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Mary is judge for the #DressItUp Competition which is challenging makers in the City Region to come up with a spectacular outfit, head-dress or accessory for the LCR Culture & Creativity digital awards event on February 19.
It’s a virtual ceremony, so all entrants have to do is get creative with clothing or items they already have around the house, or showcase something they’ve already made, then take a photo of themselves wearing it.
And it doesn’t even have to be made from traditional fabrics – the contest is open to pieces using all kinds of unusual materials including waste paper, carrier bags or bin bags.
“We’re looking for something sustainable which shows people’s creative skills and imagination, it’s not about going online and ordering something or spending lots of money on a designer outfit,” says Mary.
“So you could think, I’ve got that dress and I’m going to put this curtain over it, add a sequined bra then I’m going to do my hair and put some make-up on,” says Mary. “You could make a ballgown out of Tesco bags or reuse clothing you were planning to get rid of.
“A lot of people have got bags of stuff waiting to go to charity shops at the moment so they could get a couple of things out, cut them up and make them into something else.”
Mary says #DressItUp is an ideal opportunity for people to let their inner diva run wild.
“It could be A level and GCSE students who are doing textiles or fashion students who haven’t got a hands-on project where they can really go for it in terms of creativity, or anyone who just loves putting looks together,” she says.
“There are so many talented dressmakers in our region and I think a lot of people have discovered their creative side and creative skills in lockdown. I see so many people posting things they’ve made or adapted – and because you can take a photo and instantly share it with people, you can get it out there so that’s opened up possibilities.”
Mary, who’s based at Fabrication studio in the Fabric District, used her own skills in the early months of the pandemic, helping create scrubs for NHS frontline workers.
“Usually I design for TV and events but everything instantly got cancelled in March. In one week, I got a phone call every day, cancelling four or five major productions that would have kept us busy pretty much all year.
“So we started making scrubs with the team from BBC’s His Dark Materials, and then Broadgreen Hospital got in touch to say they needed 2-2,500 gowns by the following week.
“We got about 45 home sewers, cut a really simple pattern for everybody, and made them out of disposable fabric.”
Lockdown also gave Mary chance to work on a sustainable fashion project, Circlist, experimenting with ways of remaking garments into something new and wearable. And she started an Instagram page @fabric_district_fashion to highlight some of the amazing designs and world-class businesses coming out of there.
Then, in October last year, she got the call she’d been waiting for, to say TV work was finally happening again.
“CBeebies Christmas show contacted us to say they were going to film it green screen instead of the usual theatre recording with a live audience. That was our first costume job last year after the lockdown and it’s been non-stop since then which is brilliant.
“We’re now working on a Shakespeare show for CBeebies at the beginning of March and TV and film are all motoring on which means more opportunities for costume designers are coming back.”
To encourage entrants to get involved in #DressItUp, Mary has set up a Pinterest page on Miss Mary Lamb which she hopes will give people inspiration.
“I’m all for encouraging people to develop new skills, especially in making clothing and costume,” she says. “Traditionally there’s a big dressmaking culture in Liverpool so it’s nice to encourage a side of that where people can be a bit more adventurous.”
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