Firstly, I hope you're all managing in this period of huge uncertainty and sadness that is affecting the global community. I had planned this post a week ago and so much has changed since then. In many ways it seemed frivolous to be talking clothes when health concerns are uppermost in our minds but then I thought we still need to find pockets of joy and most importantly show our support together through our collective stories and creative communities. So if you have a quiet moment, read on to discover the story behind my new dress and maker...
I’ve been wanting to create a shirt dress for quite some time now. A dress that makes you feel both ‘put together' yet casual, can be worn 'dressed up or down' by simply by loosening up a few buttons at the neck. Pretty and practical - the simple idea of a shirt dress epitomises everything I try to achieve through each and every style.
So this spring I've introduced the Holkham shirt dress, inspired by vintage Edwardian work dresses and named after a pretty village from the county it is hewn. Fitted and flared to it's ruffled hem, this dress sleekly skims the body, topped by a neat rounded collar and tiny frills adorning the three quarter sleeves. Cut in deadstock cotton shirting, made thoughtfully throughout and of course with all important deep pockets.
When it came to making this style, I wanted to find a manufacturer who was used to making shirts and found the perfect partners in Yarmouth Stores. This heritage company has been around since 1898 and famous for making classic coastal workwear - Fishermans smocks, traditional chore jackets and aprons. They have clothed Edwardian 'herring girls' of the fishing industry, wartime work forces, aprons for shopkeepers right through to modern style mavens who love the authenticity of a real workwear jacket.
When I visited Yarmouth Stores last year, what struck me was the community spirit, with all the pattern making, cutting and sewing all under one roof. The original building, overlooking the River Yare, is a mix of painterly heritage and modern studio employing 20 machinists in its sunny upstairs workspace, beams of coastal light streaming into the airy spaces. You really felt the warmth of a traditional family business with an open friendly environment of workers, some employed for decades.
But it hasn't always been easy and Yarmouth Stores is a splendid reminder of the few surviving manufacturers we still have in this country. Whilst so many retailers have outsourced to far flung cheaper production, Yarmouth have remained strong to its original brand and adapted over time, still making original workwear but also selling their own updated classics through their website. It's hard to find a more dedicated team of makers and crafters.
Here we share some photos and pages from the history of Yarmouth Stores ( formerly Johnson and Sons ) plus a few photos of our dress being made just weeks ago at the factory...if there was ever a time to buy and support small and local, it's now.
Wishing you all well
At present day Yarmouth Stores, each dress is carefully cut on a 'lay' per size from card patterns. The cutter works out how to cut the pattern creating the least amount of cloth wastage. Bundles are created to hand over to seamstresses, who sew each 'piece' with care, from overlocking through to pressing and finishing, adding buttons and buttonholes and snipping threads.
The final result is our Holkham shirt dress, made in blue, white and beige cotton pinstripe. Available to buy online now.