‘Where’s ma kilt?!’

My Final Major Project (FMP) was split into two halves: a historical piece and a ‘cultural’ piece, for want of a better word.  For the cultural side, I was able to kill to kill two birds with one stone.  My younger brother – son of a Scot (our lovely Mum), lives and studies in Scotland, has a Scottish fiancée, and plans to stay based in the west of Scotland for the foreseeable future – had expressed a wish to own a kilt and evening jacket, muttering about it every time we went past hire shops and vintage shops.  I can’t remember who first brought up the possibility that I might make him one, but as the time grew closer to my needing to write a proposal of what to do for my FMP, I thought ‘why not…’  Ben was very excited about the idea, including given that my tutors needed to see me do a fitting as part of the process, he would have to come down to stay, and accompany me at least once into the much talked off ‘costume department studio’ and get to meet all the fantastic people I went on and on about.

I was enormously pleased with how this came out!!  The Argyll jacket is of navy wool, lined with silk, fully hand-canvased, all hand-finished.  The kilt is of Ancient Robertson Hunting Tartan, hand-pleated and -sewn, lined and canvased, with 3 buckles all hand-applied.  I am very proud of the fact that the kilt did not once go anywhere near a sewing machine.

I also had the honour of many people commenting how much they liked it during the exhibition, including one of the tutors asking if I would be willing to sell it to him.  I am open for commisions, so please ask!!  This one, however, is Ben’s.

Once again, Ben agreed to do a photoshoot with him all dressed up…

Many thanks to Eilidh for giving Ben such a useful gift as proper socks, and to Liz for all her help during the shoot!

1920′s Tailoring Photoshoot

For my final major project, my marvelous ‘little’ brother agreed to be my model, on the understanding that many, many photos would be taken of him dressed up in whatever I made.

Luckily, not only was I making a stylish 1920′s tailcoat and evening trousers, but he himself likes to look smart,  Maybe it was the effect of all the period dramas he had to put up with, with two older sisters; maybe it was the naval officer in him making itself know; maybe it was something else entirely, but he sure as heck knows how to look his best.

Joker that he be, any photo shoot with him was going to create hillarity to all involved and any watching, and true to form, we had a great time with much giggling and play-acting!

Thank you, Ben!

I was working from patterns, tailoring books and images from the 1920′s to make this tailcoat and trousers.  The tailcoat is known as The Tailor’s Art Piece as it is the most challenging garment that a tailor can make and get looking perfect.  I knew this when I chose to construct one as half of my final major project, and while I have a few things that I know can be improved upon, I was quite pleased with what I produced…

So here are the results:

To see the other half of the shoot with Ben proudly showing off an Argyll jacket and kilt, click here.

Au revoir for now, I am off to practice my pad-stitching, collar fall-lines and sleeve setts!



Wedding: Ashley and Craig

Ashley and Craig’s Wedding

Last summer, I had an invitation to be involved in another wedding.  A friend of my sister’s was looking for something a little different…

There were several interesting and exciting factors involved: I was commissioned to make, not only the bride’s dress, but a bespoke corset for underneath the dress, two bridesmaids’ dresses and her flower girl’s as well; Ashley requested a detail on her dress inspired by Ellen Ripley’s jumpsuit in the film Alien; and the wedding was in Glasgow and I was much further south.

A Scottish fabric shopping escapade and an all-inclusive measuring session was followed by a stretch of making 4 bright green petticoats, the three bridesmaid/flower girl dresses in tandom, and expetimenting with lacing and double zips in fine silks.

This was the result!

Thank you Ashley and Craig for allowing me to do this with you!


Conclusion of Chaos: Candide

Well hello there!

I know I owe a Large Post to the website since I have neglected you for several weeks now.  The time has come to reveal what on earth has kept me so preoccupied!

Since the beginning of January, my university project has been a large making unit, sniffily entitled ‘Concepts in Context’*.  For this, we were studying the novella Candide by Voltaire, which was written in the 18th century, with a view to making the costumes for a fully staged** production of the operetta of the same name by Leonard Bernstein.  The costumes had been designed by one of the recently graduated 3rd year design students and, requirements meaning that there would be two of almost every character to give all 40 makers an individual costume, she came up with a simple colour scheme of black/grey/silver and sepia/brown/gold.  So we chose our designs and I picked Young Candide.*** Deciding it was nearest in silhouette to 1770, I dived into my research of frock coats and breeches of that time.

The result of my research, talks with the designer and discussions with my tutors resulted in my using black silk dupion, over which I blithely said I could stitch the silver stripes on myself – more effective, closer to the requirements than anything I could find to buy+ and, since my pattern drafting would be producing something that was going to be nice and simple to construct, a bit of labour-intensive fun to be super proud of when it was finished.

What I didn’t realise then was that a) I would inadvertantly order to little of the silver braiding and have 3 weeks worth of panic attacks wondering if it would really turn up in time, and b) I would end up stitching these stripes, at 2cm intervals, By Hand.  When you think that the longest stripes down the length of the coat were about 140cm, that each one of those took 16 minutes ++, and that I was covering, not only the entire coat but the breeches as well, and that, because of my slip-up in ordering, I had basically 1 week to get the Whole Thing striped-up…you get the picture.  Oh, and the buttons are hand-beaded and covered too…

I was rather pleased with the finished result.

I now have a great tip for those doing a lot of handsewing: If you are using your thimble on your middle finger but your index and thumb are getting sore, wrap them in masking tape.

So here is 8 weeks of work in a few photos.  This is the day we handed it all in, presenting the work on mannequins in the studio.

Photographs by Andy Manns!


*We are now going on to the equally pretentious ‘Perceptions of Performance’, though this is alongside the very straight forward, ‘Self Directed Project’, which explains itself to any who care to look at it.

**totally theoretical ^

^neither the work load, nor the expenses were theoretical…

***as apposed to Old Candide who, although appearing later in the story, had a jacket from the beginning of the century, whereas mine was from the end of the century.  Go figure.

+without completely bankrupting myself, and even those were not quite what she was looking for

++yes, I timed it

Clerical Chic

Two shirts I made with adapted collars to take clerical dog-collars.  I was asked for something slightly more interesting than the normal clerical shirts that you can buy, so I took a smart-looking silhouette with a collar and made them up in vibrant colours!

Click on the pictures for a bigger view

Photos by Neil Kinnear

Absinthe Fairy

This is half of an ensemble I am making for  a friend of mine who handed me a drawing and said, ‘could you make this for me?’

I have had great fun with this one…

Purple Outfit

This is a skirt and a jacket, both of my own design.  Cotton lined with calico, the jacket is an adaptation of a corset pattern (and therefore sits very well over a corset!), and the skirt came about from my playing around with some fabric.  It is fastened at each side with frog-knots.

Photographs by the fantastic Andy Manns!

Mina Harker

I made this piece at the end of a frustrating year, putting all my effort into making an entire outfit that used my skills more creatively than I had been given leave to in the previous months.
It was constructed from a genuine Victorian patterns for a grand parlour skirt and a basque jacket
It is made of calico that I dyed myself, with machine embroidery on the skirt and hand stitched with ribbon on the jacket.
Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula was the inspiration behind this particular garment embelishment.

Please click on the images for a closer view.  Photographs by the beautiful Clare Hewitt