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Sussex Harmony Members and Visitors

Costumes

Initially the quire performed in green sweatshirts, matching trousers and skirts, mainly because several members already had green sweatshirts. We discussed period costume heatedly, several of the quire thinking it would detract from the music.

Eventually it was almost decided for us. We were having a planning meeting with the vicar of Catsfield church about a forthcoming service. The vicar said rather wistfully that,  “it would be nice if you were in costume, we have 6 pall bearers’ smocks the men could wear.” We agreed that it would be a good idea and were sure that we could manage it.

For the men the costume would be smocks, with collarless shirts and breeches, several of them already possessing breeches.    

Costume for the eighteen ladies presented more of a problem. We wanted to avoid the film extra look of skirts & shawls, so Milly researched and produced a pattern based on the dresses of 1760. She purchased 70 metres of material with a suitable pattern for the period, produced a kit with instructions for the dressmakers of the quire, and made up six costumes.

Open Fronted Gown 1740 - 60

Some of  the gentlemen of the quire wear smocks, one even making his own. Some wear jackets in the period style .These are matched with breeches, collarless shirts & tricorn hats .  The men’s costume ranges over a period from about 1780 to 1830. Newer members are allowed to wear a waistcoat in place of smock or jacket until they get fully kitted out.  It isn’t necessary to buy expensive breeches: most members have cut down corduroys bought from charity shops then decorated with fancy buttons.  Long coloured socks for the men - bought from a sports shop - white stockings for the ladies and both with plain black shoes, perhaps with buckles, complete the outfit.

The ladies costume has changed little from the original design of a dress from about 1760, but some have made them up in plain colours as well. We have added caps & bonnets, and plain coloured shawls are occasionally worn when it’s cold. As the musical period we cover ranges from 1720 to 1850 there’s plenty of styles to choose from but no-one has yet been adventurous enough to try Regency costumes.

A firm in the States called Jas Townsend provides costumes.  They also supply good patterns.  Go to the Links page for a link to their site.

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