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1950s Garment Construction Workshop (Final Session)



"Working at the V&A was an inspirational for me and it gave me the opportunity to improve my sewing skills and learn about how fashion was important in the 1950. Now I feel I know more about 1950s clothing and whit it is important how people made them in their home."
– Lorna


"I have learnt to be more precise with pattern cutting and that the gradient has to be considered when cutting. One of the tutors gave me advice about university, portfolio work and business plans. I learned a lot about 1950s fashion."
– Audrey

"I was taught a lot about 50s fashion and the techniques used to construct the garments. I gained a lot of insight into the industry. This has helped me to prepare for a career in fashion journalism."
– Flo


"I learned that fashion is not just about garments or style; it is also a social fact. The background of the era and the social content always shifts and shapes the fashion industry "
– Yi




"I built up the confidence to sew by myself and create garments. I feel so inspired to learn how to pattern cut properly and am feeling much more confident I’m loving this workshop/experience. Thank you"
–Savannah







"The pattern alteration is adding to my understanding of 50s construction. I was hoping to get a better understanding of 50s garments which I have. I was pleasantly surprised by the course. It has been very helpful and given me a sense of achievement ."
–Natasha





1950s Garment Construction Workshop (Week 6)


Photographer: Damian Walker
Text: Emma Golby-Kirk

On Saturday 26 February the team of 18 volunteers came together for the last time to finish the five signature 1950s shapes, ready for exhibition. The atmosphere was charged with excitement as the finished garments were hung, one by one, on the dressmakers’ dummies. 




As the session came to an end, there was still some work to do to bring all 15 garments (five styles, three sizes of each) to completion. However, the team had planned for this and so, next Sunday, six will return to finish everything off; this will include completing the embellishments on blouses and skirts, hand sewing button holes, and making up 3 pairs of men’s jeans from the original 1960s pattern. A flat stitch machine has been hired for this last job, and the group’s most accomplished tailors will work together to create the jeans.



"A piece to be shown at the V&A – what an HONOUR!!"
– Savannah

"I feel I have grown in confidence over the duration of this workshop."
– Jo


"The lectures really gave me an understanding of '50s youth culture. I learnt various sewing techniques that I will be able to use in the future."
– Sarah

"Undertaking this project built up my confidence enough to work on a garment with little instructions, to work as a team."
– Eva




As the day came to a close the group reflected on the immense journey they had taken in six short weeks and shared their thoughts on the differences between 1950s garment construction techniques and today’s techniques.




Over the weeks, some strong bonds of friendship have been formed and, for most, the goodbyes won’t last for long. Some of the team will return next week to finish garments; some will meet up to attend the Hanging Out Project’s programme of talks and discussions, covering various themes from changes in the fashion industry to 1960s anti-war protest; and many will return to help prepare for the V&A display in 2012.



"1950s fashion? It was the time of elegance!"
– Joyce

"We are trying to do everything as authentic as possible and to a degree, we are achieving this."
– Patsy




The talks are taking place throughout 2011 at major museums, including the V&A, Museum of London and Imperial War Museum. The V&A display is scheduled for mid 2012.



"I learned that completely different methods were used to make garments in the 21st century. I can now put in a zip with confidence. The workshop was a great experience and brainteaser."
– Regina

"I really got inspired and have much more understating of 1950s fabrics."
– Yi











"I have improved on the skill I had previously and I have learnt a lot."
– Matilda

"What I did was relevant to my goals and has contributed towards my skills."
– Arif




"It was more about working together in a group and discussing ideas."
– Upasna

1950s Garment Construction Workshop (Week 5)


Photographer: Volunteer photographer Tan Shuwen

The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard to complete all the styles.

The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.
The atmosphere in Week five of the 1950s Garment Construction
workshop was one of quiet concentration as the volunteers worked hard
to complete all the styles.





Yi made a ‘toile’ of a size 12 blouse in calico to test the design before cutting out the gold
satin for the finished piece. She practised hand sewing some pretty horizontal pleated detail
down the breast of the blouse and shaped the piece by creating darts which accentuate the
contours of a woman’s body, thus creating the iconic ‘50s hour glass shape.
Yi made a ‘toile’ of a size 12 blouse in calico to test the design before cutting out the gold
satin for the finished piece. She practised hand sewing some pretty horizontal pleated detail
down the breast of the blouse and shaped the piece by creating darts which accentuate the
contours of a woman’s body, thus creating the iconic ‘50s hour glass shape.







Savannah and Eva embroidered an intricate gold bead design onto the panels of a dark green circle skirt to create a unique and bespoke piece.










Imogen put the finishing touches to an appliquéd embroidered flamingo which will be sewn onto a moss green circle skirt. Lorna made a pretty blue floral print blouse. She cut out the shape, stitched the bust darts and sewed it together using a French (concealed) seam.







Yi made a ‘toile’ of a size 12 blouse in calico to test the design before cutting out the gold satin for the finished piece. She practised hand sewing some pretty horizontal pleated detail down the breast of the blouse and shaped the piece by creating darts which accentuate the contours of a woman’s body, thus creating the iconic ‘50s hour glass shape.







Arif and Tasha cut out a circle skirt in a pink crepe. They used a pattern cut by the iconic tailor Jeff Best, who learned his craft on Saville Row in the 1960s. Everyone worked really hard. By the end of the day long session, all 15 garments were coming to completion, with neatly finished seams, perfectly sewn zips, hand stitched button holes and ornate embellishments.





1950s Garment Construction Workshop (Week 4)


Photographer: Damian Walker.



In Week 4 of the 1950s Garment Construction workshop, each of the five styles of garments have taken shape, from an elegant pair of white cropped trousers to a classic 1950s full circle skirt in olive green with intricate gold beading detail.





The team of 18 volunteers are working very hard to get all 15 garments finished on time, splitting into groups and sharing the tasks of cutting out, machining, bias binding seams, stitching zips and hand finishing with ornate embroidery and beading embellishments.





Pattern cutter Jeff Best added a frisson of excitement to the day when he popped in to share his story of training as a tailor on Saville Row. He started a 5 year apprenticeship at the age of 14 and worked through the ranks from journeyman tailor (the equivalent of a graduate today) to master tailor and renowned pattern cutter.






The group were surprised to hear that until the 1970s the clothes making industry was the fourth largest industry in Britain, offering gainful employment to thousands. Today, most garment making is outsourced to Asia and many of the traditional sewing skills are being lost. This highlights the importance of the 1950s Garment Construction workshop in enabling the volunteers to learn skills that will help them to understand the process of making high quality clothes.






Earlier in the week, volunteer Joyce Addai-Davis was interviewed by Paul Ross and Gaby Roslin on the BBC London Radio breakfast show where she shared the team’s enthusiasm and passion for the work the are doing on the course.






All in all, the workshop is going very well and the group are looking forward to the finished garments being exhibited at the V&A next year.

1950s Garment Construction Workshop (Week 1)

The first fashion workshop, for the project Hanging Out, by Full Spectrum Productions (FSP), took place on Saturday 15 January at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).


Janet Browne, the Programme Manager, welcomed the eighteen motivated volunteers. All passionate about fashion, they were then able to meet each other and Vanda Finney, the Workshop Leader, who explained what they would be expected to do throughout the following workshops.

Most of the volunteers are currently doing or finished fashion courses and are all aiming to do a career in fashion.


Lorna Holder, Managing Director of FSP, talked about working with HLF and the background of FSP, the project Hanging Out, its partners, then concluded about her background in the fashion industry.

Emma Golby-Kirk, Educational Coordinator, welcomed the volunteers, thanking them for showing up on time and filling out their photo film consent forms. She stressed the importance of completing the course.

The volunteers were then given a talk by Nikola Mijovic, lecturer at the University of Arts, about the influence of iconic images in films on British youth culture of the 1950s. They saw film clips of James Dean film Rebel Without A Cause, 1955. The lecturer also talked about the Teddy Boy movement in Britain in the 1950s, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Juliette Greco, Grace Kelly, and Edith Head, head of costuming at Paramount. Elvis Presley and the influence of rock n’roll were also mentioned.


After lunch, the volunteers were put into groups to decide on the making of the selected fifteen garments: a circle skirt, high waist-ankle cropped trousers, men’s jeans, a short puff sleeve blouse and ladies cropped pants. For each garment, three items of different sizes will be made. Five of the garments will be included in the V&A display for 2012.


The garments are based on sketches by Upasna, a London College of Fashion student, who was taught by Lorna Holder to do detailed working sketches for the patterns and construction. The 50s patterns were created by Jeff Best, who will be doing a talk to the volunteers on the 5 February on the changes in the British garment manufacturing industry of the 50s and 60s.


The next fashion workshops will take place on the 15, 22 and 29 January and the 5, 12 and 26 February.

Review by volunteer reporter for FSP Marina Vitaglione



Meet our lovely volunteers!


                                                                                     
Savannah Baker, Audrey Kona, Niamh Cunningham, Jo Hawtree, Sarah Dicks, Upasna Prasad, Flo Wrightson-Cross, Natasha Searls-Punter, Henry Harley, Matilda Glen, Julia Dalrymple, Eva Mallet, Joyce Addai-Davis, Imogen Kirk-Reynolds, Regina Samuel, Patsy Burrows, Lorna Watts, Yi Chen




And our volunteer photographer Tan Shu Wen, and volunteer reporter Marina Vitaglione





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