From the designer Professor Arlene Handschuch:
The Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, MA has one of the largest displays of armor and arms in the Western Hemisphere. To enhance their educational programs and engage boys and girls of all ages in the life and times of the Museum's collection, which spans the period from the ancient Romans to the Renaissance, the Museum commissioned my research, drafting and construction of a children’s try-on collection of clothing based on the characters in the King Arthur Legends. These are adult styled costumes sized to fit children and include King Arthur, Guinevere, Morgan LeFay, Merlin, and a variety of princesses and princes. The Museum has developed educational programs and scripts around these personas and other real historical characters to entertain the children and allow them to participate and role‐play.
Creation of the costumes included:
- research of design, details, fabrics, and colors using The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends by Ronan Coghlan and a variety of historic costume texts.
- sketching the design lines and rendering fabric for each individual item for presentation to the Museum for approval and suitability to the educational objectives.
- drafting the pattern for each item based on the size range of the children who will use the garments.
- incorporating special features into the garments such as "easy access" and "one-size-fits-all".
- sourcing and purchasing of contemporary fashion fabrics and trims to simulate historic fabrics and colors.
- painting historic motifs onto contemporary fabric
- final construction of the designs in fashion fabric.
- photographic documentation of the final designs.
Successfully implementing a children's try‐on collection required overcoming several challenges including:
Functionality versus Authenticity: Authenticity of design had to be balanced against several factors. For example, child safety requires that trims, beads, etc. be tightly affixed even though the originals might not have been. To allow for quick changes, Velcro closures and open backs replace authentic closures. Because the garments are heavily used and treated roughly, suitable fabrics and construction techniques have to be used. Necklaces, jewels, and other accessories must be attached to the garments so they are not lost or mixed up; however, they must be easily removable when the garments are sent out for cleaning.
Sizing the Costumes: It is enormously more practical for the costumes to be "one-size-fits-all." Since age groups and size ranges within age groups vary so widely it is very difficult for the children and staff to match particular costumes to particular body shapes and sizes. This cannot be accomplished simply by making all the garments big and using belts to fit them; the historic silhouettes must be preserved to the maximum extent possible. It takes a great deal of time and design expertise to maximize historic accuracy while making the design fit a full range of children's sizes.
Artistic License: Child appeal and economics sometimes override fidelity to history. Presenting an accurate look and feel while appealing to a child's sense of aesthetics and working with donated fabrics or affordable fabrics that are available locally often requires careful exercise of artistic license.