Skilled costume design students at The Northern School of Art have been commissioned to create a selection of medieval knights’ costumes for use at a leading historic attraction.

Level five (second year) students on the BA (Hons) Costume Interpretation with Design degree course were approached by the education team at regional charity, The Auckland Project. They were asked to create 38 historically accurate medieval tabards for visiting school children and teachers to wear at Auckland Castle, which is part of the visitor destination being created by The Auckland Project in Bishop Auckland.

The commission follows a work experience project the students worked on with The Auckland Project in their first year, in 2018, where they each designed and created a costume and then pitched it to the Project’s education team. The team was so impressed by the intricate designs and skilled sewing skills displayed that they bought several of the outfits for use by visitors to 900-year-old Auckland Castle, which will open later this year following conservation work.

Student Shannon Swift, 20, from Hartlepool, pictured below left, who coordinated the team based at the Hartlepool campus for the month-long project and oversaw the liaison with The Auckland Project, said seeing everything completed was a great sense of achievement. “After I graduate I want to work in industry constructing and making costumes so the mass amount of pattern drafting and cutting involved with this commission has really taught me a lot.

“The course has really inspired me to sew and its practical-focus and link up with live projects like this work with The Auckland Project is unique. I chose to come to The Northern School of Art as I wanted to stay in the north and I am lucky enough to have a specialist art college right on my doorstep.”

Fellow second-year, Ilona Haldemann, 20, from Los Angeles in the USA, pictured above right, created the adult tabards and enjoyed the sewing and the chance to create something in a professional environment adding: “The emphasis on tailoring, as well as the amount of contact time and guidance, are why I chose the course and this project really helped me to build the speed of my sewing.

“I’m passionate about film and TV and have always had a fascination for fabrics, which led me to study costume and my ambition is to work in Hollywood. The opportunity to work with a real client while still studying has been a great experience.”

History-buff Elizabeth Billington, 19, from Leeds, pictured above centre, loved the chance to work on a historical design and found it very rewarding to see the process from start to finish. “I really want to use my skills in community projects and I am now inspired to work in museums.  This project has helped me to refine my skills and to build my speed. It has also been really useful to get experience of working on industrial machines.

“The environment is really positive on the course, which is one of the reasons that I chose to come here, and the focus on millinery is unique and fits well with what I want to do in the future.”

The Northern School of Art Costume Design Lecturer Sally Donegan, pictured above right, said: “The commission was a brilliant opportunity for the course and the students to get to work with industry on a live project.

“They approached it very professionally and picked up some great skills especially as it was a rare chance to work on children’s wear. It’s given students some very valuable work experience to put on their CVs.”

Debra Nichol, Learning Officer with The Auckland Project, pictured above left, said: “It’s been great working with the Northern School of Art. This is our second commission with them, as we were so pleased with the pieces they created last year.  This year we asked them to create knights’ costumes which we can’t wait to use in Auckland Castle when it re-opens later in the year. The costumes will be used by younger visitors, offering them an opportunity to engage with the history of the 900-year-old Castle in a fun and interactive way.

The costumes are fantastic, and totally unique, the quality of the design, materials and handiwork has been brilliant, and it’s not possible to find this in standard off-the-shelf costumes

“Working with the students has been great, hopefully, they have enjoyed the project and the opportunity to gain experience which can be added on to their CVs. I look forward to working with The Northern School of Art again in future.”

Details of the BA (Hons) Costume Interpretation with Design degree course and all skills-based creative courses offered by The Northern School of Art are available at Or visit one of the School’s open days at its Hartlepool campus which take place next on Saturday 8 June 2019 and Thursday 4 July 2019.