16-year-old Pippa Longhurst from Lamarsh, near Colchester, has had an unexpected boost after finishing her GCSEs due to an unusual dress she has designed and created, as part of her Cambridge International (CiE) Fashion and Textiles O Level course. The keen sewer and photographer, who attends St Mary’s Colchester Senior School in Colchester, made a stunning Help for Heroes inspired dress which has gone viral thanks to a tweet from her proud father, Guy Longhurst, 49. As well as catching the attention of the Help for Heroes charity itself, the post has also been retweeted by Strictly star, JJ Chalmers, who describes the dress as ‘amazing’.
Pippa drew inspiration for her dress from the 51 soldier sculptures created and installed by steel fabricator, Duncan Pittock, in Mersea and Peldon. They represent the men from the area who lost their lives in the First World War and were created to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Great War.
She explains, “I drive past those sculptures all the time and I like to photograph them as they are really powerful images. They, and the fact that Colchester has such strong links to the Armed Forces, were the things that really inspired my design. I really wanted to give something back to the military and what they do for us.
“So, I researched Help for Heroes and matched their brand colours in the fabric. Then I used print outs of the actual statues to create the images at the bottom of the skirt and added some military medals. The look is finished off with a poppy on my arm.”
The dress, which Pippa created across 15 weeks at school, has a top made from chiffon and skirt made from a manmade silk. Her O Level brief was to create either a film related or promotional item of clothing.
Unfortunately, due to the impact of Covid on exams, the dress will not now be taken into consideration for her final O Level marks. However, this week Pippa was able to show off her dress on the catwalk at the St Mary’s bi-annual catwalk in front of a smaller than usual audience due to the pandemic.
She adds, “It was fun to take part in the fashion show. With that and the attention on social media that I just wasn’t expecting, it’s given me a really big boost. I would definitely like to do something with the dress now and am talking to Help for Heroes about how we might be able to use it to help build awareness of the charity.”
Mrs Hilary Vipond, Principal of St Mary’s Colchester comments, “We are extremely proud of how hard Pippa has worked as she explored and developed her creative idea for her CiE Fashion and Textiles O Level, including the subtle military links and demonstrating her technical ability to produce such a beautiful garment. Textiles is a hugely valued part of the brilliantly balanced education provided at St Mary’s. It is wonderful that Pippa chose to promote the work that Help for Heroes does for wounded veterans and their families, being a military town, the Army are very important to Colchester and its communities.”
Pippa hopes to study textiles and photography for art A level in September and has an eye on a creative career after school.
Tanya Ingleton, Head of Trading at Help for Heroes and a keen sewer herself, concludes, “Wow, Pippa’s dress is amazing and her design and sewing skills are self-evident. However, what is also wonderful is to see a young person taking such interest and inspiration from veterans who have sacrificed so much for their country. She really is a sewing superstar.”