We always welcome visitors to classes and recently were lucky enough to have a visit from Barbara who shared her memories of what was obviously a happy and fulfilling time at the Hull Art College in the 1950’s, based at what is now the Park Avenue Adult Education Centre. Although a career in fashion was not to be, Barbara worked as a talented window dresser for a number of local department stores.

The fashion illustration was done by Barbara aged only 13!

“My name is Barbara and I recently enjoyed a visit to the old rope making building at Barton. It was arranged by my lovely daughter in law, Sharon as a treat for my 75th birthday, she attends the dressmaking class there run by Jane, an inspirational teacher of a high class standard.
It brought back many fond memories of my time spent At Hull College of Art in the 1950’s era.
I was mentally transported back to 1952 when I began a dress design and dressmaking course. Jane was kind enough to show me the workroom and I was delighted at the standard of work being achieved by the ladies, quietly and confidently each making their own personal garments in such a relaxed manner under Jane’s calm expert guidance.
I looked around amazed at the well organised room containing materials, trimmings, reference files on so many different styles of clothing such an assortment of all requirements ready at hand even coloured cottons for the machines and available on site. Jane has the room stocked beautifully.
The ladies were welcoming and as I chatted to Jane I mentioned my own experience at the College of Art and how I was taught many lovely things. The next time I spoke to Sharon she said Jane would be interested in my time at the art school and the curriculum followed in those days, and would I be interested in writing about it. I thought perhaps it might be of interest to the class so am pleased to recall my memories of a very happy time spent there
The Hull College of Art School
Pupils aged 12 – 15 years old
Situated in Park Avenue, Hull.
The school syllabus was split up into three days academic studying, then two days of mixed artistic pursuits. Any work of art or design was taught at several prefabricated huts at the rear of Queens Gardens and rarely at the senior college on Anlaby Road at which 18 year old students studied a higher grade of work.
I loved every art class, each one a different challenge which I met eagerly and competently. The girls took different courses on several subjects to the boys who worked in another two prefabs with suitable equipment i.e. woodworking tools and technical drawing instruction plus painting equipment.
We girls enjoyed spinning, weaving, dress design and dressmaking, drawing and painting and plant drawing, we also had perspective drawing but not as technical as the boys.
The first week we began our studies at Park Avenue we were introduced to script writing. Each pupil was given a script pen and ink and instructed to use it in all our work in the future. We were then given script lessons each week.
The girls enjoyed a wide range dress design and dressmaking skills taught by a lovely smartly dressed tutor who was to be admired by us all. We drew a garment to fit one’s own design and set about making a pattern to our own measurement and would then proceed to cut out and make up. We were also shown how to make many types of button holes and various ways of sealing seams by hand or machine e.g. French seam, cross stitch, over sewing and slip stitch. Hems were beautifully done by hand almost invisible to see on the outside. Dress materials of every thickness from wool to silk were shown and handled to explain the importance between design and drape. Trimming was advised to be used selectively in good taste to accentuate a good point about a design.
The education I received has been so useful to me, I have made hats, clothes, curtains, bedspreads, cushions, re-covered a cottage suite and works as a window dresser so the knowledge I gained has been put to good use and has given me much pleasure. May whoever reads this article derive the same amount of satisfaction as I have enjoyed.”

Thank you Barbara for visiting us and sharing your memories. I am so pleased to hear it has inspired you to take up your sketch pad again.

If you find Barbara’s story inspiring you can learn how to design an make your own stylish clothes at the Sewing Bee groups or, why not work towards a recognised design and construction qualification, with our City & Guilds Fashion courses.