Cutting, cantilevers and construction

Saturday, July 7th 2012 –Sunday, July 8th 2012

2012 Costume Society AGM and Study Day
Cutting, Cantilevers and Construction
and AGM
Saturday 7th July 2012 10.30-4.30
The Old Theatre Royal, Orchard Street, Bath BA1 1JU

This year with no Symposium, the Costume Society held its AGM and Patters of Faschion Award as part of a Study Day. On the Friday there was an optional visit whcih my friend Perry Straker was in rapture over. She says 'I was lucky enough to be one pf a party of the 16 who went to the Museum of Fashion. We looked at items including a 1947 black wool Dior suit worn by Margot Fonteyn, and a black silk evening dress c. 1950 by Balenciaga. I was totally overhelmed by the 16th - 17th century embroidered gloven and jackets. No white gloves though - we were given purple plastic ones instead!'

The four finalists fo the Patterns of Fashion Award had been selected from eighteen applicants from six different universities, and were of a very high quality. To paraphrase one of the students, the compromise is always between the pattern as it appears in Janet Arnold's book and how it makes up in an actual garment. Te garments, a 1770s polonaise (Rhiannon Gilick), a late 1820s wedding dress (Emma Ruth Wilson), a c.1837-41 morning dress (Kate Lyons), and a striped c. 1870 outfit (Caroline Hall) were presented by the students. The Award was judged by Susan Hardy (the afternoon speaker) in place of John Bright, the director of Cosprop, who was held up in serious traffic. The winner was the 1820s dress made by Emma Wilson from the University of Glamorgan, a decision full endorsed by John Bright whi he finally arrived.

The first speaker was Jenny Tiramani - After Janet Arnold: researching and reconstructing historical clothes in the 21th century. Jenny is a wonderful speaker. She talked about what patter books existed in the past,far fewer than you would think, and what patterns from original garments have been published. Jenny is a director of the School of Historical Dress (, which has Janet’s archive, and apparently there is enough material for at least another two Patterns of Fashion books. Jenny finished by talking about her work on the costumes for Anna Bolena at the Metropolitan Opera, and her current work for the Globe on a staging of Richard III.

After lunch we were treated to another splendid talk by Susan Hardy of Cosprop – Clothes or Costumes? Interpreting and making for today’s film industry. Cosprop, founded and still run by John Bright (who was present) has now been going for forty seven years, and the list of films it has been involved in is incredible. Cosprop has a collection of over 40,000 outfits in stock, so they may be used over time and wear down naturally. In some cases multiple versions have to be produced, because costume was “broken down” on set, for example when the wearer gets dragged through a swamp. Other challenges Susan referred to was the very short turnaround to produce some garments, and the unavailability of wearers for fittings.

It was an excellent, informative and most enjoyable day.

  • Elizabeth I and courtiers
  • Room with a view - Helena Bonham Carter's evening costume
  • The Duchess for Keira Knigtley
  • Sense and Sensibility - Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant
  • Old Theatre, Bath