Dress like a Georgian at Hatchlands Park
Dressing up is often a favourite feature for children visiting our special places. At Hatchlands we wanted to take the dressing up box a step further. Now, whenever our house is open, you can find specially designed and historically-researched replica Georgian costumes for children to enjoy. Choose a role as the Gentleman, Lady, the Footman or Maid and get in touch with the fashions from the period our house was built.
We wanted to enrich the experience for children visiting Hatchlands. They often make a bee-line for a dressing up box and will remember a place from the clothes available for them to enjoy. Thanks to a group of brilliant heritage volunteers from The Arts Society we’ve created a hands-on experience that’s not just fancy dress.
From humble beginnings
The fabric used was generously donated by staff, volunteers and the local community. Curtains, offcuts, old lengths of fabric, ribbons, buttons, net and muslin all found their way to us. The skilled craftswomen from our local East and West Surrey branches of The Arts Society have spun these recycled fabrics into gold. It took seven expert seamstresses from November 2016 through until April 2017 to create eight costumes. Jan and Sara, two members of that creative team, told us a little more about their role:
Q: How did your role in the project begin?
Jan: It began with a brief to create eight costumes, two male and two female for two different age groups. We decided to make maids, footmen, gentlemen and ladies costumes for 5-7 and 8-10 year olds. We did quite a bit of research and from that I designed the basic ideas. More importantly, we looked at all the donated fabrics. I put them together in ‘stories’, so that we could see what went with what.
Sara: A big part of it was to use donated items. It brought in other people and meant that we saved an awful lot of money and time sourcing stuff. It also forces you to think.
Jan: Yes, you say to yourself ‘what can we make out of what we’ve got?’
Q: So you based the designs on what you had to work with?
Sara: I think all the embellishment came through what’d been donated. Jan had designed the basic shape of the costume, but then the embellishments were ‘what have we got, what can we make?’
Jan: We only had to buy threads, ribbons, and a small amount of fabric. With a modest donation from The Arts Society teams we’ve managed to create eight quality costumes.
Q: Did you have to learn any new techniques?
Sara: The millinery – that was new wasn’t it.
Jan: Yeah, totally new. The final thing we did was making two hats; it was the blind leading the blind…
Sara: We looked at paintings of the era and tried to recreate what we could see.
Jan: I’d seen one at the V&A that I knew was right so I’d taken a photo of it. Those were techniques that we practiced by trial and error really.
Jan: Hand sewing’s another good example. We were interested in developing hand sewing because we tried to stick to historic methods. We wanted the costumes to look and feel authentic.
Sara: There are four jackets, all from the same pattern but constructed in completely different ways. There’s no one right way of doing things.
Jan: Because they fasten at the back instead of traditionally we had to think about things a little differently. You needed a lot of patience. It took a wee bit of rethinking whist we were sewing.
Q: Do you have a background in this area, how did you learn these skills?
Jan: I was a costume designer at Television New Zealand for 30 odd years doing mainly drama. In the last few years I did children’s television which was great fun. I didn’t do a lot of construction but I’ve always sewn so it’s pretty much second nature, but we’re still learning.
Q: You must be so proud of what you’ve created.
Both: Yes we are!
Sara: I think they look really delightful. It’s so nice to see them actually on children at last.
Jan: It is, and it’s nice to see them appreciated by everybody, both older and younger. We do feel proud of what we’ve achieved from very little.
Sara: I think that just bringing fabrics into an old building, whether that’s curtains, furnishings or costumes, helps bring the era to life.
Try them with the family
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, from 2-5pm, you can visit our house and test out the full range of costumes. You'll find them in The Collonade just off the cobbled courtyard at Hatchlands. We’d kindly ask that you play gently and take care of these hand-made, one-of-a-kind garments.
We hope to expand the range further soon and hope that our historically-researched, scaled down Georgian costumes will provide a link for children to the history of our house and park.