Playing Teacher

Costume Construction, Costume History, Eureka! The National Children's Museum

Greetings! Apologies for the long hiatus, but I was waiting until I had something really good to write about. So, without further ado…

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a primary school and talk to a group of 5-to-7-year-olds all about costumes! After a few months in the closet, my bustle dress got taken on an outing and introduced to the Year 1 and Year 2 classes at Hebden Royd C.E. Primary. This came about thanks to my part-time job as an Enabler at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum. One of my co-workers left Eureka! to become a teacher and is currently doing her placement at Hebden Royd. As her class topic was clothes, she asked me if I’d like to come along and help give a lesson. And so I did!

Fortunately for me, I bought a dress form recently and used that to show off the bustle (otherwise I would have had to model, which would be uncomfortable and a bit awkward for showing off all the different layers). I started with the form fully dressed, and took all of the pieces off one by one to show the children how costumes are made and also how ladies used to dress 125 years ago. I had some of the children come up and feel different parts of the costume, like how heavy the skirt is and how solid the steels in the bustle are. I also showed them them the combinations and corset, which was followed by lots of “But how did they breathe?!” queries.

I also spoke to them about my work as a dresser, and about how costumes work in the theatre. That led to lots of brilliant questions from the children about who chooses the costumes (“Does the director know all about the clothes, or do they have to get someone to help them?”) and how costumes are designed. They had loads of questions and I could have talked to them for ages, but then the bell went and it was going home time!

All in all, I had a brilliant time and I think the students and teachers were equally impressed – apparently I’ve got a knack for speaking to children. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more theatre in education/workshop opportunities in future!

Photos thanks to Mrs. Leese at Hebden Royd.

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