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The world of Jane Austen set to be brought to life on Tyneside

Why just talk about Jane Austen when you can look the part? Polly Grice meets period fashion expert Julia Soares-McCormick

Jane Austen afternoon gown, worn with spencer and bonnet; Court dress with robe inspired by Empress Josephine; Lilac silk Regency ball gown
Jane Austen afternoon gown, worn with spencer and bonnet; Court dress with robe inspired by Empress Josephine; Lilac silk Regency ball gown

The world of Jane Austen is about to be brought to life on Tyneside, thanks to a Regency fashion talk and display.

Julia Soares-McCormick travels the North giving talks on period costume, having turned a lifelong passion into a full-time job.

With a background in theatre, the 56-year old began creating Tudor clothing and has now expanded into the Regency period so dear to Austen fans.

Her latest costumes include morning and afternoon dresses as well as a gold court gown certain to have caught Mr Darcy’s eye.

She says: “I was presenting Tudor talks and a few of the ladies said they enjoyed them, but were particularly interested in Jane Austen.

“I thought I’d make a couple of Regency-inspired dresses. I enjoyed doing that and now present them as part of a new talk called Enter the World of Jane Austen.”

Julia studied at Sunderland and Nottingham Trent universities, graduating with a degree in theatre design.

She worked in various theatres in the Midlands and while working at the Leicester Haymarket worked on a major production of My Fair Lady starring Tony Britton and Liz Robertson.

Proudly she recalls that she also made jewellery for Dame Anna Neagle who was playing Professor Higgins’s mother.

But a move to London in the 1980s and the arrival of son James, now 25, meant there was no more time for clothes.

It wasn’t until she moved back to the North East and James went to university that the talented designer rekindled her passion for period dress, notably from the Tudor period.

After being invited to display some of her hand-made outfits at Newcastle City Library in 2007, things took off.

Since then, she and her husband, Michael McCormick, have been invited to take part in historical events across the North and in Scotland.

“I first asked my husband to appear as Henry VIII. Now we present fashion shows and talks for the Women’s Institute, National Trust and English Heritage among others.”

Julia, who lives in Cramlington, has created four outfits inspired by the Austen era to be the stars of the new talk she will deliver in Wallsend.

The outfits, which include a lilac and gold ball gown fit for Pride and Prejudice heroine Elizabeth Bennet, are real works of art and can take up to a month to put together.

During her lively talk, Julia will reveal fashion faux-pas of the time, relate the history of the handbag and share an unfortunate incident with some Regency bloomers.

The lecture will be held at the Wallsend Customer First Centre on April 3 at 7pm. Tickets cost £6. You can read more about Julia and her activities at www.tudortalkandcatwalk.com

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