Sunday, 25 May 2014

A Grand Day Out

Last Monday would have been my tenth wedding anniversary. Left to my own devices, I would just have sat and moped. Fortunately my lovely friend Meroe had no intention of letting me do that, so instead we went to Manchester for the day, did some sewing-related shopping, visited Platt Hall Gallery of Costume, and went out for a meal in the evening.

Fabric, fashion and food: what more could a girl want?

First stop was Ark Traders on Pin Mill Brow. (Pointless snippet for vintage fashion trivia fans nerds: Pin Mill Brow was where Horrockses Fashions built their main clothing factory, Ivy Works, in 1946.) It’s a fairly unprepossessing building from the outside, and not a lot fancier inside, but it’s an absolute treasure trove of all things haberdashery-related. There’s an impressive range of sequins, fancy braids of various designs and widths, sew-on beaded motifs, embroidery silks . . . and a few totally random things like high-visibility vests, pill boxes and jar openers!

I bought bits and pieces for a number of upcoming HSF challenges, and also decided on the spot that as I am accompanying the Ya Raqs girls to an event in July I need a new dance costume; and shopped accordingly. Meroe also has plans for a couple of new costumes. Of course, we 'helped' each other, picking up things which we thought the other would find useful!

Haberdashed-out, we needed some fabric to sew all these lovely shiny things onto. For this we headed over to Rusholme. Famous for its ‘Curry Mile’, Rusholme has a large south Asian population, and as well as restaurants there are lots of clothing and fabric shops.

Anand Fashions (219-221 Wilmslow Road) sells saris and suits, but also has rolls of plain fabric in a wide range of colours for a mere £1 per yard. Fortunately we had each brought with us the main trim for our planned costumes, and matched fabrics to that.

In search of something a bit fancier for hip scarves, we went to Farooq Fabrics at 175 Wilmslow Road. Most of the fabric sold here is for shalwar kameez so you have to buy a set of three pieces; one for the trousers (shalwar), one for the top (kameez) and a lighter fabric for a head covering. However the sets we chose only cost £14 and £16, and we can easily make use of the other fabrics.

My hip scarf fabric

By then it was time for some lunch, and after that we headed further along Wilmslow Road to the Gallery of Costume at Platt Hall. In the words of Sarah of Mode Historique:
“Manchester, however, has Platt Hall and that’s the whole reason to come here. If you’re a historical costumer, you should make your way here at some point in your lifetime.”

Platt Hall

Platt Hall and the surrounding park was originally an estate belonging to the Platt family. In 1625 it passed to the Worsley family, who built the Georgian hall in 1746. By the early twentieth century Manchester had expanded and the estate was surrounded by housing, causing the then owner to put it on the market. The estate was bought by the city authorities and converted into a public park, which was opened in May 1910. The hall was initially used as a tea room.

Platt Hall serving refreshments, from Rusholme and Victoria Park Archive

The Gallery of Costume displays clothing from the 17th century up to the present day. Many of the items on display are high fashion, but the collection also includes the dress of working people. It is also home to the Cunnington Collection, but that is a subject for a whole separate post.

Only a small selection of the museum’s collection can be displayed at one time, and naturally most of the displays are in glass cases, so apologies for the poor quality of these images.

Girl's embroidered linen jacket, 1610-20

Woman's bodice, 1650-60

Image showing how the bodice would have originally looked

Man's waistcoat and shoes, 1780-1800

Display case, eighteenth century

Display case, 1910s

Sequinned evening jacket, 1925-30

1951 Lachasse cotton suit, image © Manchester City Galleries

The museum also holds regular exhibitions, and is currently showing an Ossie Clark retrospective.

Think pink

Evening dresses

After all that, there was just time for a quick look in the shop. I spotted a Shire Publications book which I hadn’t come across before; 1950s American Fashion by Jonathan Walford (author of Forties Fashion: From Siren Suits to the New Look). I really like Shire books; they pack a lot of information into a small format, and they are always well illustrated. I also bought a mug. I sew powered by copious amounts of tea, so how much better will I work when I’m drinking my tea out of a generously-sized mug with pictures of a Dior dress on it?!

Dior 1950s silk dress with interchangeable skirts, images © Manchester City Galleries

So finally, here is a picture of my haul for the day. The suit fabric from Farooq is on the right, the fabrics from Anand are in the middle, and all the shiny things are from Ark.

Lots of sewing goodness

So what about the bottle at the top left? That’s pomegranate molasses. It’s a key ingredient in one of my favourite dishes; chicken with pomegranate and walnuts, and I recently ran out of it. Where I live isn’t the most cosmopolitan of places, so getting any more here is unlikely. A quick visit to one of the many Asian supermarkets on Wilmslow Road, and my problem was solved.

As I said; fabric, fashion and food: what more could a girl want? Thanks for a great day, Meroe!


  1. Yea! How sweet of your friend to take care of you!

  2. What a lovely thing your friend did for you! I am happy that you were able to get out and take in the lovely sights of that fabulous museum!!!

  3. Thank you both! I am very lucky to have such lovely and supportive friends.