or drab which has its origins in India is used by armies around the world for their uniforms. The word Khaki comes from the Persian word meaning soil. It has been used to denote both a yellow-brown and a green, but like dirt, over the years is has been applied to a range of colours.

you can buy precoated waterproof cottons to make raincoats today if you wish, they come in a fairly standard palette shown below.


the top colour being a little too cream and the second one down not quite being a drab enough green, the main issue with these fabrics is the grain, or lack of, these are very tightly woven cottons, you can hardly see they have been woven at all, but look at this close up of an original WWI Burberry trench coat.

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 12.20.53

We need a fabric with the same weave, weight and drape to be able to match the look of the original and this is I think is almost more important than colour. Saying that we have managed to find a fabric which meets these requirements and is only a shade or two darker than we imagine the original would have been when new.

In my next post on this project I will talk about creating a pattern and the fitting process.



Posted in Costume | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments