School of frock
Delve into the origins of fashion at the School of Historical Dress – the coolest school you’ve probably never heard of.
At the heart of Elephant and Castle, across the road from Imperial War Museum London and just a 13-minute walk from Elephant Park, sits a beautifully designed Victorian building that is home to the extraordinary School of Historical Dress. This unique institution attracts visitors from near and far to learn about fashion through the ages in a hands-on environment.
The school was founded in 2009 by principal Jenny Tiramani, a highly experienced costume and stage designer, alongside former BBC costume designer Vanessa Hopkins and leading lace expert Santina M Levey.
It was while Jenny was working for Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance, then artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, that she came up with the idea for the school. His desire for costumes to be authentic led Jenny to meet leading dress historian Janet Arnold, sparking a fascination and thirst to teach others.
Jenny, Vanessa and Santina enlisted the help of Sir Mark, fashion legend Dame Vivienne Westwood and Sir Roy Strong, former V&A and National Portrait Gallery director, to make the school a reality.
Originally, without a fixed base, teachers would run events and courses in venues across London, but then in 2016, the building at 52 Lambeth Road became available, creating a perfect home.
Fashion and costume designers, museum curators and archivists are just some of the students that join courses at the school. From Tudor clothing to 18th century church vestments, Jean Muir dresses from the 60s to workmen’s waistcoats from the early 1900s, students can discover onsite collections featuring original pieces.
The School of Historical Dress runs various courses and events throughout the year open to all – find out more on its website.
It will be hosting its first-ever Open House Weekend on the 21-22 September 2019, giving locals and visitors alike the chance to explore the building and discover more. See the Open House London website for full listings coming soon.