A former seamstress has been reunited with a vintage Laura Ashley wedding dress which she helped to make in 1992 and still carries a tag that she signed.
Sharon Wells, 56, who is now a teaching assistant in her home village of Corris, was one of a team of seven seamstresses that made the wedding dress when she worked at Laura Ashley’s factory and bridal studio in Machynlleth.
Now the dress is to feature in a special display in the free entry exhibition ‘For the Love of Laura Ashley’ at MOMA Machynlleth until 6 September.
The 10-week exhibition has been organised by Ann Evans, founder of Heritage Hub 4 Mid Wales (HH4MW), to help preserve the legacy of Laura Ashley, the famous mid Wales-based textile and fashion visionary designer whose name became a global lifestyle heritage brand.
The Heritage Hub is a group of volunteers, whose aims include to enhance local civic pride in significant entrepreneurial pioneers from the region, including Laura Ashley.
Laura Ashley was always proud to say that her team in mid Wales were instrumental the global success of her family business.
Ann, who worked for Laura Ashley for 20 years from 1975, wanted to find something special for the Machynlleth exhibition.
Following a social media post by a former Laura Ashley employee, she found and bought the vintage wedding dress for £200 from the Oxfam charity shop in Witney, Oxfordshire.
“The dress is like new and the tag signed by Sharon, before she married, is still attached,” she said. “It’s a perfect example of quality work by Laura Ashley seamstresses in the company’s Machynlleth factory bridal studio.”
Ann hopes the dress will become part of a Heritage Hub archive collection for a permanent Laura Ashley Heritage Hub – her mission for 2025, which would have been Laura Ashley’s 100th birthday.
Sharon, who worked for Laura Ashley in Machynlleth for around seven years, said: “It was lovely to be reunited with the dress and a real blast from the past, especially as it had the tag signed by me still with it.
“I was one of seven seamstresses selected to work on dresses and suits for brides, bridesmaids and pageboys from start to finish.
“We would put our signatures on tags with the finished garments and it was just lucky that my name was on this wedding dress. It was very much a team effort.
“I once had a ‘thank you’ letter from a lady in America who had worn a wedding dress which had my name on the tag. I did enjoy being part of the bridal team as it always felt a privilege to make a wedding dress for somebody’s special day.”
Ann, who helped to set up Laura Ashley’s mail order operation from 1976, has been supported by volunteers, friends and colleagues, with whom she worked at the company, to set up the previous and future pioneer exhibitions and other events.
For the Love of Laura Ashley also features a pixel portrait quilt of Laura Ashley commissioned by Ann and made by British quilter Devida Bushrod, who now lives in Tulsa, USA, from 1,500 pieces of fabric in 13 colours.
Two vintage Laura Ashley collectors, Ann Davies from Mold and Karen Morgan from the Forest of Dean, who runs www.lauraabsolutely.com, are also loaning items for the exhibition.
HH4MW collaborated with Machynlleth artisans to organise a special event, Be Inspired by Laura Ashley, on 8 July. Guest speakers included Ann, Tegwyn Morris from Merched y Wawr and Russell George, MS for Montgomeryshire.
Ann and Heritage Hub are seeking help from those who have archives and memories to digitally record the social history of Laura Ashley and upload their photographs and written and oral stories to www.peoplescollection.wales, the digital heritage website of National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.