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The Tree of War

September 29, 2015

Unusual title for a sewing post, right?  Today I want to show you a dress I was asked to make for a stage production called The Tree of War – a new musical which premiered in September 2015 in Manchester.  The protagonist, Bert, tells his granddaughter the story of his time as a soldier in the great war of 1914, and the main story is reconstructed through these memories, with some amazing music and lyrics.

Eilidh Pollard - musician, dancer and actor - wearing the costume I made for The Tree of War

Eilidh Pollard – musician, dancer and actor – wearing the costume I made for The Tree of War

The brief I was given for the costume was a basic dirndl cotton dress, similar to one worn by Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, in a forest green colour.  The By Hand London Kim pattern seemed to tick all the boxes, so that’s the pattern I used (not for profit, as I will explain later).

By Hand London Kim dress

By Hand London Kim dress

I bought a plain, medium weight 100% cotton for the dress.  The sewing was pretty simple.  I cut a size 2, and lengthened the skirt considerably as I was asked to make it 31″ below the waist.  I lined it in black satin so that it would slip on easily over the white underblouse (which I didn’t make!).  I used a concealed zip, which possibly wasn’t the best choice for a WW1 costume, but in any case the zip was hidden from view by the Eilidh’s long hair.

Back view

Back view

The scene in which the dress appears is in the memory of one of Bert’s comrades in the trench: the formidable Scottish soldier Dougie McBride (Jamie Rahman).  He is remembering dancing with his girlfriend before the war started.

Dougie McBride (Jamie Rahman) with his girlfriend (Eilidh Pollard)

Dougie McBride (Jamie Rahman) with his girlfriend (Eilidh Pollard)

I attended the penultimate show of the run and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Photography was not permitted during the show, but Eilidh was kind enough to let me take a few photographs afterwards and to post them here.


The dress was an unpaid commission.  I was reimbursed for the cost of the fabric and postage, but my labour was a donation.  It was the producer who commissioned me to make the dress, and she is a good friend of mine, so I was more than happy to do it.  It was fun to be involved, albeit it in a pretty minor way!  I would have loved to be in the choir (I have belonged to a church choir and a professional choir in the past), but unfortunately although Manchester will always be ‘home’ in the sense that it is where I come from, it isn’t my real home at the moment.

It was lovely to see something I made being used in a musical!

  1. September 30, 2015 12:35 pm

    Look at you! Costume designer and maker! It is so ‘Julie Andrews’. What a lovely thing to do.

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      September 30, 2015 12:50 pm

      I cannot claim any praise for the design – that’s the By Hand London girls! ☺

      • September 30, 2015 1:27 pm

        I know but you’ve still shown a knowledge of the exact pattern that would fit your brief, together with the perfect material. x

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