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I was asked to do a guest lecture by Ruby Hoette for Goldsmiths’ new MA fashion course. I suggested a DiY Bloomer Making Workshop and Ruby offered a whole day with the students. This was a great opportunity to experiment with this format and see if it worked.

The event was held on Monday 25th November in the Stitch Lab of the Lockwood Building. This was a terrific space with big tables for laying out and cutting and a row of sewing machines.

In preparation for the session, they were asked to do three readings:

Barnard, M. (2002) Fashion, clothing, sex and Gender I and II, In: Fashion as Communication, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 116-125 and 141- 151.

Gordon, S. (2009) Chapter 5: Clothing for Sport: Home Sewing as a Laboratory for New Standards, In: Make It yourself: Home sewing, gender and culture 1890-1930, Series: ACLS Gutenberg-e series, New York : Columbia University Press. pp. 335-341.

Lury, C and N, Wakeford. (eds) (2012) Introduction: A perpetual inventory, In: Inventive Methods: the happening of the social, London and New York: Routledge, pp.1-24.

They were also asked to bring :

–  2m of material. It can be of any type/form. It could also be existing garments you cut up/take apart and piece together again.  We will also be supplying some fabric, buttons and braid but it would be great if you could bring in something from home to ensure all the garments have their own unique look.

– something that represents what you have found interesting, surprising or unexpected in the readings about the advent of women’s cycling and cycle wear in the 1890s. Please do a basic search online to find and print something to use as a catalyst for discussion. You will be asked to introduce what you have brought and talk a little about why.

I started the workshop by introducing myself and the project. We then worked around the group of eight with more introductions and presentations of what each had brought with them. This was a great start – each student had really done their preparation. Everyone brought in printed articles, pictures, quotes and other kinds of references that brought to life some of the key ideas that I then used to start the lecture. Ruby and the students pinned these references on the wall as we went along. This display was used throughout the day.


I talked for about an hour about the project; women’s emancipation movement, advent of technologies (bike, sewingmachine), patents and sociological methods of exploring these intersections through inventive methods and alternate means of knowledge transmission (ie. sewing).

We then stopped for a coffee break. This  gave Rachel and I time to set out materials and patterns ready for the making bit of the workshop.


Each student was given a pack of patterns in A3 sheets.


Some tried on bloomers that Rachel and I had made earlier to get a sense of what they were making.

trying on bloomers

They were different to what many had through they were going to be like – and there was much laughing and moving around to get a feel for the kind of ‘Freedom of Movement’ that these garments would have offered women of the time.


First they had to make their own patterns from the pattern pack.

2013-11-23 21.28.31

Then the sewing started in earnest…..





Sometimes mistakes made for unexpected details.



And they started to come together….



It was fascinating to watch the range of interpretations emerge from the same pattern. Each student adapted the length, width, nature and fixture of cuffs and waistbands and mixed fabrics for the front and back, even adding slices of contrasting weights in some cases to create a unique customised garment.


Thankyou to all the students for a great day.

Everyone was invited to the ‘Show & Tell: Dresses, Drinks and Data’ evening.
Click here to see these bloomers in action.

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