Dress to thrill at the National Civil War Centre
Despite being surrounded by hi-tech interactive displays, spectacular cinema action and scores of precious relics, one of the most popular attractions at the National Civil War Centre, Newark, has been ….. Dressing up!
When museum chiefs ordered clothing and replica armour for people to try on in the costume corner they made sure there were as many adult sizes as kids. Dressing up is a great way to get into character and proves people never really want to grow up.
Metal armour, including breastplates and helmets, were made over a red hot forge by one of the UK’s top metal craftsmen, Adam Blockley. More elegant textile clothing, including dresses and waistcoats, have also been made with a similar keen eye for detail by leading Dressmaker and Costume Historian Meridith Towne, from Newark.
Meridith studied archaeology at Durham University and opted to develop her life-long interest in historic textiles at the Northern College of Costume in York. The talented Dressmaker now makes her living recreating period apparel from the Bronze Age to 1950s vintage gowns, delivering fascinating talks, working for TV and hosting popular workshops.
Meridiths other high profile clients include the Royal Armouries, Jorvik Centre and a little bizarrely the Ministry of Defence! She explained:
“I’ve supplied 15 different male and female outfits to the National Civil War Centre, covering all the social classes, from poor to wealthy. This period in particular is full of stereotypes on how Roundhead and Cavalier dressed which is a bit misleading. Whatever your loyalties, the lower classes would generally dress in the cheaper rougher and dark woollen garments. Wealthy royalists may have displayed their riches by wearing flamboyant colours, but then so did some of the Parliamentarians.”
One exception to this rule were the wealthy Puritans: “They could afford to wear something a lot better than rough brown cloth so they would have worn jet black clothing,” adds Meridith. “Achieving that colour requires very expensive dyes so in a sense it displayed both their religious devotion and also their wealth.”
Along with list of impressive achievements, Meridith has worked as a dresser for a BBC documentary on the Tudor period and has even appeared on-screen as an expert on the channel’s ‘Sewing Bee’ series.
So have fun trying The NCWC’s extensive costume collection – and remember the effort that has gone into ensuring that you are never too old to dress up!
You can find out more about Meridith at www.meridithtowne.co.uk