felicity Westmacott bespoke wedding dress maker portrait

Biography of a bespoke wedding dress maker

I have been sewing professionally for more than 20 years, specialising in bespoke wedding dresses since 2006. In 2004 I graduated from Wimbledon College of Art with a BA(Hons) in Costume design.

• and unique•That’s why the dress is important, special,of what a bride wants her future to be.A wedding dress tells a story

My family observes that I'm never seen without a needle. For my work I make beautiful and individual bespoke wedding dresses and on holiday I do cross stitch!

 

I live with my husband and three lovely children, working from my studio at home.

 

To see more of my work visit my portfolio of real brides.

 

Felicity Westmacott sewing a pink bespoke wedding dress

Art and Painting

I love painting; with still life of flowers and reflective surfaces being favourite subjects I return to again and again. I actually really dislike figurative work, though faces and portraits interest me. So you’ll notice my dress designs for bespoke wedding dresses are very simple, with no body parts involved!

 

rosie's bouquet painting by Felicity Westmacott

Board games and computer games

If you’re ‘in’ to board games you will recognise and appreciate my taste for ‘proper games’. I loved Monopoly, Hero Quest and Risk as a child but I’m so glad better games were invented that don’t rely on dice rolling! My favourites include Dominion, Smallworld, Wingspan and Samurai.

I also loved computer games growing up. I played all the way through the ‘Commander Keen’ series and later enjoyed many many games of Civilisation, Theme Hospital and Theme Park on the PC. When I gained a husband and a playstation other games became available to me including Super Monkey Ball.

 

the other interests of a bespoke wedding dress maker

Language and more

I’m very much a book worm and much prefer the printed page to reading online articles. I have a very high reading speed and devour the written word, both novels and non-fiction.

 

My mind is a bottomless well for acquiring new and interesting facts. I love connecting with people who can expand my knowledge more into my areas of interest. Or show me new avenues to explore. Linguistics and anthropology are some subjects that interest me particularly. I’ve had passing flirtations with economics and psychology too.

Garden and nature

I love my little garden though I rarely get as much time out there as I would like. My work, making bespoke wedding dresses is very seasonal. So my busiest time crosses over with when the garden needs me most.

My vegetable patch has ebbed and waned with each new baby usurping any spare time I might gain. But I love growing herbs and things to eat as well as flowers. I grow red-currants and make my own jelly.

 

Felicity's garden in May with columbine and roses

May is a good time of year in my garden: my happy place.

 

If you feel a connection with me and my interests enquire today about starting the design process for your bespoke wedding dress.

 

The Path to making Bespoke Wedding Dresses

fuchsia cross stitch in progress

Sewing and fashion are threads that run deep into my life history.

My first memory of sewing is at just over four years old, on the floor of my mother's sewing room, making a doll's dress (which I still have). I sewed at home for fun, at Brownies for badges, at school for GSCE and A-level, fashion shows and for my friends' Leavers' Ball dresses.

 

2004 at the Henley Royal Regatta in a dress and hat I made myself

Felicity and husband at the henley royal regatta in a bespoke red dress

 

At the age of fifteen I joined the National Youth Theatre's costume department and sewed through six summer holidays in dusty theatre wardrobes and back stage. While I was at art college my mother and I ran a small shop on Reigate High Street called ‘Lothlorien’. We sold clothes and jewellery we made ourselves and craft items from other local artisans.

 

the shop front of lothlorien in reigate 2000
inside lothlorien shop reigate in 2001

 

above: 'Lothlorien' in Reigate, Surrey 2000-2001

 

In my early twenties I designed and sewed hundreds of costumes for a Yorkshire based Youth theatre 'Livewire'. At university (Wimbledon School of Art) I purposefully took the design, not sewing, course to push my research and design skills. I felt I could already sew!

 

While at university I got the bug for bridal wear by working part time for a wedding dress shop in Reigate as their alterations lady. After graduating I worked briefly in film and television before concentrating on making bespoke wedding dresses.

 

Liz and I in the bridal shop 'Amante' in 2008
inside 'amante' the wedding dress shop 2008

 

above: on my last day at 'Amante' wedding dress shop in Reigate 2008, with Liz the owner who has been so supportive and encouraging during my career and is still a dear friend.

costume history

My fascination with costume history began when colouring in photocopied pages from my mother’s costume history books. Books she’d enjoyed herself as a child. My mother made many historical costumes for her large collection of Barbie dolls, which my sister and I gained access to when we successively turned eight. My mother’s miniature Elizabethan and Tudor creations were truly exquisite. And the 1950’s and 60’s commercial doll’s clothes that came to us were so much more beautiful and well made than those sold in the shops at the time.

historical barbie costumes made by my mum

Historical barbie costumes made by my mother when she was a child. They are Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I

18th century costume designs for

above: 18th century costume designs for 'Our Country's Good', a university project.

 

The award winning and well known costume designer, Jenny Beavan is a family friend. I was lucky enough to live with her for 4 summers in my teenage years, while I worked at the National Youth theatre. I watched her work on designs for the films ‘Ever After’ and ‘Possession’ while I lived at her house in London. She kindly tempered my youthful arrogance with wise words of advice. Jenny helped me to think about my possible career in costume optimistically but with realism. And she has been supportive ever since!

 

home, work and family life

 

 

I live and work from my home in Redhill Surrey. My wonderful and supportive husband is a computer programmer. We have three delightful children who were trained young to bring me the pins they find all around the house. They are all very patient with my work making bespoke wedding dresses with many fittings at weekends and in the evening it’s tricky sometimes to balance work and family life.

 

 

My splendid family. A portrait taken in 2018 with baby just 2 months old!

 

Photo by Kevin Day

 

Westmacott family portrait in the garden 2018
Felicity Westmacott at the Muslin Trust Jamdani project presentation 2015
Felicity Westmacott teaching a summer course at the London school of fashion 2015

teaching

In 2016 I taught a summer course at London School of Fashion. The project was run by ‘The Muslin Trust’ a charity seeking to raise the profile of traditionally woven cotton muslin fabrics called ‘Jamdani’ from Bangladesh. The course ran for 10 weeks with young people aged 15-21 learning about the history of Regency fashion, historical construction techniques and the continuing production of the muslin fabrics. The students designed and produced, entirely by hand, two Regency dresses using Jamdani fabrics. The dresses were showcased and exhibited around the world.

In 2017 I started running small sewing classes with colleagues Sarah Fenn and Beth Moody. Under the name ‘Reigate School of Sewing’ we run 6-8 week dressmaking courses for beginners and improvers. We also run stand alone ‘Learn to use a Sewing Machine’ classes for total newbies and for those needing to gain confidence again after some time away from sewing.

 

If you're new to dressmaking and looking to buy a suitable sewing machine check out my blog post on 'Sewing Machines for Beginners'

 

From these two small forays into teaching I find I have a real love of, and some skill at, imparting my own knowledge to others. I hope one day to take on an apprentice and be able to pass on my knowledge of making bespoke wedding dresses.

teaching

In 2016 I taught a summer course at London School of Fashion. The project was run by ‘The Muslin Trust’ a charity seeking to raise the profile of traditionally woven cotton muslin fabrics called ‘Jamdani’ from Bangladesh. The course ran for 10 weeks with young people aged 15-21 learning about the history of Regency fashion, historical construction techniques and the continuing production of the muslin fabrics. The students designed and produced, entirely by hand, two Regency dresses using Jamdani fabrics. The dresses were showcased and exhibited around the world.

Felicity Westmacott at the Muslin Trust Jamdani project presentation 2015
Felicity Westmacott teaching a summer course at the London school of fashion 2015

In 2017 I started running small sewing classes with colleagues Sarah Fenn and Beth Moody. Under the name ‘Reigate School of Sewing’ we run 6-8 week dressmaking courses for beginners and improvers. We also run stand alone ‘Learn to use a Sewing Machine’ classes for total newbies and for those needing to gain confidence again after some time away from sewing.

 

If you're new to dressmaking and looking to buy a suitable sewing machine check out my blog post on 'Sewing Machines for Beginners'

 

From these two small forays into teaching I find I have a real love of, and some skill at, imparting my own knowledge to others. I hope one day to take on an apprentice and be able to pass on my knowledge of making bespoke wedding dresses.

theatre

 

My love of theatre extends far beyond the costumes. I love to watch plays and feel very lucky to live so close to the culture epicentre that is London. I am a member of a small but very prolific local amateur theatre in the nearby town of Horley. The Archway Theatre, built under the arches of Horley station’s railway bridge, produces 10+ productions a year on two stages. I have designed and made costumes on occasion but mostly participate on stage.

 

 

My favourite roles with Archway, and at other theatres, have included Elaine in ‘The Graduate’, ‘Lotty’ in ‘Enchanted April’ and Sybil in ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’. I also regularly appear in Shakespeare plays with The Polesden Lacy Shakespeare Company. They produce outdoor, traditional but groundbreaking productions of well loved Shakespeare plays. I have taken major and supporting roles including Margaret in ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ and Bianca in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.

 

Early connections with the Wedding Industry

I grew up with parents who changed jobs and moved house every 3-5 years throughout my childhood. Though we were always living in and around the Reigate/ Horley/ Gatwick area. My father loves setting up new businesses and making plans, but not so much the everyday slog of running them. So there was always a new project on the horizon and another reason to move on!

Parks Young Family Portrait 1991

The Parks Young family in 1991, I am bottom right.

 

One of their enterprises was running a country house hotel, just outside Charlwood, in Surrey. The 16 bedroom house was owned by my grandfather, and had been built by his grandfather, truly a family mansion. My parents started out running the house as a bed and breakfast but quickly progressed to hoteling. They found weddings were the best way to make the house financially viable.

Stanhill Court in the snow winter 1987

Stanhill Court in the snow 1987. My bedroom was the third upstairs window from the left which was always traditionally the nursery.

 

Unfortunately this discovery could not prevent the 1991 financial crash from pulling the rug from under their feet. As a result the business collapsed and the house was sold out of the family.

 

Stanhill Court mistrals gallery 1986

above: Inside Stanhill Court when I lived there, view from above the stairs to the minstrels gallery

 

But the years I spent from age four to nine in a big, beautiful house, surrounded by English woodland and handing round cake at weekend weddings, were very formative. You can still visit my family house, Stanhill Court (Hotel) in Charlwood. It is still a hotel and wedding venue, though now much changed and modernised by the current owners. Very occasionally I make a bespoke wedding dress for someone who is going to be married there and that always brings me much happiness.

 

 

If you feel a connection with me and my interests enquire today about starting the design process for your bespoke wedding dress.

 

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from design to completionbespoke wedding dressesFelicity Westmacott
Redhill, RH1 2HP16 Frenches Road• Visit the Studio •
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emailme@felicitywestmacott.co.ukTEL 01737 773282TOUCHGet in