At RADA, where she was a scholar, she was awarded a Medal for Acting as well as the Prize for Costume. After a few short years in ‘rep’, she married John, then an adman. Seven children quickly followed, which made pursuing an acting career somewhat difficult. So alongside collecting children, she began collecting costume, creating what was eventually to become “The Rosemary Hawthorne Collection”, ranging from the late eighteenth century to the present day
She became a passionate student of costume history and, in particular, how clothes affected women’s lives and vice versa. A keen member of The Costume Society she soon became a well known and respected Fashion Historian. She saw clothes and fashion as a social history, not only of women but of men.
Husband, John, had what Rosemary describes as a mid-life crisis and became a priest. She is, she says, “the original of the actress who woke up in bed one morning with a parson.”
Asked one day by a student where the word ‘bloomers’ came from, Rosemary was inspired to write her first book, ‘Knickers: An Intimate Appraisal’. This brought her international acclaim and she soon became known as ‘The Knicker Lady’ – now a registered trademark. Other books quickly followed. Her books have been sold and translated across the world, from Russia to Brazil.
She became, and is still, in great demand throughout the UK as a speaker and entertainer. Like Sir John Reith, the BBC’s first Director General, she believes that whatever the occasion, whatever the audience, people want to be entertained as well as informed – and they love her for it.
The stage has now reclaimed her, and she tours theatres with her own two act, One Woman Show. Husband John, now retired, is, poor man, her Roadie. “I tell him not to complain,” says Rosemary, “not many ageing clerics get a chance to handle luminous thongs in Cleethorpes.”
But it is not only the UK that seeks her. Rosemary was commissioned by Lycra to mount, from her own Collection, an Exhibition in Barcelona to mark the Centenary of The Bra. She received wide Spanish media coverage. She was also invited by The British Council to represent Great Britain at The Harare International Festival of The Arts – an invitation she declined. Rosemary has made many appearances on TV and Radio including BBC 1’s The One Show and several appearances on BBC2’s The Sewing Bee.
The Costume Collector’s Companion 1890 – 1990
Knickers: An Intimate Appraisal.
Knickers: An Intimate Re-appraisal.
Bras: A Private View.
Stockings & Suspenders: A Quick Flash.
Dear Worried Violet.
Chinstraps, Nose-Moulds and Corsets.
The One Show, Antiques Roadshow, The Antiques Trail, Bra Wars, Christmas Stockings, The Victorians, This Morning, Lingerie, William and Kate: The Wedding of The Century, Midweek Woman’s Hour, Breakfast, Richard and Judy, Pebble Mill at One, Beat The Band, Tell The Truth, Big Breakfast, Noel’s House Party, Pick of The Week.
Rosemary Hawthorne is a Fab and Funny Fashion Lady