Who makes the dresses?

Words by:
Wendy Deamer
Featured in:
May 2016

Lincolnshire Life visits Boston dressmaker Charlotte Thorn, whose eye-catching original designs are now gracing stage and screen.
Who makes the dresses? This is something I often ask myself when watching a play or pantomime or even a film. Who really does make those outfits? They are diverse, sometimes obscure, always correct to period or character and all individual.

I recently attended the premiere of a film written, produced and made by a cast and crew from the South Holland area and also filmed entirely in the South Holland area. It was a great pleasure to meet all the team but especially Charlotte Thorn of Charlotte’s Threads, who was the ‘wardrobe department’ for the film, making or improvising the outfits and costumes required.

The dresses worn for the premiere by Della-Marie Reed, who played the lead, and Lianne Johnson who played a policewoman in the film, were designed and made by Charlotte – each individually made to the request and taste of Della-Marie and Lianne respectively.

Charlotte was born in Boston and at twenty-nine years old has returned to her roots to pursue a career she has always been interested in. She attended Lincoln University and qualified in Fashion Studies – a course Charlotte said taught her the basics of pattern drafting and cutting, to fittings and alterations, through to the final bespoke garment. This knowledge and skill took her away to Manchester for a while where she worked for a lady who had her own boutique fashion shop with a workshop on the first floor. This was Charlotte’s first real experience of working within the dressmaking world and she learnt a great deal from her time there.

Alterations were a large part of her work in Manchester and this was where she felt her niche might be to start working for herself. After altering a pair of Armani jeans perfectly, she felt she could take anything on!

So Charlotte decided to return to Boston and set up her own bespoke dressmaking business. At first this was alongside part-time work whilst she established her premises and her name. Two years ago she decided to take the leap and set up Charlotte’s Threads.

Through social media, business cards, flyers and finally word of mouth and recommendations, Charlotte’s Threads has taken off with a flourish. Her natural talent and the diversity of Charlotte’s skills and ideas has taken her work into the world of film and theatre as well as bespoke dressmaking.

Charlotte talked me through the complex and detailed way she makes her costumes from start to finish. All her garments are designed from scratch with no chance of a copy anywhere and are bespoke to the individual. Charlotte’s favourite part of the whole process is the cutting and drafting of the pattern. This gives each project its own unique template, which will only ever be used for that client. She will then make a ‘toile’ out of calico and this will be used to tailor-make the garment for the customer. Charlotte says this is the “ugly” look of the garment but assures her clients that the end result will be nothing like the calico one! This ugly stage is important because it is from here that the garment will be ‘made to measure’ with darts, seams and hems all being sewn accordingly. It’s also at this stage that Charlotte’s skilful and experienced eye can offer advice or suggestions to any alterations that might be made or ideas the client might not have otherwise thought of.

“People are all shapes and sizes,” said Charlotte. “I therefore keep the toile templates for each person for future designs – these can be altered according to what they require but the basic shape and pattern for that person will stay the same.”

During the process Charlotte keeps her clients updated with photographs and fittings until the final outfit is ready.

Wedding and bridesmaid dresses have been a large part of Charlotte’s work, as have the now popular prom dresses. The current fashion for bridesmaids dresses is apparently to have the same colour and material but with different designs. Charlotte said she quite likes this idea as to make four, five or more dresses in the same design can be quite difficult – a little variety makes it far more interesting.

Theatre has also become a large part of Charlotte’s success story too. She has made costumes for the countrywide Polka Dot Pantomimes. And following her recent film work, she has another film company interested in offering her design and wardrobe work on a film which is in the early stages of production.
Charlotte has lots of plans for Charlotte’s Threads. Her aim is to concentrate on design and creation, making bespoke garments for individuals as well as groups and clubs. Her experience and eye for detail promise unique designs, beautifully made with care and precision. Charlotte is also looking at branching out into lingerie. She has many ideas, with items perhaps being designed and made to go with wedding and bridesmaids’ dresses and colour schemes to complete the look – or simply classic underwear to make you feel feminine and special. With silks and satins, ribbons and bows, these could be made in your favourite colour and shaped to complement and enhance – the perfect accompaniment to the perfect outfit.

I was taken around Charlotte’s studio, which she promised she had tidied beforehand! I believe she had done but inevitably there was evidence of “work in progress” with rolls of material, threads, scissors, measuring tapes and of course the all-important tailors’ dummies strategically placed awaiting the next project. The industrial sewing machines Charlotte uses are the same as those she learned on at university – powerful and, to me, very complicated looking. Her large working table allows her to lay patterns and materials out for precision cutting. She is very particular about filing all details of her clients, making a personal record of their style preferences and previous works. This way, any further projects for that client can be made more quickly and more personal each time.

I asked Charlotte if her work included men’s clothes and she said alteration-wise she happily includes these but for the moment she has not ventured into the actual making of men’s clothes from scratch. However, with her ever expanding business plan this is something she would certainly consider in the future – watch this space.

If you would like to contact Charlotte for a consultation or just a chat about an event you have coming up and would like something very special made for it, please contact her on 07870 517230 or visit her website at www.charlottesthreads.co.uk.

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