Cardiff and Vale College Fashion Display at Dyffryn

Fabric inspired by Dyffryn Gardens

We have recently be working with some level-3 Design and Fashion students of Cardiff and Vale College to create an interpretive fashion display in Florence Cory’s bedroom.

This project has been a great way for Dyffryn to work with a local community, as it has so many times in its past. This display, of five unique dresses each linking to Dyffryn's story, has provided a platform for young Design and Fashion students to gain experience and to have their work on show to all of Dyffryn's visitors. It has been a year in the making!

This project has also transformed what was once the bedroom of Florence Cory, the last Cory member to live at Dyffryn, from an unused space in Dyffryn House to a space hosting beautiful dresses that help to tell Dyffryn’s Story. Although Florence’s bedroom  remains closed for conservation reasons, as the floor joists are weak and causing cracking to the painted ceiling below, the new display has brought new life, colour and art to the space.

The brief was broad; allowing the students to create designs based on the parts of Dyffryn House and gardens they were drawn to most. Students drew inspiration from the mansion and grade 1 listed gardens as well as newspaper clippings, Florence’s will and a 1937  inventory of Florence’s possessions. Influences such as the cacti and orange trees, as well as the oriental statues in the gardens, have all come together to create unique and colourful designs in contrast with the traditional Edwardian style dresses.

Pupils visited at the start of the project, carrying out sketches of design features of the house. Some picking up on the oriental themes in the gardens such as the dragon bowl and statues, and some on the succulents in the Glass House. One student created a pattern based on Florence’s charitable donations from her will. Another weaved a pattern featuring piano keys, representing Florence’s love of music, with fireplace tiles from the Great Hall and a blossom tree motif from the garden.

“When visiting Dyffryn at the start of the project, I was immediately captivated by the foreign influences that entwined themselves among the traditional Welsh house, particularly the Japanese imagery on the cloisonné vase in the hall, and the dragon bowl fountain in the canal, in the garden. I knew I wanted to create a design that embodied that refreshing combination.” -Olivia Williams, Art and Design student.

The sketches were then transformed to digital patterns via Photoshop, and converted into repeat patterns, experimenting with mirroring and scaling images. Different colourways were altered and selected to create the finished design. Printing the patterns onto cotton was an expensive process which meant that the project budget only allowed for five finished pieces.

The second-year fashion students were then given the challenges of carefully cutting and stitching the fabric into an authentic Edwardian dress pattern whilst ensuring the intricate pattern was not compromised.

There are two viewing areas for the display as well as a collection of swatches so visitors can get up close to the detailed patterns and feel the fabrics used in the display. Leaflets on CAVC courses are also on display to hopefully encourage those with an interest in fashion and design to find out more.

“It’s really important that our Level 3 students get involved in these live projects as it actually gives the students an idea of what it’s like to work collaboratively with other organisations. They get an idea of the many different influences that can inspire fashion and it’s also important that they get to build links with other organisations.” -CAVC Level 3 Fashion and Clothing Course Co-ordinator Kerry Cameron.

Working with Cardiff And Vale College has meant that we are able to provide  a unique opportunity to these students in providing them with experience for their future careers working in fashion and design as well as working in partnership in order to tell Dyffryn’s story in a new and distinctive way.

The finished pieces are a contrast of modern patterns and vibrant colours juxtaposed with a traditional Edwardian style and costume design. They certainly breathe life and colour into a previously empty space and have transformed this room. Come and visit soon to see the brand-new display in Florence’s room.

Special thanks to: Kerry Cameron, course tutor; Isobel Smathers, Art and Design technician; all students who collaborated on the project from Art and Design and Fashion at CAVC; and Mel Carter, Costume volunteer at Dyffryn.