Stitching a piece of history

“I am a freelance costume maker born, raised, and based in Gloucester. I graduated in BA Costume Design and Making at Nottingham Trent University in 2018 and have since been working at various costume studios, workrooms and independently at my studio pod working in collaboration with designers, directors, prop makers, start-up fashion brands and now, with the community.

Katie with a panel that has been stitched for the Costume of Gloucester, and is currently on display in the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust Community Gallery at Gloucester Services Northbound

To support my studies, in 2016 I applied for a position at Gloucester Services as a team member in the Quick Kitchen, coming home from Nottingham to work during the holiday periods. I really enjoyed the fast-paced environment, getting to meet such a variety of people every day and working within a fun, close-knit team. I have been coming back part-time since, and still return there in between my freelance projects!

I have been wanting to expand into community arts for a while now and to connect with local organisations and develop a greater sense of vocation in my work (using my skills to help others). So of course, I was very pleased when I bumped into Jacqui Grange, creative director of Voices, Gloucester, who was on the lookout for a costume maker for their Threads 2023 programme. After later meeting with the project co-ordinator, Jo Teague, and hearing all about the ideas they had for a ‘Costume of Gloucester’, I knew I had to help them realise their vision!

The ‘Red Dress’ on display earlier this year at The Friendship Café in Gloucester

The project is inspired by the beautiful ‘Red Dress’ by artist Kirstie Macleod ( which features the work of 375 embroiders from 51 countries, documenting the stories of people who otherwise may not have their voice heard. The Costume of Gloucester aims to do this on a smaller scale, helping to promote the talent of local stitchers in the community but to also tell the history, stories and memories of the city.

Katie’s design for The Costume of Gloucester

My role within the project is to design, and then make, the costume which will be worn on Gloucester Day parade and then place and stitch over 100 pieces of embroidered cloth that will be submitted towards the end of July by the local community. I have decided on making a panelled coat that is gender-neutral with a nod to historical dress such as doublets from the Tudor period. It will feature flared sleeves that the performer will hold up so the embroideries can be showcased at the parade.

Having worked at Gloucester Services for over 6 years, I know they value sharing community projects, local creatives and promoting the hard work that their colleagues do, therefore I reached out to Gloucestershire Gateway Trust (a community charity who have shared ownership of Gloucester Services) about displaying some of the work for the costume. It was amazing to see the gallery in person for the first time, seeing some of the initial stitches that will contribute to the costume and knowing that the work will be seen by summer visitors. I felt very proud to be involved in such a fantastic, ambitious project!

For the main fabric of the costume, I have chosen a lovely aqua green colour, sourced from the local Gloucestershire Resource Centre. Growing up, I was known to rock full outfits in this colour, and I’ve always been drawn to cool tones, so I guess that is my own personal touch!

The early stages of constructing The Costume of Gloucester

I’m currently in the early stages of construction, but what I’m most looking forward to is to begin receiving the panels from the local stitchers in July and start piecing together the puzzle of how they will placed on the costume! I really enjoy the logistics and problem solving side of costume making, there is a lot of maths involved as well as using your designers eye! And, of course, I absolutely can’t wait to see the costume in action on Gloucester Day and on exhibition at the cathedral in September, to be able to meet everyone involved in the project and hear their stories!”

You can see lots more photos, designs and stitched panels on display in the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust Community Gallery at Gloucester Services Northbound, in the corridor leading to the seating area that runs past the toilets and behind the Kitchen.

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