Sunday, 29 April 2018

Barley Hall and Wolf Hall

While I was strolling round York last week, I came across an amazing attraction (it's not really a museum) which I didn't even know existed. Until about 30 years ago, no-one else knew it existed, either. Barley Hall was tucked away behind a derelict office block, and was only discovered when the modern building was about to be demolished.

Barley Hall, the entrance

The oldest parts of the building date from about 1360, and the rest from around 1430. Now fully restored, it has been decorated to replicate how it would have looked in around 1483.There are no barriers or glass screens in place, and you are encouraged to pick things up.

The Great Hall (on the right) from outside . . .

. . . and inside, showing the open hearth

As well as looking round the hall itself there was something more to pique my interest; some of the costumes from Wolf Hall were on display.

There are also some costumes from other television series about Henry VIII and his wives, but I've limited the post to the Wolf Hall costumes. First up was this costume worn by Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford (Anne's sister-in-law).

Jane Boleyn

Because the costume is all black, it's hard to see the details. However on this side view it's just possible to see the side opening of the bodice (click on the image to enlarge it).

Bodice detail and Henry VIII photobomb

(In the background is one of the costumes from the 1970 BBC series, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Click here for a great article from the always wonderful Frock Flicks about these costumes.)

The thing which I really noticed about this costume was the beautiful chemise underneath.

Chemise love

When I was looking for online images of the costumes (of which more later) I noticed that the chemise was very similar to this one worn by Liz Cromwell - which made me wonder if several were made, or if the same one was used for multiple characters.

Liz Cromwell. Image © BBC

Next was a costume worn by the Duke of Norfolk.

Suitably ornate costume for a duke

Close-up you could see all the different fabrics which has been used.

Even the gloves are decorated

Sleeve detail

In the next room were more costumes.

(L to R) Thomas Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, Katherine of Aragon and Stephen Gardiner

Gardiner's costume was quite plain, befitting a man of the church, albeit with fur trim. Katherine's costume was also dark, but made from a greater variety of fabrics than Jane Boleyn's and again trimmed with fur.

Katherine of Aragon and Stephen Gardiner

Gable hood

Showing the contrasting sleeve fabric

I was intrigued by Anne's shoes. Who knew that wedge heels were popular in the Tudor period? I assume that this was just to give the actress height.

Thomas Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, and curious shoes

Thomas Cromwell's costume was described as coming from quite early on in the series, when he was wealthy enough to afford fur, but still wearing wool rather than costlier fabrics.

If I'd been bemused by the shoes, it was nothing compared to the shock of finding metal grommets on this costume! Given how much the BBC stressed the accuracy of the costumes when the series aired, I can only assume that like Anne's wedges, this was something which was not meant to show when the costume was being worn.

The horror!

There were still a lot of details to like though, like this cuff.

Beautiful gathering and hand stitching

Anne's costume, like several of the others, used lots of different trims and fabrics together to create the overall effect.

Lace fastening just visible on the long sleeve

Lots of different trims on the French hood

I don't remember this dress from the series at all, in fact none of the costumes appear in any of the images I've found online. I shall have to find a pile of hand-sewing to do, and sit down and watch it again.

The Wolf Hall costumes are on display at Barley Hall until the end of May.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Time Traveller

I have been 'all over the place' this weekend, both in terms of time and location.

On Saturday I went to the Festival of Vintage in York. I travelled over there on Friday, and had a lovely afternoon strolling round the city in the sun - and made a bonus costume discovery in the process.

The location of the costume discovery

It was the first time I'd been to anything on the scale of the Festival of Vintage, and I was amazed by just how large it was. Lots of people dressed up; those in modern dress were definitely in the minority.

Shoppers at the Festival of Vintage

The festival covered the period 1930s-1960s. I went 1950s and wore my Rosalind dress, with a grey gloves, a synthetic straw hat which I bought a couple of years ago at a vintage fair in the Town Hall, and a pair of surprisingly comfortable (fortunately) heels from that well-known vintage emporium; Dorothy Perkins!

Slightly blurred hotel mirror selfie

I did change into flats for the train journey home, though!

Then today it was back a further decade, for the Colwyn Bay Forties Festival. I really enjoyed my visit in 2016 but wasn't able to go last year, so I was glad that I could make it this time. I even dressed up, wearing my latest CC41 dress (Cate is right, it really needs a belt, even though the previous dress I made from this pattern didn't!), with a vintage handbag I've had for a while, and a hat and snood bought in York the day before.

The displays included a pop-up museum of wartime life in Wales.

Re-enactor in the pop-up museum

Sadly the weather wasn't great, so one of the Anderson shelters on display was pressed into service as a dining room for the re-enactors.

Enjoying fish and chips in the dry

Despite the weather, it was a fun day. I'll write it, and my York trip, up properly soon.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Textile Stories Study Day 2018

Yesterday I went to the latest Textile Stories Study Day, organised by Professor Deborah Wynne of the University of Chester. The theme this year was 'Working Textiles: Textile Workers', and looked at textiles in relation to work, working people and working practices. The event was organised in collaboration with the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings.

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings was the world's first iron-framed building. It was built as a flax mill in 1797, converted to a maltings in the late 19th century, and closed in 1987. It then lay derelict for almost 20 years, and is currently being restored by Historic England.

The Jubilee Tower of the flax mill, image © Historic England

The first speakers were Penny Ward and Maralyn Hepworth of the Flax Museum. Smartly attired in period clothing, they spoke about the process of turning flax into linen, and what information has been discovered so far about the lives of the mill workers.

Part of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings display

About the mill

Next Brenda Rewhorn spoke about 'Tatting: Lace for Working People', followed by Jane Thomas, whose talk on 'Traditional Smocking: Workers and Clothing' included the beautiful traditional worker's smock which she had made herself (and which I foolishly forgot to photograph).

Display of tatting shuttles and tatted items

Smocking display

After this there was a break for a delicious buffet lunch, and a chance to look at the various displays and demonstrations. This included a display of clothing made from early sewing manuals by Sarah Thursfield, whose book The Medieval Tailor's Assistant (now revised and enlarged) was invaluable when I made a (very, very vaguely) medieval stage costume for a friend a couple of years ago.

Demonstration of heckling - preparing the flax for spinning

Sarah Thursfield's clothing display

The first speaker after lunch was . . . me! Deborah is my dissertation supervisor for my Masters, and had asked me if I'd like to speak a the event. I gave a talk on gendered roles in clothing production, inspired by these two advertisements from consecutive issues of Vogue Pattern Book from 1950.

A dressmaker and a tailor, very differently portrayed

It was the first time I've done anything like this, and it's fair to say that I was nervous!

The final speaker was Deborah herself. The original idea of the Textile Stories Study Days was to look at the links between textiles and literature, and while the brief has expanded over the years (this was the sixth study day), the literary link remains. Deborah's talk was titled 'Cotton in the 19th Century: From Southern U.S. Slavery to Manchester’s Mill Workers' and looked at two novels; 'North and South' by Mrs Gaskell, and 'The Quest of the Silver Fleece' by W. E. B. Du Bois.

As ever, it was a varied and fascinating day; thanks to Deborah for organising it.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

#VintagePledge - Butterick 4384 finished!

I really need to get a bit more clever about timing my sewing projects. Last year I managed to finish a summer dress in late September, and now I have finished a long-sleeved dress in a thick cotton just in time for the (I hope) warmer weather!

When I last posted about this dress, it felt as though there had been a lot of sewing for very little effect. However the rest of it came together quite easily. As ever, I hand-picked the zip, then attached the collar to the dress. It fastens with hooks and eyes at the back.

I wasn't entirely happy with the buttons which I had bought for this dress, but they were the best I could find at home. Then when I was in Somerset in March I came across this fabulous wool shop in Wells. It looks tiny from the outside but don't be deceived; inside it opens up into a surprisingly large space crammed with wools and haberdashery, including an extensive stock of buttons. I found the perfect buttons for this dress, and for my next project, too.

Collar and buttons

Most of the dresses and blouses I make have short or three-quarter sleeves, so it's a long time since I have made anything which required sleeve plackets and cuffs. In fact, when I checked I discovered that it was almost five years; I made my Folkwear Armistice Blouse in August 2013. Happily my technique for hand-sewn buttonholes has improved a lot since then.

Perfect button and reasonable buttonhole

So here is the finished dress, and the first part of my 2018 pledge to make up at least three of my vintage patterns from the period 1960 - 1989 (the pattern dates from 1967). The verdict on my first foray into a new (for me) time period? Well, I'm not entirely happy with the braid placement; because I used five rows of narrower braid rather then four of a wider one, I think that the shaping around the bust darts is far more noticable than on the original.

How the braid placement should look

I made the dress longer than the illustration, but now that I know that it it destined to always be worn with thick tights, I might shorten it. The collar feels quite snug by modern standards, although you soon get used to it. But it is very comfortable dress, and I expect it will get a lot of wear. In the autumn!

The finished dress

Sunday, 1 April 2018

'A History of Fashion' - part 2

I first went to see the exhibition A History of Fashion in 100 Objects at the Fashion Museum Bath two years ago. At that point it was still being set up; some exhibits were not yet in place, and others had no information. As a result my post about the exhibition was incomplete. So here, a mere 106 weeks later, is something to fill in some of the gaps!

When I last visited, this case only contained one dress, a silk plush 'aesthetic' dressing gown from the 1880s. The mirrored walls of the display case meant that you could see it from every angle.(Apologies for the rogue reflections in some of these photographs.)

Dressing gown from four angles

The case is now far more tightly filled, but the reflections often still allow you to see front and back. This striped day dress looks to me as though it has come straight out of a Tissot painting.

Cotton gauze day dress, 1874

This later dress is positioned so that you can see the bustle drapery, and also the bodice front panel.

Ribbed silk bustle dress, 1886

Showing the skirt drape and the 'stomacher' effect bodice

This 1890 Worth dress belonged to Mary Chamberlain; the third wife of politician Joseph Chamberlain, and stepmother of Neville.

Grey silk with embroidered net, Worth, 1890

She wore it when she had her portrait painted by Millais.

Portrait of Mary Chamberlain by Sir John Everett Millais, 1891. Image © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Clearly I am just slow on the uptake, because when I first saw this next dress I wondered what was so special about it. . .

Silk satin dress, 1900

. . . and then I wondered why there was an embroidered wrap lying on the floor next to it.

Beautiful embroidery, but why is it displayed there?

Eventually it dawned that the two pieces are, literally, connected. The photograph of two debutantes behind the dress should have made it clear; this is a gown for presentation at court. Duh!

Court gown, Welborn of Regent Street

A different kind of white dress is displayed nearby.

Embroidered and beaded wedding dress, Lucile, 1908

According to the exhibition notes, court dressmakers such as Welborn were the London equivalent of Paris couturiers. However they did not limit themselves to court dress. This Fancy Dress costume on the theme of 'fire' was made by another court dressmaker, Reville and Rossiter. The beaded dress to the right is by Paquin.

Silk fancy dress outfit and beaded silk evening dress, both 1927

As with the earlier sections of the exhibition, it's not just about clothing. There are accessories on display as well.

Silk shoes, Hellstern and Sons, 1930s

Also from the 1930s, it's back to white dresses with this stunning bias-cut number. I was just in awe of the way it is cut, the dart placement, the drape, the complete lack of wrinkles on the seams - everything really.

Artificial silk evening gown by Donguy of Paris

The second wedding dress on display is very different from the first. This dress was worn by Margaret Allen when she married in 1940.The style of the skirt yoke is very similar to the infamous Dress of Frump, but vastly more successful: it did make me wonder if I should try drafting my own skirt.

Synthetic silk dress, 1940

Margaret Allen, wearing the dress

Continuing the World War II theme is this tweed Utility suit. Next to it is an altogether more opulent jacket, made by Lucien Lelong, which belonged to Vivien Leigh.

Jaeger suit, 1947, and wool crepe appliqué jacket, 1948

The exhibition has clearly been updated a bit since I first saw it in 2016, because the 100th object is the 2017 Dress of the Year. The 'dress' is actually an ensemble from Dior’s Spring-Summer collection, and consists of a white cotton 'We Should All Be Feminists' print T-shirt, along with a black wool jacket and black tulle skirt. In a nice touch, it is displayed alongside a 1947 Dior black wool jacket and skirt, marking 70 years since the launch of the New Look.

A History of Fashion in 100 Objects now runs until 1 January 2019.