On Sunday, 26th March, members of the public lined the halls of the National Museum to experience the cleverly conceived ‘The Living Canvas’ exhibition, where learners in the final year of Coleg y Cymoedd’s Costume Construction degree brought the portraits that adorned the gallery walls to life.
For the second time since 2020, the National Museum invited the students to present costume creations that they had interpreted from historical paintings in their collection.
Months of research and detailed design culminated in the exquisite showcase envisaged by the Costume Construction Award Leaders, Caroline Thomas and Emma Embling. Models dressed in the students’ replica costumes staged tableaux in front of their famous portrait counterpart, offering a truly immersive experience for gallerygoers.
The students engaged in a dialogue about their work, which was followed by a costume parade and ‘best in show’ competition judged by esteemed Costume Designer, Ray Holman, of Doctor Who and the BBC.
Speaking of the success of the day, Caroline Thomas, said: “Without exception, each student produced a show-stopping interpretation of their painting for an individual model. Thorough research and investigation into the appropriate cut, construction and fabrics informed their decision making and demonstrated the highest level of skills.
The students conducted themselves confidently and professionally. They interacted with the public throughout the day and spoke with such knowledge about the beautiful costumes they had created.
It was a truly inspiring and much celebrated day bringing art to life in Cardiff!”
Spectators took to social media to share reviews such as ‘wonderful’ and ‘mind-blogging’. This was accompanied by a video compilation of the event which garnered viral attention from users who remarked on the ‘great idea’ for the project and the students’ ‘stunning work’. To date, views have entered the tens-of-thousands on Instagram alone.
Cecilia De Menezes, one of the six students participating in the showcase commented on how it was their favourite project of the course so far: “From the pattern making stage right up to the event at the National Museum, Cardiff, it has been really engaging and fun.
The event itself was an incredible experience and a massive learning opportunity. Even though it was a little scary to stand up in front of everyone and talk about my costume, the support I got from the staff at the museum as well as my course tutors and class mates was really uplifting.”
Victoria Herbert added: “Yes, the project was one of my favourites to date, too. I am proud of my costume and my model was wonderful through the entire event. Everyone in our class is so supportive of one another – I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with.”
Winner of the exhibition’s ‘Best in Show’, Ivy Hible, commented: “I loved the research part of this module, getting to examine extant garments at the St. Fagan’s Museum in Cardiff was really exciting. Each garment had its own story, and it was useful to see the way the clothing of my painting’s period was constructed.
I’m really passionate about historical costume and I hope to specialise in this when I graduate, either through stage or screen. It was wonderful to have my interpretation selected as the winner. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the encouragement of my tutors, Emma and Caz, they’ve both been really supportive and helped to build my confidence throughout my time on the course.”
The BA (Hons) in Costume Construction at Coleg y Cymoedd is a three-year course awarded by the University of South Wales. Students study both historical and contemporary costume, and develop specialist skills such as pattern cutting, costume construction and surface embellishment.
To find out more about BA (Hons) in Costume Construction at Coleg y Cymoedd, visit: https://www.cymoedd.ac.uk/courses
Rhondda Cynon Taff