Celebrating Mrs. Banks



Alexa Harding


Outline the story …

When I saw this competition title and description, it did not take me long to think of Mrs. Banks from the "Mary Poppins" book series by P. L. Travers. She is a character without a first name or any character development; yet without her, there would be no Mary Poppins, so she deserved some of her own limelight.

I was inspired by YouTube videos that analysed films 'historical' costume against reality, and I wanted to do something similar. What would she have worn if you were a fly on the wall modestly looking on?

I wanted to create an everyday look of a woman who had access to money (a homeowner with four members of staff) but whose husband was very tight with that money (she is asked to choose between redoing the front of the house or her children, he couldn’t afford both). Her clothes would have been good quality, but not as fashion forward as she would have liked.

So, whilst I researched fashion plates and photos of the early 1900s, I knew I didn’t want her outfit to be her Sunday best. It had to be a weekday, not expecting to receive guests, or to hire a new nanny type of outfit. Flat boots, subtle jewellery, soft pastel colours, simple lace appliqué; all working towards achieving the grown-up look admired by the Edwardians. The vision I had in my head from all the research I did on materials, colours, and overall appearance has been realised and I’m so proud of that.

Outline the construction…

In order to get right look you must have the right layers. So, I made the entire outfit:

1. Bloomers (cotton lawn, brocade anglaise)
2. Chemise (cotton lawn, brocade anglaise, lace)
3. Corset Symington 67040 (Duchess Satin, sateen, lace)
4. Petticoat, (cotton lawn, cotton voile, lace)
5. Corset cover, (cotton lawn, brocade anglaise, lace)
6. Shirt, (poplin, lace)
7. Skirt (cotton voile, sateen, lace appliqué).

I used four different patterning methods:
The grid method – scaling up from 5cm sized squares (1, 2, 4, 7)
Flat pattern drafting – specifically the Cathy Hay method for scaling up a corset (3)
Apportioning ruler method – using the right bust measurement and finding the corresponding ruler (6)
Draping – without a dress form I did this on myself (5)

This journey wasn’t all plain sailing: I dyed my original skirt fabric (panama cotton) to get a pastel blue colour. This went really badly, I dyed it again, but the result was even worse, so I had to buy new fabric in the end.

The corset nearly broke me, after four redrafts (drawing and mocking up) nothing was working (due to inexperience, not the method). Someone on Instagram sent me an article on Edwardian corsetry, in just one line it all fell into place, Edwardian corsets used the waist measurement! This was only the third corset I’ve made and the first from my own measurements, I have learnt so much from this and look forward to making more corsets.




  1. Avatar Stefanie Wendt on March 12, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    This is such an amazing outfit! I love the flossing on the corset and all that lace! Can’t imagine sewing on all that lace! Also: the fluff on the corset cover?! Just georgous!

    • Avatar Alexa Harding on March 13, 2021 at 8:56 am

      Thanksl you that’s very kind 🙂 it was a lot of hand sewing but I really enjoyed it. The lace was the best part.

  2. Avatar Beverley on March 14, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    What a fabulous outfit for an interesting fictional character. “Mary Poppins” was one of my favourite books many years ago, this outfit matches the period brilliantly. Such a lot of hard work went into making this outfit, I love it!

    • Avatar Alexa Harding on March 15, 2021 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you – I used to think that each period of history was fairly uniform in their fashion and it was only i recent years fashions and trends were more fluid. I was wrong! But given I had little discription to go on I could at least let my imagination run wild. So glad the hard work paid off.

  3. Avatar Manon L'Hostis on March 15, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    This color is so soothing! And you really nailed that silhouette, it really suits you♡

    • Avatar Alexa Harding on March 15, 2021 at 4:27 pm

      Awww thank you 🙂 Green is a lovely colour. I was worried about the shape as I unsure if the corset was made correctly but you just have to go with these things right?

  4. Avatar Jem on March 15, 2021 at 9:49 pm

    Wow, this is pretty. Very calming to look at. I can really picture Mrs. Banks wearing this all the time.

    • Avatar Alexa Harding on March 16, 2021 at 8:40 am

      That’s very kind of you Jem 🙂 Green is very calming and good for bedrooms. It was a lot of fun creating the ordinary and feel I have captured that very well.

  5. Avatar Kikkii von Fustian on March 29, 2021 at 12:46 pm

    Draping and fitting without a dressform can be so challenging, and you did a great job with the corset! <3 I love the colors you've used.

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