Yes we do have national costumes ...
I first met Lesley and her partner Peter at Heatherslaw Mill on a special events weekend a number of years ago. Previous to that I had noticed, and saved, her photograph when she appeared in the Morpeth Gazette dressed as a bondager. We have spent many happy hours sharing information and poring over fascinating photographs trying to decipher costume detail. I think we have both benefited from sharing our interest in costume and I greatly admire Lesley for her enthusiasm and her determination to get every little detail correct not only in the bondager costume but all the other costumes on which she is working. Lesley has kindly allowed me to include the following information taken directly from the leaflet which outlines her work:
Yes, we do have National Costumes are a small group researching and re-creating the National Costumes of England and the British Isles.
In an ever-shrinking world, our costume heritage is historically and culturally important.
Many other countries wear a range of regional costumes which are accepted as ‘National’. We wish to show that we have a lot more than Morris Dancers and Pearly Kings & Queens: these are festival as well as regional costumes.
As part of the research involved in recreating a particular regional costume, it is impossible not to be fascinated by the working lives of the people of each community.
We have created the following costumes:
Bondagers – women field-workers in North Northumberland and the Scottish borders; employed under a yearly hiring system.
Cullercoats Fishwife – famous in America via the oil paintings of Winslow Homer.
Canal-boat People – the women wore a distinctive and elaborate bonnet, both for work and ‘Sunday best’. The Boatmen also had their own style of attire for Sundays.
and the following are some that are currently under development:
Fishermen and Women of Aran and Galway - an Irish costume featuring footwear called “Pampooties”.
Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestlers - the original ‘men in tights’ with embroidery.
Filey Flither Pickers – to the delight of the local lads they ‘breeched’ their skirts to climb up and down the Yorkshire cliffs gathering bait.
Newhaven Fishwives – known to King George IV and regarded by Queen Victoria on a visit to Leith, 3 miles east of Edinburgh; and not a scrap of tartan in sight.
Staithes – the Yorkshire fishing village famous for bonnets, (women not men).
St. Kilda – tiny islands 110miles off the West coast of Scotland – inhabited for over a 1,000 years and evacuated in 1930.
Tenby Prawn-Sellers and Fishwives – a ‘real’ Welsh costume.
Tyneside Keelman – another local costume with a ‘blue-bonnet’ to go with the dimple in the chin!
Wigan Pit-Brow Lassies – who actually went to London to show parliament their work dress was not unfeminine.
In 2004 we obtained a grant through the ‘Bishop Auckland Area Small Project Fund’ to make smaller versions of some costumes for children to wear on which we are currently working.
Talks, Demonstrations and Displays:
Contact: Lesley Bentham
Yes! We Have National Costumes
01388 663 436