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Gowns for Good, a little history

After organising two costume exhibitions in our local village halls, and coming across the Theatre de la Mode by chance at the V&A museum, we thought it would be interesting to create a collection of costumes in half size in order to exhibit them to raise funds for charities. 

So on the 15th of December 2009, Gowns for Good was created.

The “Théâtre de la mode” was a collection created by the famous Parisian designers at the end of WWII. It was then taken around Europe and the USA to promote and revive French fashion. The collection is now in the Maryhill Museum in the state of Washington in the USA.

Although full size costumes are wonderful, they take a lot of space, both in storing and exhibiting.

It is quite difficult to find antique fabrics, trimmings, laces etc, to recreate a full period gown, but a small version needs a lot less.

Also, small dresses, like carpenters apprentice pieces for furniture, seem to fill people of all ages with wonder. Maybe because they transport us back to childhood, or because their intricacy and the fact that they can not be used by real people, take our imagination to a different place, a small world of fantasy.

We were also fortunate enough to acquire a collection of original diminutive costumes dating from the 1930s to the early 1960s.

The collection came via a British designer who had bought it from an elderly Italian lady who had worked for the couture house that produced them all those years ago.

They range from pyjamas to suits, evening dresses to coats. The quality of each garment is beautiful and every detail is that of a couture full size garment.

Some may have been apprentice pieces, made by young apprentices under the watchful eye of the head cutters in the couture house. The others may have been made to give the designer an idea of how each garment would hang and move before going into production.

Charities and local groups we have helped so far…

  • Quicken Trust  , helping the village of Kabubbu in Uganda.
  • Ripe, Chalvington and Laughton Churches.
  • Ripe and Laughton village halls (refurbishment projects).
  • The JPK Sussex project, living center for people with learning disability.
  • In the future we would like to help…
  • Sarvashubhamkara (Sarva) set up by our friends Bernard and David to help people suffering from leprosy and their families in India.
  • Friends of Sussex Hospices..
  • The passage (helping the homeless).
  • Macmillan cancer support.

…and hopefully many more worthy causes.

Yann Huet

After studies in catering in France, and working in hotels and restaurants in London, I moved to the countryside where I got involved with fund-raising events and charities.

The idea for “Gowns for Good” came to me after curating a couple of costume exhibitions to raise funds for our local villages.

Since then, I have been researching, learning, taking courses and although not often enough, sewing!

David Upfield

My interest in fashion started at a young age, designing and making evening and wedding gowns for family and friends as a hobby.

I studied and worked as a picture framer and gilder for eight years before deciding to turn my hobby into a career.

Eventually, via a short spell designing and making evening wear with a university friend, I specialised in recital gowns for international opera singers, which fulfilled my interest in both fashion and costume design.

I now focus most of my time on charity work and the Gowns for Good project.


Irene Day

Racheal Kigozi


Janet Timms

Kathryn Turner

Lone Madsen

Brenda Wilson

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