The Costume Society and Heritage Crafts Join Forces

5 May 2024, by Francine McMahon

In this week's blog post, we take a look at the exciting collaboration between The Costume Society and Heritage Crafts. In the post, meet the emerging fashion textile makers supported as a result: milliner Mia Brennan, historical clothing maker Maya Howes, and historic textile craftsperson Katie Sawyer.

Earlier this year, Heritage Crafts launched a training bursary, sponsored by The Costume Society, aimed at supporting early-career fashion textile makers. It is no secret that training in fashion textile skills can be an expensive process, meaning many potential makers are unable to break into the sector as a result. Heritage Crafts, the UK charity for traditional craft skills, is aiming to change this through its collaboration with The Costume Society. The two organisations have come together to launch a bursary specifically for fashion textile crafts, giving three prospective craftspeople the chance to progress their skills and further themselves in the industry. As a result, the hope is that talented makers who would be otherwise unable to pursue their passion will be able to establish their careers through acquiring the financial support needed to elevate their skillset, and as such diversify what is currently an industry not fully representative of the UK population. 

Successful applicants received up to £4,000 to contribute towards activities including training with a craftsperson, attending accredited or specialist training courses, and material or study resource costs. Additionally, the partnership with Heritage Crafts will see a brand-new Fashion Textile Maker of the Year Award launched this summer, with a £2,000 prize and a trophy to be presented at a special Winners’ Reception in November.

Of the collaboration, Costume Society Vice Chair Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas said: "The bursaries extend the Costume Society's Mission to support the study and promotion of historic and contemporary dress by enhancing and protecting the skills of makers that are so central to fashion textiles. These opportunities are made possible by a legacy from founder member Anne Thomas, who worked tirelessly to celebrate excellence in makers and making."

The first of the three bursary recipients is milliner Mia Brennan. Mia has previously attended short millinery courses, as well as working freelance for accessories designer Vivienne Lake. As a result of the bursary, she will now be able to attend the BTEC Higher National Certificate in Millinery at Morley College, London. 

Speaking about the impact of the bursary, Mia said: "Having the backing from Heritage Crafts and The Costume Society has opened up an entirely new chapter in my millinery career. It will bring me so much jow knowing that I have a purpose... my creative dream is in reach and in turn I can inspire my daughter to strive and push for anything in life." 
















Maya Howes is the second of the three recipients, supporting her developing career producing historic dress. Maya has a small business making historical clothing for re-enactors and theatre, having been creating and selling her clothing since she was 18. She also carries out local alteration work. For Maya, the bursary award will enable her to attend The Corsetry Retreat, Lincolnshire, to learn 18th century stay making and benefit from one-to-one tuition. Her career intentions are to focus her existing business on historical corsetry and stay making, to make comfortable and historically accurate garments to be worn by re-enactors and in theatre, and for use in museums. Further, Maya aims to help other autistic and neurodivergent makers into the industry.

Maya said: ""I am so grateful to have received this grant. It not only allows me to receive specific training to specialise in my field, but also comes with support from Heritage Crafts and the Costume Society to help me navigate my career further. As an autistic person with chronic mental health issues, in many milestones growing up I did not have the same opportunities as my peers did. Much of my school education post age 12 was self-taught, due to my health keeping me out of school, and I could not take the usual university degree route. So I kept self-teaching and discovered my passion for re-creating working women's clothing, and in particular, staymaking. I'm so excited to see what I can do with further training and support."















The third and final recipient of the Heritage Crafts training bursary, supported by The Costume Society, is Katie Sawyer. Katie is a freelance historic textile craftsperson, whose textile career started with learning nalbinding and stinging nettle textiles. She has since expanded her skillset, now producing historical costume, embroidery, needle felting, knitting and mending. Katie's bursary will go towards one-to-one training with historical textile expert Sally Pointer, and attending courses at The Manchester School of Costume. This will support her longer term goals of becoming a historical textile leader of the North West, sharing her skills through workshops and demonstrations.

In response to receiving the bursary, Katie said: “I love learning new textile skills, so this training bursary will allow me to tackle ambitious projects with confidence, such as making a shirt from stinging nettles inspired by the Wild Swans fairytale and archaeological techniques. Being mostly self taught, this training will let me learn from the expertise of textile professionals so I can dramatically improve my craft career.”

















Heritage Crafts have a variety of support resources for emerging heritage craftspeople, of which more information can be found on their website. Further information on bursaries and support for historic dress and textile professionals offered by The Costume Society can be found on our dedicated Grants and Awards page. 

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