Sunday, 2 August 2015

The V&A, not just a costume gallery

This week’s post should have been about my belated contribution to the July Historical Sew Monthly challenge - Accessorize. Unfortunately I hurt my shoulder moving furniture (long story, don’t ask), and haven’t been able to much sewing all week. So instead, here’s a picture-heavy post that I’ve been meaning to write up since my last London trip, six months ago!

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is famous for its costume collection, but did you know that there are lots of costumes to be found elsewhere in its many galleries?

The Indian galleries include a number of garments made from Indian textiles. There’s this lovely chintz caraco and petticoat.

Caraco and petticoat 1770-80

Caraco close-up

And this slightly later gown, with its chintz pattern overprinted with gold spots.

Chintz gown, c. 1780

Meanwhile, although it looks printed, the fabric of this dress is decorated with very fine tambour embroidery.

Gown, fabric c. 1740-60, made up c. 1780

Close-up of the bodice embroidery

Also embroidered is this slightly later muslin gown.

Muslin gown c. 1795

The Middle Eastern galleries also contain some historical costumes.

Zoroastrian woman's costume, Iran, about 1840-70

Qajar court costume, about 1800-40

I was intrigued by the back view of this jacket, as its shape is similar to my much earlier Ottoman costume.

Back view showing hip shaping of jacket

There are contemporary pieces to be found as well, such as this amazing laser-cut organza dress in the Korean gallery.

Organza origami dress by Lie Sang-Bong, 2009

The main alternative source for historical costumes however is the British Galleries, which cover British art and design from 1500 to 1900.

Margaret Layton's jacket, which was one of the earliest pieces in the costume collection, is not currently on display. But a similar jacket is one of the first items on display in the British Galleries.

Embroidered jacket, about 1600, altered about 1620

Nearby is this lovely knitted jacket.

Knitted jacket, 1600-25

This doublet and hose looked to me at first glance as though they had been made from a quilted bedspread. Then I read the accompanying notes, and discovered that they had been made from recycled quilted satin, probably a bedspread! Sometimes first impressions can be right.

Doublet and breeches, 1630-40

The bulk of the British Galleries’ clothing is from the eighteen century, such as this amazing Court mantua.

Embroidered mantua 1740-45, © Victorian and Albert Museum, London

Bodice close-up, apologies for the strange colour

Slightly less ornate is this woven waistcoat of Spitalfields silk.

Waistcoat, about 1734

There is a lot of information about silk weaving in Spitalfields, including the chance to design your own silk.

Hands-on opportunity

And here’s my attempt.

Probably best if I don't give up the day job!

Someone who was a far more successful designer was Anna Maria Garthwaite. There is a display of her silks, and a dress made from one of them in the 1740s and altered in the 1780s.

Some of Anna Maria's silks

Dress made from silk designed in 1744

Bodice back close-up of 1780s alterations

As with the embroidered India textile above, it’s hard to believe that this dress is neither printed nor woven. It was made in Britain, but from silk hand-painted in China.

Painted silk robe 1760-70, © Victorian and Albert Museum, London

The robe on display

From there the galleries move on to the block printed cottons of the late eighteenth century.

Gown of block-printed cotton, 1780-85

Selection of block-printed cottons

The British Galleries carry on to the second floor, but there are fewer examples of clothing in the later years. However if you are visiting the V&A and have time to spare after touring the costume galleries, they are well worth a look.

Gown, about 1805

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful to get to visit this lovely museum. Such lovely pieces!