In Conversation with Previous Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion Award Winners

Like many of my fellow students at the time, my introduction to the Costume Society was through taking part in the Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion Award. I have been talking to some of the previous Award winners about their experiences, I'm sure that they will inspire more students to take part.

LOUISE TAYLOR won the award in 2011 with her 1770-80 polonaise and quilted petticoat, found at The Gallery of English Costume in Manchester. Louise stated that the chance to faithfully reproduce, and research a historical garment is what first drew her into entering the competition. This extensive research helped her to reproduce the fabric using similar printing and hand painting techniques to those used from the garment's time period. She also mentions that being able to “spend hours, one on one with the gown” and being able to take “photographs of every single detail” greatly helped and inspired her garment. Upon winning at the final, Louise said that she felt relieved that her “hard work had paid off” and was “delighted to have won the recognition of the judges”; as well as receiving “support and complimentary comments from the members of the costume society”. Louise feels that winning has furthered her career as she has been working as a costume assistant at one of the largest live historical interpretation companies for three years, and has made various replica costumes for Chertsey Museum. Her words of wisdom to new entrants are to make sure you visit and photograph the original costume, as getting the colours right and seeing the construction techniques is crucial when producing a replica garment.

In 2012 the award went to EMMA WILSON after she recreated an 1827-29 wedding dress held at Gloucester Folk Museum. Emma said that she had been keen on using “more traditional methods” of costume making and was interested in using Janet Arnold's patterns to “return the pattern to garment form”. She saw that the competition gave her the “luxury of dedicating the time required to construct a whole (and very detailed) garment by hand.” After being able to visit and study the original garment, she gained “an appreciation of the actual time and work that went into making any garment before the invention of the sewing machine”. Emma enjoyed the final and felt that the Costume Society's day created a “really supportive and creative atmosphere”, despite feeling nervous talking about some aspects of her project as she was presenting to “a room full of people who were certain to know if I got it wrong!” This competition led her to create two replica costumes from an 1889 photograph for Hereford Museums and View+, using period accurate techniques, materials, and patterns that she had taken from existing garments in the museum's collection. Emma's advice to students thinking of taking part is to “choose a costume you feel passionate're going to be spending a lot of time on it!”; as well as “Investing in a good thimble: after that quantity of hand sewing, you really will appreciate the need for one!”.

This year's winner was CLEMENTINE GREELEY who reproduced a 1798-1805 morning dress from Salisbury Museum. She states that growing up in Bath surrounded by great historical resources, and her love of historical costume led her to take part in this award. Clementine learnt of the “calming repetition of hand sewing” and found that having a garment that used many different techniques meant that the project “never got dull”. She feels that taking part in the final gave her a real confidence boost as she could “present my [her] dress to people who really appreciated how much work had gone into reconstructing the garment by hand.” The competition has broadened her making and research skills, enabling her to work on a range of different theatrical productions since taking part. Clementine advises to “do as much background research into your reconstruction as you can manage, go to museums to see existing garments, as it may inspire you further and it often gives a greater understanding of why and how garments are constructed historically.”

For further information about previous winners and the application form for the 2015 competition please visit our awards pages:

Recent Posts