Cara Mooney’s fashionable revival

Cara Mooney. (1301PG40)
Cara Mooney. (1301PG40)

Wearing clothes can be “an act of expression, rebellion or conformity” and a new class at An Culturlann aims to teach the skills necessary to make your own clothes exactly what you want them to be.

A new six week course will see the Irish language and cultural centre on Great James Street attempt to rediscover a fast disappearing part of Derry’s cultural heritage, clothesmaking.

Organiser Cara Mooney views clothes as “expressive, rebellious and conformist,” and is asking for anyone interested in fashion design or clothes making to enrol. In an attempt to keep the necessary skills alive, Ms. Mooney, will: “Tap into a rapidly growing market for ethical fashion, with the rise of fair trade and a lack of confidence in the sustainabiity of the global market place, reduce, reuse and recycle’ is a now a common mantra.”

Cara continues: “These clothes making skills have not been passed on in the same way the town’s music, singing and songwriting traditions have. I think largely thanks to the discount stores which opened in the last ten years, but this course aims to empower people to make their own clothes. We are building on a strong trend of sewing and knitting clubs which opened recently. The An Culturlann ran a similar ‘back to basics’ course for Hallowe’en traditions.

Ms. Mooney An Culturlann arts facilitator, said: “The fee back was great so we are starting a larger course now which will run over six weeks. Una McCartney of Pilot’s Row helped us locate several former shirt factory workers such as Margaret Crabtree who will attend each class and help pass on the skills and traditions from the factories. Most of the shirts in the world were made in Derry at one stage, it is a fantastic tradition to build on. We hope in particular to show young mothers that they have the skills and talent to provide and mend clothes for their family. There is a tremendous sense of satisfaction to be had in making your own fashions. I really believe that our ‘throw away culture’ is completely unsustainable so lets learn how to rejig old clothes. The question I put to people is ‘why be a sheep when you can make your own clothes?’”

The six week course incorporates identity within fashion, drawing sketchbook/portfolio construction, sewing and clothes making and repairing skills. The introductory class will be a lesson in drawing. “People are always nervous about drawing, confidence can be low but I believe if a person can see an object they can draw it. Designers at every level have to be able to get their ideas down on paper. It is about bridging the gap between ideas and final products.”

The Revival course will also involve pupils taking apart and restitching a shirt together. “If you can make a shirt you can make anything,” said Ms Mooney. “This is all taught in a revivalist approach, with fashion, economics, eco-friendly production values and materials all taken into account. Our aim is to engage participants with a new approach to fashion choices in the current economic climate, to share invaluable skills from one generation to another.” The course, which costs only £30, closes with a fashion show when the designers wear the clothes they’ve made at An Culturlann. This event will also help mark International Women’s Day on Friday March, 9. Places on the course are limited so booking early is advised. to book contact or 07514068759.