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Our Kit
Rumworth’s costume (or “kit”, as it’s invariably known) is based on that of earlier Morris teams of the North West. One of its strongest influences comes from Godley Hill Morris Dancers from Hyde in Cheshire

Our hats are standard bowlers, painted white and decorated with flowers and jewellery. Six strands of navy blue ribbon, about three feet long, are attached to the hatband at the back – and can make a nuisance of themselves when we dance in strong winds, as they wrap themselves around arms, garlands and faces.

We wear white collarless shirts, with a gold sash that goes twice around the waist in the style of a cummerbund and is tied and pinned at the inside hip.

We also wear a red sash that goes over the inside shoulder and is pinned at the outside hip. This asymmetric arrangement of the sashes means that you are dancing in either the left hand or the right hand file – but not both, at least not in any one ‘spot’. (Unless you’ve tried it, you would not believe how long it takes to put those sashes on!)

Our breeches are navy blue corduroy, with three gilt (brass) buttons on the outside of each leg just above the hem. They are made from a standard dressmaker’s trouser pattern, cut off a few inches below the knee, and generally last about ten years. In theory they should all be from the same roll of material; but rolls of material don’t last for ever, and there is always someone that’s still wearing a pair of breeches made from the previous roll!

Our footwear is the traditional black clogs that are one of the trademarks of the North West Morris dance. These are now made by a small number of specialists, each of which has his or her own distinctive style. Some of them craft a unique pattern or “crimp” into each pair.

We do not wear our clogs when practising. One of the guiding principles of our Conductor is that in order to be able to perform a dance, you need to learn it in shoes. This allows you more feeling for the steps and greater expression.

Most people, when they think of Morris dancers, think of hankies, sticks, and bells. They are of course thinking mainly of the Cotswold tradition, although all of these things are also used to a greater or lesser degree in the North West style. Rumworth however only use hankies for blowing their noses, or possibly for wiping the sweat from their brows (at this point, some smart-alec Rumworth member will point out that some cover their hats with a hanky rather than painting them, and some line their hats with one), and only one of our current dances uses sticks. With bells, the situation is rather more complicated.
In the North West style, bells are normally worn (if at all) on the clogs; in Rumworth, bells on the clogs are compulsory for those who wish to wear them. In the early days, most Rumworth dancers did wish to wear them and were therefore obliged to do so; but nowadays not one of us does, and the only sound you should hear a Rumworth dancer making (during a dance) is the crack of clogs on the dancing surface
Our socks are of off-white wool. In the early days we used white football socks, but apart from the fact that they are made from a man-made fibre (nylon) which promotes perspiration and doesn’t absorb it, we found their dazzling whiteness somewhat overpowering. We soon switched to ordinary, common or garden Wellington boot socks; some of our wives and mothers were later persuaded to knit some more individual pairs, and lately the Internet has made it possible to buy highly patterned socks in the Arran style – those made in Scotland to be worn with kilts have been found to be particularly suitable.

The “official” kit is completed by three strings of beads. These are intended to add colour and movement to the performance, but the Conductor has been known to disapprove of any that are too flamboyant.

Our shirts, referred to earlier, are generally (or were in the early days) formal dress shirts, found in charity shops. These tend to include a generous amount of material, not least in the sleeve; expanding sleeve bands are therefore allowed as an optional piece of kit.

Rumworth has always cultivated a rather austere, regimented image – in a modern, post-ironic kind of way – and you will not find any Rumworth performer sporting an array of badges showing what festivals and days of dance we have performed at over the years. As if to emphasise this rule, each dancer is allowed to wear one badge of his own choice; it is worn on the red sash, just below the shoulder. It must be no larger than a florin; the Conductor keeps an official specimen of this pre-decimal coin specifically for this purpose, and takes great delight in producing it whenever anyone appears wearing a new badge that threatens to break the rule. (Note to younger readers: the florin was worth two shillings, the equivalent of ten pence, but most Rumworth members are old enough to remember when it would buy you a pint of beer. The coin itself was slightly larger than the modern 50p coin: 28.5 mm in diameter, compared to 27.3 mm)