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Angy's Blog August - September 2008

The trials and tribulations of a fashion designer in the Lake District!


ARCHIVE: my previous entries:

JUNE - JULY 2008 (Haute Couture - Vivienne Westwood - Wildlife - Dorset Buttons - Magna Carta)

(Lake District Inspirations - Long Blondes - Wedding Show)


Almost ready for Abbey House. Have just finished off a few final details and accessories. Package arrived today with three hats from Sara Gadd. Fantastic. We discussed the ideas and designs a few weeks ago when I visited her studio. Sara has created these specifically for some of my new designs. It is so nice to see them transformed into the final product and matched with the appropriate dresses.

Romantique Couture
1 Atkinson Court
Fell Foot
Newby Bridge
United Kingdom
LA12 8NW

T: +44 (0) 15395 30648
M: +44 (0) 7812 210880


Here are some of Sara's designs and initial sketches. Three will be on display on the Abbey House Catwalk (Hibernation, Melt Water & Wild Fire). There may be others at Carlisle or Rheged. Sara is busy at the moment so I am very grateful that she has created these for me.
Melt Water
Aurora Borealis
Sara iwill accompany me at the Carlisle show, and hopefully Rheged too. You can see some more of her unique work on her website www.saragadd.co.uk


Still burning the midnight oil. All my new designs for Abbey House and Carlisle are finished, the brochure is back from the printers, and mailshots are in progress. But I still have three more outfts to complete for Rheged. Perhaps even four if all goes well!

I will be exhibiting six new designs from the "Spectrum in Foor Seasons" collection on the catwalk at Abbey House (21.9.2008) and Carlisle (28.9.2008). These will be selected from:

WINTER: Aurora Borealis & Candlemas
SPRING: Meltwater & Apple Noddy
SUMMER: Midnight Sun & Wild Fire
AUTUMN: Hibernation

There will be three separate catwalk appearances at each of these two shows. In addition I will exhibit additional bridal designs on my stand, including Ice Maiden, Wastwater & Tilberthwaite.

The FULL COLLECTION, plus extra outfits, will be exhbited at the WOMAN EVENT in an extended fashion catwalk show on both days (10 & 11.10.2008). The remaining 'Spectrum' designs include Scirocco (Summer), Harvest Moon (Autumn), Shades of Grey, and perhaps one other winter design, If you can only make it to one of the shows this is the one to attend! The fashion shows at the Woman Event are courtesy of Romantique Couture and Genevieve and will be staged with professional models from Premiere Productions.

You will find a full programme and plenty of comment about the WOMAN EVENT at RHEGED in the October issue of Cumbria Life.

Alternatively DOWNLOAD the WOMAN EVENT POSTER here (2.1MBPDF)

A quick outline of the WOMAN EVENT:

10 OCTOBER 2008: 19:00-22:00 Special Gala Night with Fashion Show - Lifestyle exhibitors and retailers - supper and glass of wine - fashion show - Grumpier Old Men with the Hairy Bikers and Stuart Maconie.
Tickets: £ 20.00 - must be pre-booked (01228 612644 or 01228 612600)

11 OCTOBER 2008: 10:00-17:00 Full day event - Lifestyle exhibitors and retailers - life coaching - gourmet food demonstrations - fashion shows - Looser Women with Fiona Armstrong and Sally Gunnell - Christmas decorations demonstration, and much more!
Tickets: £ 7.00 (at the door), NOTE: £ 2.00 discount voucher in the current issue of Cumbria Life

The location for the show is the fabulous RHEGED CENTRE, just off the M6 and A66 at Penrith. Rheged is a day out in itself. You can see the NEW Discovering Cumbria Exhibition, Cumbria Information Centre, 4 Giant movies, or shop from the best selection of Cumbrian crafts, producers and food - but whatever you do, don't miss the handmade chocolates .... mmmmm!

PS. another taste of a few designs ...promise I'll let you see the brochure next week!


I have always been keen on recycling, What is not collected and cannot be reused, we take to the recycling centre once a month, or put in the compost. I have also been recycling clothes and fabrics for many years, converting jeans into frocks and so on. You can even find a selection of handbags and garments from recycled clothes on my website.

A few days ago I wrote in my Blog of my sadness at the situation regarding my football team, Newcastle United, and the how the feelings of thousands of loyal fans had been ignored. As the saga has continued to unfold, I have become more and more frustrated, perhaps because like many other fans I feel powerless. However, I have now come up with an idea ... as a protest I have decided to recycle our Newcastle home shirts! Not an easy decision but the first cut was the hardest! The next time you will see these shirts, they will have been transformed into a couture evening gown for the Woman Event at Rheged. I may even wear it myself, ... but I think it would be rather impressive on the catwalk!

In addition to this being my own protest, it is also rather practical. Premiership clubs change their strips every year - both home and away colours. Its a big money spinner for them, because football fans are so passionate ... some might say gullible. However, the question I would like to ask is, what happens to the old strips? I assume diehard fans fold them up neatly at the end of the season and tuck them away for posterity. But the rest of them? Perhaps you boys should consider giving them to your partner so they can be recycled and worn again with pride? Watch this space!


I always listen to BBC Radio Cumbria whilst working in my studio, and I have to admit that I have my favourite shows and presenters, in particular Tony James, Richard Nankivell and Val Armstrong. Val is funny, cheeky and has a good selection of music so not surprisingly the time flies by on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I tune into her show. This morning her colleague was scanning the press, as usual, and was picking out the best stories.

My ears pricked up as soon as the subject of fashion was mentioned. Val was discussing a feature about a successsful Russian fashion designer - but, wait for it, she is only 16 years old, and ... her father is a billionaire! Now tell me if I am missing something here? Billionaire father? Only 16? Should I be sceptical? I am sure any budding fashion designer, with a modicum of talent, would be successful if their father was a billionaire, Of course, the fact that she is doing something with her life, and not squandering the family silver on a life of leisure, is admirable.

The story set me off thinking. There seem to be a lot of people these days with money who claim to be fashion designers, or who are launching their own collections, or even perfumes - especially celebrities. Posh Spice or Lily Allen are obvious examples. But are they talented? Are they really skilled? Or does their money and wealth just buy them talented designers who don't mind that somebody else takes the credit, providing they are renumerated handsomely? Lily Allen has been in the news this week, and I read one snippet that her debut collection at New Look had only received a lukewarm response.

Should I feel bitter? There are many truly talented people out there who struggle to be recognised or even to scrape a living. Every penny I earn from my business, and my part time job, that still supports it, is ploughed back - invested in marketing, advertising, new fabrics, books, equipment etc, etc. I can only hope that it will ultimately pay off. I am already receiving excellent feedback from clients, and from people who should know. I have even secured a marketing grant. So, somebody must believe in me? The truth is that I don't feel bitter. Quite the opposite. I gain immense satisfaction from my creations, especially when I see them completed, and exhibited on a catwalk. I don't believe I would feel the same if I achieved recognition just because I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth. If I am ultimately successful, I will be proud that it was achieved through my hard work, and my talent!

Anyway, almost six gowns now finished. Friends have been round to model them for my new pamphlet which goes to the printers this week. I am very pleased with the results and can't wait for the shows ... three more designs to complete. Meanwhile, here is a sneak preview, for you:


Kevin Keegan has resigned as manager at Newcastle United. There may be plenty of people out there who are quick to condemn him, but what is football coming to when a manager is not allowed to manage his team properly? I feel especially sad because I know how deeply passionate the fans, and the people of Newcastle, are about their club. The passion at Newcastle is something that outsiders don't really understand ... after all, one of the accepted definitions of a true Geordie, is somebody born within the roar of St. James Park ... and that's quite a large area on a derby day! Even the city council voted to show their support for Keegan. But does the Chairman care? He is not from Newcastle. He doesn't seem to give a hoot about the loyal supporters. It could be Chelsea as far as he cares ... perhaps that is what he wants? The fans have been let down so I hope they make their voices heard. I, for one, will not be wearing my Newcastle shirt until there has been a change at the top! A manager should be allowed to live and die by his decisions, but in this case Keegan wasn't given that opportunity. There, I've got it out of my system so I can get back to work!

It is very difficult to create something with the wrong fabric. They say you learn from your mistakes ... but I should have seen mine coming! To cut a long story short, I was impatient to make a start on my fourth dress for the Autumn Collection last week - it is a fab design with all the right lines in the right places for a good fit. But rather than fall into place, it went beserk! The reason? Wrong fabric ... plus, impatience on my part! I had ordered a very nice silk but when it arrived I thought, "Mmmm, too soft. This will never work!" But I was in a hurry so common sense was thrown out of the window. Result! A complete disaster. I should have used 'Duchess Silk' or 'Dupion', something firmer, with more body, than crepe backed silk, but no! Why didn't I listen to my head in the first place? The fabric wouldn't take the curves properly and appeared stressed by the stitches. So now I have to start again. Anyway, that particular design was relegated to fifth in line, and now it will be the sixth, since I have started on two more designs while waiting for the 'right' fabric. Thankfully, I still have time so all is not lost!

You may ask if I've learned my lesson. Of course I would say "yes". But would you believe me? Probably not, because no doubt I wil do it again. I must confess that when I have a design in my head I cannot see anything else, and my fingers are itching to make a start, impatient to wait until I have the right fabric. There. I've said it! I've admitted my weakness!

However, I have to admit that searching for the right fabric in the right colour is not easy. I rely on swatches or even colours shown on the internet or catalogues most of the time. In this instance I needed a rich, golden yellow but my regular supplier didn't have the right fabric in the right colour. Therefore, I selected my fabric from an internet swatch. I thought 'Gold' would work, but the 'Gold' indicated on the screen was nothing like the pale colour that arrived. Another lesson learned. Last time I trust a computer image! It seems that the word gold can mean anything from insipid beige through yellow to orange, and even a very rich orange-red. Just take a look at the samples above to see what I mean. Other descriptions for yellow are not much better - 'Daffodil' can be interpreted to mean any shade from light yellow to a golden yellow for example. And, to make matters worse the same colour, from the same supplier, can appear completely different across a range of fabrics. Perhaps the real problem is that I am a perfectionist, so despite my impatience, I am also not easily satisfied.

The upshot of this was that I ordered two more fabrics, one described as 'Daffodil' and one as 'Gold'. The 'Daffodil' fitted perfectly which leaves me with several metres of a beautiful golden yellow fabric, shot through with red - the basis for another design forming in my head ... I think I will call it 'Scirocco' after the infamous desert wind ... another summer design inspired by sand whipping along the beach, or the energy and excitement of a summer storm. I have just been notified that the number of designs that can be exhibited over the series of catwalks at each show has been increased to nine, from six. That means my new target will be to have nine dresses as part of my "Spectrum in Foor Seasons" to be ready for the Woman Event at Rheged in October! Sorry, must rush ... lots to do!


Time to hibernate again! The weathermen have threatened rain, and although the sun is shining at the moment it feels more like Autumn than Summer! Nevertheless, the road outside has been very busy all weekend and I dread to think what it must be like in Bowness, or down by the lake. Bank Holiday weekends are times to close the doors and retire inside if you live here. Otherwise you have to fight with the crowds on the roads, by the lakes, on the mountains, or in the supermarket. And even if you do venture out all you can hear are cars, people shouting and lawn mowers. This time one of our neighbours is attacking his overgrown garden with a chainsaw so I have closed the studio door, turned up the CD player, and am now concentrating on my stitching. I usually work through Bank Holidays, but this time I really have no choice.

There are just four weeks to the first show. Four dresses are virtually complete, while the remaining four have been planned and the fabric has been prepared. My aim is to have 6-7 complete for the first show, and all of them by the second show, That is just over a week to complete each of them.
I am very pleased with the results so far, in particular my extravagant winter design, Aurora Borealis' - it will be complimented with a hat specially designed by Sarah Gadd. My meeting with Sarah last week was very productive. We have agreed to work together wherever possible in the future and you will be able to see some of the fruits of this co-operation at the forthcoming shows.

I would love to give you a sneak preview but - the best I can do is what you can see on the left! The dust sheets don't come off until the shows, or for the new brochure which should be ready to coincide with them! In addition to the new
"Spectrum in Foor Seasons" collection, there will be other examples on the stand, including some of my bridalwear designs such as an updated 'Ice Maiden' wedding gown. Must get on now ... lots to do!

21 AUGUST 2008: CLOSE SHAVE - and a Warning to other Dressmakers with Pets!

We recently adopted a kitten called Felix. He was just 3-4 weeks old when he was found, abandoned on the street. We had been considering finding a kitten, as company for our other cat, another rescue cat who was becoming lonely moping round the house all day, so we didn't hesitate. Felix is without fear and, like all kittens of his age, full of energy and mischief!

This morning, I found him playing with a pincushion. I had taken my eye off him for just a few seconds. The pincushion had been on a shelf, where I had assumed it was out of reach. My heart almost stopped when I saw that he had two pins between his teeth. I removed them and quickly checked inside his mouth . To my horror, another long pin was caught in the top of his mouth pointing towards his throat. I couldn't pull it out so Mike held his mouth open while I frantically searched for tweezers. Two minutes later it was out. I was shaking all over at the thought that it could have been swallowed. Felix, on the other hand was bemused by the attention and galloping around like a racehorse.

The moral of the story is that if you are a dressmaker, quilter, or you just dabble with needlework or embroidery, always keep your sewing box out of reach of your animals. My studio now remains closed to cats, and I regularly check the carpet with a magnet. However, pins and needles are not the only hazards - buttons and thread can cause enormous damage if swallowed. Thread should always be cleaned up, and spools should be kept safely in large glass jars.


DESIGNER WEDDING SHOW - 21 Sepember 2008: Abbey House, Barrow-in-Furness

LIVE THE DREAM WEDDING EVENT 28 September 2008, Carlisle Race Course

CUMBRIA LIFE WOMAN EVENT 10 & 11 October 2008, Rheged, Penrith

I have just completed the advert to coincide with the shows. This will feature in Cumbria Life and several local newspapers and publications. Hope you like the architectural details - art nouveau nymphs and mascarons from

Please keep checking my website or reading my Blog for additional events.
Email me if you would like to be placed on my mailing list for future updates.

7 AUGUST 2008: My Autumn 2008 Collection


Two of the men in my life are sulking! Jack and Felix - my cats! They are banned from my studio and, with all the work necessary to prepare for my autumn collection, they are not receiving my full, undivided attention.

There are less than two months before the first show and I have several creations to complete - not to mention a new brochure, mailshots and advertisements. I am trying not to panic, scared that I will not be able to finish everything in time. But I will do my best and even if I am slaving away at my machine right up to the morning of the first show, I am determined to manage. In some respects the Woman Event is the most important so there will be designs there that could be completed after the wedding events - three more weeks! At least I can call on Mike, my long-suffering husband for the marketing, but first I need new gowns on models for photographs!

I really want this collection to be completely different - unique, outstanding, eye-catching - but wearable. I have decided to call the collection


- it fits perfectly with the lines, colours, fabrics and designs I am working on - and no I won't have a Vivaldi CD attached to an outfit, or violins on the catwalk - not this time anyway!

I have drawn many of my ideas from the colours of the Four Seasons, and also from the changes in the atmosphere, weather, sounds and smells, and even customs and traditions as the year progresses from Winter to Autumn from the Lake District to the north of Scotland. I have focussed on four main colour themes for the seasons: Blue = Winter, Green = Spring, Yellow = Summer, Red = Autumn (Fall). Perhaps, it is not the full spectrum of the rainbow, but then with only six or so outfits per catwalk (rather than a major Paris or London catwalk event where over 45 designs may be exhibited), plus static exhibits, I have to draw a line soemwhere. Some of the inspiration behind my new designs, the names of which have been underlined, is explained below - but no pictures yet - patience please!

WINTER marks the new year with its chilly colours - themes of BLUE and shades of monochrome - snow and ice, frosted leaves and frozen cobwebs draped over the skeletons of trees behind the house. The long nights are silent but for the mournful hoot of an owl, while our breath, condensing as swirling clouds in the frigid air, is illuminated only in the faint light from a myriad of twinkling stars, or the silver moon reflected in the unruffled mirror of the lake. True colour is absent during those never ending hours of darkness, except on that rare occasion when the mysterious Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights, ebb and flow across the canvas of the winter sky. Otherwise colour and light are provided by the wide range of winter festivals and traditions, from Christmas to Ash Wednesday, Valentine's Day and Candlemas, when bad weather traditionally indicated the end of winter.

The long awaited Vernal Equinox, marks the beginning of SPRING. Pure, fresh Melt Water pours over the crags and rocky screes of the high fells and invigorates the landscape. Blue turns to GREEN, in infinite shades from emerald to lime, as the countryside comes to life with a vengence. Romance is in the air as carpets of daffodils and bluebells colour the woodland floor, birdsong fills the trees and church bells ring out through the valley to celebrate another wedding. There are April showers, Easter eggs, optimism and, of course, laughter - celebrated in Apple Noddy - more of that later before you ask!

SUMMER brings warmth and energy and sunshine to brighten the days. YELLOW dominates as a holiday atmosphere prevails - sunflowers and sand, pollen and buzzing bees, chardonnay and salad cream, brilliant sunsets over the Solway, the Midnight Sun, and a flash of lightning which splits the darkened sky, over fields of rape, mustard, or ripening wheat, and sparks a Wild Fire on the sunburnt moors. This is the time of freedom, of children playing, of music festivals and cream teas.

AUTUMN marks a cooling down in temperature but not in colour. RED is now in ascendancy, from the delicate glow of the Harvest Moon long used by farmers to bring in the last of the hay, to the spectacle of ochre, gold, orange, chestnut and crimson in our forests. Or the brilliant scarlet of rose hips and rowan berries and that classic hallucinogenic toadstool of fairytales, the Fly Agaric. And the heavy grapes being gathered for claret, the blackberries for jam, and the apple cart at Egremont Crab Fair. Or the crackle and roar of the bonfire and fireworks, blazing through the mist and smoke of a damp autumns night, when the hedgehogs and squirrels are preparing for their Hibernation.

The first two shows will be the wedding shows in Barrow and Carlisle and will lean towards bridal and evening wear. However, the 'Big' show for me will be the 'Woman Event' at Penrith for which I will exhibit my entire collection, either on the catwalk, or on my stand, All outfits are guaranteed as one off designs. They can be purchased as they are created, modified to fit as appropriate, or recreated with your choice of fabric and colours. In this case the original would not be sold.

And, for those of you have never heard of it, Apple Noddy is a local term for April Fool!


I have been talking to Sara Gadd today about working together. It is easy to forget that I am not the only artist struggling in business. There are actually many talented, young people out there, trying to make ends meet. Hopefully, by joining forces and collaborating on joint projects we can enhance our chances of success.

Sara is a professional milliner based in Carlisle. She designs stylish, but wearable, special occasion millinery for individual, style concious women. Each creation is unique, made entirely by hand, just like my own outfits. In many respects our creations compliment one another and can be combined. Sara regularly exhibits at shows and events throughout Cumbria, and across the country.

One idea is for Sara to create a hat based around one of my outfit designs, perhaps for the catwalk shows this autumn. I could also use one of her designs to inspire a gown to match. I have a meeting with her in a couple of weels to discuss ideas for the near future.

Marie O'Neill
Sara Gadd Millinery

Fair Lady
The Joker
Marie O'Neill


I have received copies of the Aurtumn/ Winter issue of 'Brides in Cumbria' which is published free of charge vt CN Group. It is a complete wedding guide, crammed with ideas, editorials and adverts for boutiques, venues, limousine hire and so on. It also gives details of forthcoming shows, and in this issue I have my own editorial (see right) and an advertisement.

Although, I am a fashion designer, and my collections feature daywear and evening wear, I enjoy assisting brides with their own special designs. I am completely open minded and sometimes feel that bridal wear is too focussed on traditional white and ivory themes. I recently completed an unusual 'Gothic' design for a bride which incorporated a crimson cloak. My own recent designs, exhibited in the spring included the 'Ice Maiden' (which I may add to the autumn collection, in addition to designs which used orange, olive, silver and black to enhance traditional white of ivory base colours.

Cumbria is a fantastic setting for a wedding with numerous excellent venues ranging from exclusive hotels such as the Langdale Chase or the Samling by Windermere, Armathwaite Hall with it's spectacular terrace providing a panoramic view of Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw, and one of my all time favourites - Muncaster Castle in West Cumbria set in glorious gardens overlooking Eskdale - it is especially beautiful in the Spring when the famous Rhododendrons are flowering.

Brides in Cumbria (link to current magazine):


My previous Posts:

JUNE - JULY 2008 (Haute Couture - Vivienne Westwood - Dorset Buttons - Magna Carta)

(Lake District Inspirations - Long Blondes - Wedding Show)
Angy's Blog is written by Angela Morton, Fashion Designer & Dressmaker
Photographs copyright of Mike and Angela Morton

Copyright Romantique Couture 2008