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September 10, 2013

Off to England!

Jane AustenI’m headed to the UK to lead this year’s Historical Fashion Tour. My group will be in Bath for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival, then in Winchester and London. You can follow us over on my Facebook page, where I’ll be posting pictures and insights from the trip.

Come along with us for a virtual tour of England and all things Jane and historical fashion!

September 24, 2010

Last Day in London…

This has been a week to be remembered! I am especially pleased that my mother got to come along on this year’s tour. She hadn’t been back to England since 1994, and we were able to visit dear friends on Tuesday. First we had a nice visit with my friend Sarah in Dulwich:

Sarah and I have corresponded for years and love to meet up whenever we can…

My girls loved playing with new friends as “Grammie” looked on…

We even cajoled Jenny into coming along for the visit. Here she entertains my littlest one…

After returning to our hotel, we met up Tuesday evening with my late father’s British co-author and his wife, whom I haven’t seen since I was 16 years old! It was a wonderful reunion. So our visit drew to a close at last. Wednesday morning I tied up loose ends by running a few errands nearby. This area of London feels like a second home to me now. The streets are so familiar, and it’s fun to know what is around each corner. It’s like visiting an old and well-loved neighborhood from childhood and finding it just as inviting as ever. I do love Kensington!

Six of us shared a taxi to Heathrow Wednesday morning (which is a real deal if you have a group of people traveling together–cheaper than using the express from Paddington). Because of Mom’s knee surgeries, she got the royal treatment from Heathrow staff, riding in her own “chariot” and enjoying the use of the comfortable Special Assistance Lounge while we waited for our gate to open:

Mom entertains the baby as we wait for our flight…

Heathrow’s refurbished Terminal 4 is like a palatial mall filled with shops, restaurants, and bookish corners. Our wait went by so swiftly, and we were boarding before we knew it. The flight back to the US was uneventful, and we’re glad to be back home and recovering from jet-lag. I came home to find six emails from people wanting to go on a future tour, and several of this year’s participants already say they’d like to go again. We’ll just have to wait and see how things work out! I’ll be sure to post here if we plan another jaunt across the Pond.

Thanks so much for following this year’s trip and leaving fun comments. It has been lovely to share this journey with you!

September 23, 2010

Monday in London

We were once again greeted by the sun as we rose to meet the day. Truly, the weather this trip was nothing short of spectacular. The temperature was neither too warm nor too chilly, and we had a lovely breeze all day. After a yummy breakfast at our hotel, we headed to the Gloucester Road underground station for our journey to St. Paul’s and walk to the Museum of London. Just as the tube was pulling into Holborne station where we’d change lines for St. Paul’s, the loudspeaker announced that Holborne had just been closed! So I did some rapid rethinking and decided we’d switch to another line at the next stop to disembark at Barbican. It would be an equal distance to the museum from that point, but we’d be a tad bit later due to the longer tube ride. Ah, the joys of the London Underground! We did manage to arrive just a few minutes past ten a.m. to find Suzi awaiting us in the museum’s main hall with curator Hilary Davidson on her way upstairs. Dividing our group in half, we sent a bunch downstairs with Hilary while the rest of us toured the new ground-floor exhibit hall. It is absolutely incredible–better, I think, than the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History (the MoL’s displays are far more child-friendly and so nicely laid out). Here’s my photo tour:

18th-century court dress on display. A screen next to it showed a video of a woman wearing all the proper underpinnings of the era and moving gracefully about to demonstrate "courtly" movement. It was lovely!

Close-up of the court dress bodice--stunning!

18th- and 19th-century shoes on display in a floor case. There were several floor cases in the exhibit, many showing things that have been dug up during excavations around London.

Close-up of another floor case--this one filled with China that has been dug up at various London sites.

Another gorgeous 18th-century dress on display...

And a close-up of the bodice and sleeves...

18th-century officer's "red coat" uniform. The embroidery work was so intricate.

Off the gallery’s opening display is a room dedicated to fashion. It is a recreation of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a famous place where social climbers and royally connected people once mingled and showed off their taste. The historical clothing is behind glass and rather difficult to photograph due to the low lighting designed to protect the garments. The lighting does cycle up to brighter several times a day, but, unfortunately, we were shoo’ed out to make way for a school group before we got the good lighting. You’ll just have to put up with my attempt at low-light photography here! Later in the morning I saw some photographs in the costume workroom that showed how this exhibit was designed. Live people were put into costume (reproduction–not the real thing) and “blocked” just as though they were in a stage play. After trying out several arrangements of people, the final display model was photographed from several angles so those setting up the final exhibit would know where to place mannequins. It was really fascinating to see how this was done.

1780s gown in the display...

Close-up of the gown...

Amazing embroidered man's suit...

Outside the glass cases were several reproduction outfits for up-close inspection. This girl's dress could easily be reproduced with my new 1780s Girls' Portrait Dress pattern!

Original boy's "skeleton" suit.

1780s gown with unique inverted "V" front lacing.

And a close-up...

1780s court dress with unbelievable amounts of trim...

Lovely 1780s gown with sash. My new womens' pattern (coming soon!) will easily reproduce this one...

Close-up of the gown...

Sorry this is so blurry; the lighting was just so low. Gorgeous 1770s gown with long elbow ruffles...

Here's another angle. The underskirt was so ornate with ruffles and embroidery (white on white).

A reproduction costume with an amusing display angle!

And a close-up...

This reproduction is really a fantasy dress when it comes to the fabric, but it was a lot of fun to study up close. The antlered head-dress is one of many outlandish hats designed for this exhibit by the famous milliner, Philip Treacy...

After leaving this exhibit, we went back to the rest of the displays to finish out the hour before our meeting with Hilary. The MoL is extremely child-friendly with hands-on things to do around every corner. My girls had a wonderful time opening secret doors, pressing buttons to turn on lights, trying on hats, and playing with train sets. Well done, MoL!

Peeping into doors and windows in the Georgian London exhibit.

Looking into the London Underground model...

Yet another children's area filled with antique toys and surprises...

An 18th-century bodice on display in another case. Gorgeous fabric!

One entire section of the new gallery is devoted to Victorian storefronts. Here you see my older girls gazing into a London toy shop. They only wished it was open for business!

My 2009 group saw this same lavender dress down in the costume storeroom last year when it was being restored for this display...

A beautiful antique automobile on display in the early 20th-century section...

A selection of Victorian, Edwardian, and 1920s garments on display...

A detail shot of the center dress from that case. The embroidery on the skirt was simply stunning.

A darling 1940s girl's dress on display...

There are several interactive displays like this one in the new gallery. If you touch areas of the table, they come to life with illustrations and descriptions. This table was a map of things near the Thames. My girls loved it!

A lit-up model of St. Paul's on the table...

And the famous London Eye...

We made it through the new gallery in time to enjoy a short refreshment break in the cafe’. Then we traded places with the other half of our group, heading into the treasure room that is the MoL costume storehouse with Hilary. As before, I am not allowed to share any photographs of what we saw, but I can tell you everything was drool-worthy. We enjoyed seeing an unusual 1730s corset, a pair of Queen Victoria’s ball slippers, three 1820s bonnets, a lovely 19-teens evening gown, an 1890s evening gown bodice, and an absolutely breathtaking 1880s evening gown that looked brand new, it was so well-preserved. There were lots of “oohs” and “ahhhs!” as Hilary removed the protective coverings and held things up for our admiration.

After finishing our visit at the MoL, we walked a short distance to the nearby El Vino Alban Gate restaurant for lunch. Joining us was Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, who had brought several vintage pieces for hands-on study. We passed opera cloaks and an 1850s dress around the table while waiting for our meals. El Vino did a fantastic job with our food, which was oh-so-delicious and provided in a timely manner (no small feat for a group this large!). Hilary joined us, so we all got in a delightful visit, sharing costume stories and swapping history. It was wonderful fun. Cathy didn’t bring anything for dress-up this time, as we didn’t have room enough for trying anything on. Maybe next time…!

Cathy shows off one of her beautiful opera cloaks...

After lunch, our group divided up once again, some ladies going with Suzi to the Museum of Childhood to meet with Noreen, the curator of the costume collection there. The rest of us had tickets for the special Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A, so we said good-bye to Suzi and dashed back to the tube at St. Paul’s, glad to find that Holborne station was open once again so we could take a shorter trip to the museum. The Grace Kelly exhibit contained several of her film costumes but focused mainly on her life as Princess of Monaco. I was disappointed that the Philadelphia Museum of Art had not loaned Grace Kelly’s wedding gown to the exhibit, as I’ve always wanted to see it. I also wished there had been a wider representation of her film costumes, but it was still delightful to see what was on display:

An outfit from "To Catch a Thief"

Another beautiful film dress...

I believe this dress is from Grace Kelly's trousseau, but I'll have to double-check my book to be sure...

Low lighting made it very difficult to photograph much in this exhibit–especially the hats and accessories. It was also crowded to the gills with visitors, so I didn’t get a whole lot of good pictures. Oh, well! After finishing up at the V&A, I took my daughters back to the hotel to await the rest of the group. They began to trickle in around 5:30, most of them ready for an evening’s performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Shakespeare’s Globe. Because my mother had never seen the Globe or attended a performance, I got a ticket for her this year. I was sorry to miss out on the performance, which is a yearly highlight, but I am tickled pink Mom got to go. Christopher Benjamin (who played Sir William Lucas in the A&E “Pride & Prejudice”) performed as Falstaff to great critical acclaim. With everyone off to the Globe or out to eat, I took my girls on a little jaunt to Fortnum & Mason, where I knew they’d be astonished at the beauty of the displays (chandeliers in a grocery store?!). We’d hoped to grab supper at the delightful Parlour, but they’d closed up early that night. Instead, we walked down Piccadilly, looking for an interesting place to stop. My middle daughter stopped me suddenly with a “Mommy, look!” so I turned to see what she was pointing at. Next to us was an adorable restaurant called “Cilantro,” just begging us to come in and take a seat:

Colorful and comfy--my kind of eatery!

As we walked through the door, we were immediately greeted by someone at the counter. I asked if they were closing up (it was already 7:30), but he said they didn’t close until 8pm and invited us to come and take a seat. A huge selection of sandwiches and drinks awaited us behind the counter, but the waiter urged us to get comfortable so he could show us menus and take care of us. We were waited upon with such friendly service that we felt right at home and knew this was going to be a real treat. My girls ordered spaghetti bolognese, while I got a chicken and tomato panini.

Mmmmm!

Baby Girl is obviously enjoying her supper!

The whole atmosphere of Cilantro is cheerful and restful with lots of books around that customers are free to browse while they wait. We dove into our food, which was delicious and inexpensive (another plus!). After finishing up, an obliging waiter told us about the dessert selections, leaving our mouths watering in anticipation.

Can she eat the entire fudge cake alone? Oh, yes, she can!

A splendid hazelnut chocolate mini-cake for me. Heavenly!

Looking back toward the front of the cafe' with its cases full of tempting food.

It is always a delight to find a new favorite place in London. I thanked my daughter for pointing this one out. If you’re anywhere near 193 Piccadilly, be sure to stop by. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The food is fantastic, the prices are right, and the staff is incomparable. We left satisfied and happy with our special evening out. After returning to our hotel, I put the girls to bed and waited up for the group from the Globe. They came back bubbling over with excitement at the evening’s performance, leaving me quite envious. It is something not to be missed if you ever have the chance.

And so the 2010 England Tour officially ended. We couldn’t believe how quickly our week had gone by. I said good-byes to several ladies Monday night, as they had early flights. We departed friends, and I know we’ll all stay in touch. I’ll finish up later with one last post to tie everything together. So many good memories!

September 23, 2010

Sunday Night’s London “Dash!”

We drove from Lacock Village straight to our hotel in Kensington, encountering a bit of traffic on the last few miles into the city. That put us at Gloucester Street around ten ’til 6pm. We quickly unloaded the coach and bade farewell to our excellent driver, who had spoiled us all week with his expert driving and amazing ability to get our entire group into tiny places. We knew we were going to miss him! We also said a short good-bye to Suzi, who headed home for the evening. She would rejoin us the next morning at the Museum of London.

Westminster in the twilight--my favorite hour in London!

I had promised to do an evening “dash” around my favorite places in London with any ladies willing to get their walking shoes out and keep up the pace. So after checking in and stowing our bags, a group of us headed out of the hotel for the Gloucester Road tube station to commence our little expedition. Our first stop was the St. James’s Park underground station. We hopped out and walked the short distance down to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, stopping just long enough to take a few pictures. You will have to forgive mine here — they are definitely “impressionist” views of evening London, as I am no expert with this new-fangled camera and all its settings…nor do I have the ability to hold my breath through long shutter exposures! ;-) As you can see, the sun had set, and the amazing blue of the evening sky made a breathtaking backdrop for the cathedral.

A closer view of Westminster....

Another view around the side of Westminster Abbey...

The clock tower across the way -- home to the "Big Ben" bell...

The tallest tower above the Houses of Parliament...

We continued down past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I missed my first turn back up toward St. James’s Park and took us on a two-block “detour” (oops!), but we enjoyed navigating through some pretty and quiet side streets before once again hitting St. James’s Park and turning north towards Buckingham Palace. At this point, Jenny, Nancy, and Stephanie had to bid us adieu and rush back down to Westminster Bridge to cross over to the London Eye, as they had tickets for a ride at 8:30pm. The rest of us forged onwards, skipping walking through the darkening park and instead skirting ’round it to reach the palace.

Buckingham Palace by night with the Victoria Memorial all lit up in front...

Just to prove they'd been there! Five of my seven ladies pose in front of the palace...

We now turned our steps eastwards, walking down the Mall along the perimeter of St. James’s Park, passing the Horse Guards, then going through Marble Arch to reach Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, I never managed to get a clear photo of the famous Nelson Memorial in the dark! We walked across the street to grab a bite to eat at Pret a’ Manger before continuing towards Charing Cross Station. After passing the station, we turned right to head back downhill towards Embankment. There we turned northeast to follow the Thames around to St. Paul’s. With the dome in sight, dear Karen decided her feet had had enough and asked directions back to our hotel. I pointed back to Westminster and explained how to grab the tube at Westminster station for Gloucester Road. So now we were whittled down to six ladies and yours truly. The walk along the Thames to St. Paul’s is a long one, but it affords a marvelous view of the London skyline, the Eye, the Tate Modern, and Shakespeare’s Globe.

The skyline along the Thames with the London Eye...

So we kept putting one foot in front of the other, headed towards the goal of the beautiful domed cathedral in the distance. It was a fun walk as we chatted and shared tid-bits about London’s history. We ended at the foot of the Millennium Bridge, where we climbed up the stairs to finish the walk uphill to St. Paul’s:

Part of my group walking up towards St. Paul's...

The front of St. Paul's all lit up at night...

The majestic front of St. Paul's with the statue of Queen Anne looking over the city...

We walked around the front of the church to head back toward the St. Paul’s underground station, stopping for a moment to snap some pictures of Temple Bar, one of the older entrance gates into the city of London. It was dismantled in the 19th century and sold when it became impractical for modern vehicular traffic. It ended up languishing in a forgotten garden before the City of London purchased it back and erected on this spot in 2004:

Temple Bar at the entrance to Paternoster Square...

After boarding the tube at St. Paul’s station, we disembarked once again at Piccadilly Circus. I wanted the ladies to be able to say they had seen it at night. To me, it’s more of a very scaled-down Times Square and meant for tourists, but it’s still fun to see. We then boarded the tube for our home station at Gloucester Street, where I snapped the final photo of the night:

Time to rest our feet!

It was such a fun “dash” — nearly two hours of walking a good part of London in good company. Let’s do it again sometime! I promised the ladies I’d create a map to show all the ground we covered, so here it is:

The solid blue lines represent our walking path; the dashed lines show where we traveled underground on the tube.

Next time I’ll talk about our last day together in London on Monday. So hard to believe how quickly the week flew by!

September 25, 2009

Wednesday in Greenwich

Our entire group got up early to head to beautiful Greenwich for our day there. Most of us wore full Regency ensembles and took pictures against various period backdrops, including the famous Colonnade at the Royal Naval College (used in numerous costume dramas, including the recent “Little Dorrit,” where it served as the “Cirumlocution Office”).

Fan Museum entrance

Fan Museum entrance

Our chief goal this day was to visit the Fan Museum, splitting up into two smaller groups to fit into the two connected Georgian houses that contain the collection.The museum is privately owned and includes fans of all kinds, including ones of carved ivory that defy belief (the detailing is so fine, they look like lace). The history of fan making is clearly illustrated throughout the exhibits, and there is even a fan on display that contains a painted image of a fan “factory” with various workstations showing the steps that went into making a hand-painted silk fan. There were artists’ guilds (begun in Paris) that were dedicated solely to fans. In fact, artists who painted fans were forbidden to paint other works of art for sale or display! To get around this, many would paint a fan-shaped work of art, then fill in the details in the corners so that the painting was technically fan artwork but never cut or folded into an actual fan. There are a few of these framed and on display in the museum. Themes included not only the usual cherubs and classical Greco-Roman scenes but also historical events like royal weddings. One fan in the collection has over 1,500 tiny diamonds set into the ivory guard (the outermost layer of the fan that you see when the fan is folded)! All in all, the amount of work that went into these creations was astonishing. What’s even more amazing is how beautifully they have survived the years of handling (though many were never used but kept as mementos).

Flowers in the front courtyard of the Fan Museum

Flowers in the front courtyard of the Fan Museum.

COMING SOON: Shots of some of the amazing fans in the museum’s display cases (just waiting on Lindsay to get me the pix in proper format!)

While the morning group was touring the museum, the rest of us visited the Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College (where Lord Nelson was laid out in state after his death in the Battle of Trafalgar). Lindsay took this shot of me in the upper part of the hall:

img_1503Here’s a shot of a bunch of us gathered in the Colonnade near the chapel (you see the matching Colonnade of the Painted Hall in the background):

Left to right: Amy, Katrina, Me, Wendy, Cassie, Courtney, Catherine, Abigail, and Ana.

Left to right: Amy, Katrina, Me, Wendy, Cassie, Courtney, Catherine, Abigail, and Ana.

It was a little blustery, so we needed our shawls and Spencers, even though the sun was bright and beautiful. You wouldn’t believe how many times we were stopped by people wanting to know if a film was being shot that day! One large group of Italian tourists exclaimed over our group and asked their guide if we were movie stars. The guide (who alone spoke English out of the group) passed their inquiry along, and when one of our ladies told her we were just shooting pictures in period dress, she responded, “Well, I am going to tell them you are movie stars anyway; it will make them very happy!” We all got a chuckle out of that!

I am sitting in the Colonnade with the Painted Hall visible in the background.

I am sitting in the Colonnade with the Painted Hall visible in the background.

The Queen's House is in the background at the end of the Colonnade.

The Queen's House is in the background at the end of the Colonnade.

After touring around the Naval College, we made our way over to the Maritime Museum and Queen’s House, which are basically across the street and through a large park. The layout of the Naval College was designed by Sir Christopher Wren to perfectly frame the Queen’s House and create a  symmetrical view with the river unobstructed from the Queen’s House. You can best appreciate this when you stand in the middle of the grounds between the Painted Hall and the Royal Naval College Chapel and look toward the Queen’s House. A colonnade runs between the Queen’s House and the Maritime Museum, and exactly centered between the two is the Royal Naval Observatory, up on the hill beyond. It’s really striking. In this picture, you see some of our ladies preparing for portraits against the idyllic backdrop of the Royal Naval Observatory and park under the Queen’s House Colonnade. We had gusts of wind to deal with, but the portraits Lindsay took really turned out beautifully. Below is yet another gratuitous pregnancy shot of yours truly taken in the colonnade!

img_1743And here are ladies waiting patiently for their turn to be photographed:

Left to right: Courtney, Molly, Cassie

Left to right: Courtney, Molly, Cassie

And here’s Catherine in her stunning ensemble (I had a real case of Spencer envy when I saw the deep midnight blue velvet!):

102_1246At the very end of our little photo session, one of the guards from the Queen’s House came to shoo us off, insisting that it was illegal to photograph at this location without prior written permission from the royal household! He said that all locations belonging to the queen are copyrighted and cannot be used in photographs. We explained that we weren’t taking pictures for publication–only for personal use–and he replied that it didn’t matter in the least. We were not allowed to stand in the colonnade and shoot pictures. If we wanted to step out into the grass, we could use it as a backdrop, but we couldn’t physically stand upon it and take pictures! This sounded highly illogical to me, and when I later repeated this story to a native, I was told it was a bunch of poppycock and that no locations “belong to the queen” or are forbidden to photographers. Tourists shoot the Queen’s House every day, just as they do Buckingham Palace and Windsor Palace. She said that perhaps the guard thought we were shooting a commercial or something for publication, in which case we would need permission — but we were definitely within our rights as tourists! We’d already finished at any rate, so we took ourselves off while the guard clucked and tsked. ;)

102_1251After a quick lunch, we swapped places with the morning group and toured the Fan Museum. Afterwards, the entire group reconvened in the museum’s beautiful Orangerie, which opens onto a fan-shaped garden to the rear. It was heavenly! At right you see a photo of the room all laid out for us, including beautiful dried rose centerpieces, pink and white linens, and fabulously painted walls and ceilings. It really is an outstanding location. We were joined by Suzi once again, and then our surprise guest, Jema Hewitt of Bridal Originals, shared her amazing portfolio of original creations with us. Jema specializes in bespoke wedding garments for men and women with no two designs alike. Her clients have had everything from medieval to Regency weddings and just about anything in between. Jema designed and made the outfit she wore to our tea as well, including a stunning gold dupioni silk Spencer jacket with Swarovski crystal buttons! The gown beneath was made of a royal blue Indian sari with gold trim.

Enjoying a scrumptious tea...

Enjoying a scrumptious tea...

Sarah looks like she's enjoying her tea!

Sarah looks like she's having a lovely time!

Cari clowns with the table centerpiece... She kept us in stitches the entire tour!

Cari clowns with the table centerpiece... She kept us in stitches the entire tour!

Admiring Jema's work as her portfolio pages go 'round the room...

Admiring Jema's work as her portfolio pages go 'round the room...

Catherine studies a photo...

Elegant Catherine studies a photo...

Becca demonstrates her expertise with a fan...

Becca demonstrates her expertise with a fan...

I'm looking at one of Jema's creations; Karen listens intently...

I'm looking at one of Jema's creations; Karen listens intently...

After an absolutely delicious tea (in which the treats just kept coming until we could hold no more), we all gathered in the garden courtyard for a group photo:

Front row: Lily, Catherine, Jema, Becca, Aylwen, Bethany, Ana, Sarah, Me, Suzette, Ashley, Katrina. Back row: Wendy, Amanda, Cari, Celeste, Kristin, Courtney, Molly, Elizabeth, Cassie, Abbe, Amy, Karen.

Front row: Lily, Catherine, Jema, Becca, Aylwen, Bethany, Ana, Sarah, Me, Suzette, Ashley, Katrina. Back row: Wendy, Amanda, Cari, Celeste, Kristin, Courtney, Molly, Elizabeth, Cassie, Abbe, Amy, Karen.

And here’s a shot of our lovely photographer, Lindsay:

img_1926At last we persuaded Lindsay to get into a group shot with the rest of us, and my wonderful husband took pictures with multiple cameras:

Jack of all trades!

Jack of all trades!

This was an absolutely delightful end to our London tour, and we headed back to our hotel brimful of stories and pictures from the day and the week preceding. It was sad to bid farewell to seven of our group members that night, as they prepared for their early morning flight. Those of us staying on for Bath really missed them during our extension! Next time I’ll share about our trip to bath via Jane Austen’s house in Chawton!

September 20, 2009

Dress-up Day at Kensington Palace…

As I mentioned in my last post, Cathy Hay brought a surprise show-and-tell outfit with her to share with the ladies. When she opened her large suitcase and pulled it out, Cassie began fanning herself like she was about to swoon! Turns out she’d been following Cathy’s live journal of the recreation of this stunning outfit, and when Cathy asked for a volunteer model, Cassie immediately waved her hand enthusiastically. Because she was also very close to the same height and build as Cathy, it was a perfect match!

Since we weren’t in a place that had a dressing room, Cassie couldn’t put on the chemise and go quite whole hog, but you can see below that she tried everything else, much to our delight:

First, on goes the flounced petticoat (dripping with gorgeous Nottingham lace)...

First, on goes the flounced petticoat (dripping with gorgeous Nottingham lace)...

Next, the beautiful corset goes 'round the waist...

Next, the beautiful corset goes 'round the waist...

And Cathy laces it up...

And Cathy laces it up...

Then the incredible skirt with hand-applied oak leaves over Duchesse satin...

Then the incredible skirt with hand-applied oak leaves over Duchesse satin...

Closer view of the amazing skirt...

Closer view of the amazing skirt...

On with the bodice...

On with the bodice...

Closer view (you can see how pleased Cassie is!)

Closer view (you can see how pleased Cassie is!)

Cathy has fastened the intricate hooks and eyes, and Cassie dons the gloves...

Cathy has fastened the intricate hooks and eyes, and Cassie dons the gloves...

...and buttons them up.

...and buttons them up.

Now she sweeps 'round the room to give us all the complete view...

Now Cassie sweeps 'round the room to give us all the complete view...

The ladies all enjoy drooling over details...

The ladies all enjoy drooling over details...

Look at that train!

Look at that train!

Detail view of the oak leaf motifs -- and, yes, Cathy hand-applied all 420!

Detail view of the oak leaf motifs -- and, yes, Cathy hand-applied all 420!

We turn up the hem to see the first layer with pleated ruffle beneath...

We turn up the hem to see the first layer with pleated ruffle beneath...

And the inner layer with oodles of flounce for fullness.

And the inner layer with oodles of flounce for fullness.

Cassie goes out into the long Orangerie hall for the runway effect. Stunning!

Cassie goes out into the long Orangerie hall for the runway effect. Stunning!

Cassie, having reluctantly returned the ensemble, thanks Cathy. Oh, what fun!

Then, having reluctantly returned the ensemble, she thanks Cathy. Oh, what fun!

Thank you, thank you to Cathy Hay for coming down all the way from Nottingham to share with our group and let us all handle her “Holy Grail outfit.” She asked how many of us have these–the one amazing costume we want to accomplish before we die. Lots of hands up around the room! And we all left inspired to tackle those dream projects.

After our delicious lunch at the Orangerie, we headed out into the pouring rain for the Museum of London, where we were able to spend an hour at a private study table with costume curator Hilary Davidson, seeing extant garments up close. Unfortunately, only private study photographs were allowed — nothing I am permitted to post! Only wish you could have been there to see the 1780s gown of hand-embroidered and tamboured India muslin, the 1820 pelisse, a doll’s Regency stays, a to-die-for Edwardian tea gown, and more!

Next time I’ll share about our Wednesday in Greenwich!

September 19, 2009

Tuesday Morning at Kensington Palace

All right, I am going to try to play catch-up now! We woke up to a very rainy, soggy day in London town on Tuesday. Fortunately, our plans were all indoors with Kensington Palace and the Museum of London, so the ladies grabbed their umbrellas and headed out. I’d walked so much the day before that I stayed in for the morning. All these lovely photos are from Lindsay.

Late 18-teens portrait in the entrance room of Kensington Palace

Late 18-teens portrait in the entrance room of Kensington Palace

This is a dress from "The Last Debutantes" exhibit, which showcases gowns, shoes, gloves, and more donated by the last debutantes to be presented to the queen in the 1950s.

This is a dress from "The Last Debutantes" exhibit, which showcases gowns, shoes, gloves, and more donated by the last debutantes to be presented to the queen in the 1950s.

Another lovely gown from The Last Debutantes. This exhibit had film exhibits showing how to make a proper courtesy to a sovereign, how to dance (including steps marked on the floor), and how a proper royal table would have been set.

Another lovely gown from The Last Debutantes. This exhibit had film exhibits showing how to make a proper courtesy to a sovereign, how to dance (including steps marked on the floor), and how a proper royal table would have been set.

Ceiling of the great reception room.

Ceiling of the great reception room.

Cradle used by Princess Victoria (who grew up in Kensington Palace).

Cradle used by Princess Victoria (who grew up in Kensington Palace).

Princess Victoria's bedroom...

Princess Victoria's bedroom...

The Red Room (it's actually just a hallway to another room!)

The King's Gallery, which is hung with royal portraits.

Court dress worn by a gentleman in the 18th or early 19th century. (Court dress stayed the same for a looooong time -- very formal.)

Court dress worn by a gentleman in the 18th or early 19th century. (Court dress stayed the same for a looooong time -- very formal.)

Close-up of pocket to show the embroidery detail...

Close-up of pocket to show the embroidery detail...

Breathtaking court gown shot with silver threads...

Breathtaking court gown shot with silver threads...

And the back view...

And the back view...

Close-up of the stomacher

Close-up of the stomacher

Sleeve front detail

Sleeve front detail

Detail of back of sleeve...

Detail of back of sleeve...

The ladies all had a fantastic time going through the palace with Suzi. In the meantime, I had arrived at Kensington’s Orangery to greet our surprise luncheon guest, the talented Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d! Cathy brought along an amazing goody to share with us that involved another dress-up model demonstration, but I will share that in the next post, as I have SO many photos! You can see my pictures of the Orangery in an earlier post, but here are a couple more of our group gathering for a delicious lunch:

Rebecca, Bethany, Suzette, and Ashley...

Rebecca, Bethany, Suzette, and Ashley...

Me talking with Jema and Suzi

Me talking with Cathy and Suzi

And a photo of our first course:

Smoked salmon with cabbage and mandarin oranges -- delicious!

Smoked salmon with cabbage and mandarin oranges -- delicious!

Well, next time I’ll share the beautiful dress-up photos from Kensington and tell you about our time in the Museum of London’s fashion collection. For now, I must retire so I’ll be ready to head out to church in Bradford-upon-Avon in the morning!

September 17, 2009

What I love about "hidden" London…

Lindsay is still formatting photos for me (bless her!), so I’m going to share some snaps I took today in the High Street Kensington area. I absolutely love to get off the main thoroughfares and just “poke” around to see what I can find. There’s a tiny alleyway called Kensington Church Walk that you’d miss if you sneezed, but it is well worth finding. It’s right off the main High Street and meanders back in such a way that all the busy hustle and bustle of the busy street is completely hushed. Around the first corner you find this beautiful church:

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There is a beautiful gated garden all around this church with a quiet, shaded courtyard filled with roses. I didn’t manage to snap that, as there was a police van temporarily parked in front of the gate–rats. So I wended my way around the church and up a tiny alley filled with shops. At the end was this adorable house, the upper balcony just packed with flowers:

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I turned to the left and followed the street down to the next alleyway, where I discovered a hidden garden (public access, but you’d never know it was there unless you stumbled upon it like I did!):

This spot was so quiet you'd never believe you were in the middle of a metropolis.

This spot was so quiet you'd never believe you were in the middle of a metropolis.

I finally turned down a “Mews” (which is where stables of horses and carriages were kept in prior centuries):

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It really was a delightful way to eat up an hour’s time before lunch today. I had hoped to stumble into an antique bookstore that used to be here, but I never found it. I lunched on caprese salad and mushroom soup instead, then headed back to our hotel. Lovely!

September 17, 2009

A peek at Tuesday…

Well, our day in Greenwich yesterday was so full that we just came back and collapsed, sleeping in this morning. So I obviously didn’t do any blogging. I did manage to go through photos with Lindsay, but she hasn’t had a chance to convert them from “raw” format to JPEG, so you’ll just have to wait to see all the yummy pictures from Kensington Palace and the Museum of London!

However, I did snap a few things with my own little camera, so here is a taste just to hold you over:

The famous sunken garden behind Kensington Palace (you see the palace in the background)

The famous sunken garden behind Kensington Palace (you see the palace in the background)

Another view of the garden, which was dormant when I was here in March...

Another view of the garden, which was dormant when I was here in March...

Some of our ladies seated for luncheon in the palace Orangery -- a beautiful, window-filled hall with high ceilings.

Some of our ladies seated for luncheon in the palace Orangery -- a beautiful, window-filled hall with high ceilings.

This is the sculpture in the center of our private end room, which was circular and let us all see each other during lunch.

This is the sculpture in the center of our private end room, which was circular and let us all see each other during lunch.

Finally, here’s a little peek into what we did yesterday in Greenwich. This is a group of us in the Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College:

Snapping pictures of one another in full costume!

Snapping pictures of one another in full costume!

Yes, the majority of us spent the entire day in full costume (mostly Regency with a couple of Romantic and Edwardian thrown in for good measure!). We used the Royal Naval College as our backdrop for some stunning portraits Lindsay took of the ladies. When I share some pictures later, you should recognize the colonnade and chapel of the RNC, as they have been used in a large number of BBC costume dramas (including the recent “Little Dorrit”).

I promise to do my best to get pictures up tonight! I’m spending the morning relaxing while my husband and son go to the British Museum and Parliament. Several other ladies have popped off to the Tower. We bade farewell to seven of our ladies last night, and my husband saw them off this morning at 5:30 a.m., bless him! The rest of us will miss them when we head on to Bath tomorrow!

September 15, 2009

Monday Museum Madness!

Admiring tiny ivory carvings in the sculpture gallery above the medieval plaster cast gallery.

Admiring tiny ivory carvings in the sculpture gallery above the medieval plaster cast gallery.

We had an absolutely wonderful morning at the Victoria & Albert Museum, right here in South Kensington. We had a bit of trouble finding my friend, costumier Suzi Clarke, as we came in from the tube tunnel rather than Cromwell Road, so we took a little side detour into the sculpture gallery. Once we managed to find Suzi, we immediately launched into the costuming-focused displays. Instead of going straight into the fashion gallery, though, we took a side detour into the Asian Textiles exhibit, which had several gorgeous gowns made of India muslin and block printed Indian cotton:

A 1780s gown with tabbed bodice over petticoat -- made of scrumptious block-printed Indian cotton.

A 1780s gown with tabbed bodice over petticoat -- made of scrumptious block-printed Indian cotton.

Close-up view of the tabs...

Close-up view of the tabs...

Yet another block-printed 1780s gown, this one with a simpler pointed front (the front closes with pins, which go into the stays and don't stick the wearer!).

Yet another block-printed 1780s gown, this one with a simpler pointed front (the front closes with pins, which go into the stays and don't stick the wearer!).

Close-up of the bodice front...

Close-up of the bodice front...

Side view to show the back silhouette...

Side view to show the back silhouette...

Detail of the wonderful printed cotton...

Detail of the wonderful printed cotton...

Regency gown of tamboured India muslin

Regency gown of tamboured India muslin

Close-up of the tambouring on the bodice...

Close-up of the tambouring on the bodice...

And sleeve detail -- look at that design!

And sleeve detail -- look at that design!

Here is the "sister" dress to the first two block-printed gowns. This one has a jacket with tabbed front and flounce around the hips.

Here is the "sister" dress to the first two block-printed gowns. This one has a jacket with tabbed front and flounce around the hips.

Close-up of the tabs crossing over the plain stomacher...

Close-up of the tabs crossing over the plain stomacher...

Sleeve detail (I tell you, folks, we were all drooling buckets by now! ;) )

img_0828We moved on into the main fashion gallery, where Suzi and I took a seat in the center. Everyone else enjoyed wandering through the exhibit, photographing and sketching. Several came back to our central point with questions, which called for Suzi’s expert analysis and years of costuming wisdom — what a treat to have such a fantastic guide! Lindsay continued to shoot photos as we talked. She apologizes for the dimness of some of these, but lighting is deliberately kept low to prevent fading of the fabrics, so getting clear shots is a bit of a challenge.

Painted silk saque-back gown ca. 1770s...

Painted silk saque-back gown ca. 1770s...

Detail of the back...

Detail of the back...

Another painted silk--this one a jacket over a skirt and petticoat...

Embroidered silk--this one a jacket over a skirt and petticoat...

A set of stays from the 1780s. I loved the tabbed waistline on these.

A set of stays from the 1780s. I love the tabbed waistline on these.

We next attempted to get up into the Textile Room, which is buried in a far back corner of the third floor. The V&A is almost as confusing to navigate as the British Museum because of staircases that only go to every other floor with “half floors” in between in many places. We managed to get from two to four but couldn’t find our way to three without going through the British Galleries. However, these are some of my absolute favorite galleries to visit (one on the second floor and one on the fourth). I highly recommend them if you visit the V&A, as they are filled with beautiful portraits, furniture, and, yes, many historical garments (including James II’s wedding suit!). We tried our best to hurry through to the Textile Room, but it was like herding reluctant cats to get 24 people all heading in one direction! ;) I didn’t mind. I know how distracting these galleries are, and there is so much to photograph (to see pictures of what’s here, check my posts from 2006).

We did finally make it up to the Textile Room, where frame after frame of fabric, embroidery, lace, and such awaits the eager student of fashion. Here are just a couple of things we pulled from the upright files:

Embroidered 18th-century stomacher

Embroidered 18th-century stomacher

And here's another one...

And here's another one...

You could spend absolute days in here, poring over beautifully preserved examples from the 1600s onward. But we began to run short on time, as half our group was headed to Suzi’s after lunch to view her private collection! So we all gathered for a delicious luncheon in the V&A Cafe’, which is one of the finest museum cafes anywhere with hot and cold dishes prepared by expert chefs. Some of our ladies continued to explore exhibits, while those going to Suzi’s headed to the tube.

Suzi's delicious tea spread, ready for our ladies!

Suzi's delicious tea spread, ready for our ladies!

Suzi shows off one of her Worth bodices.

Suzi shows off one of her Worth bodices.

And here's another beautiful one in turquoise silk...

And here's another beautiful one in turquoise silk...

And a Victorian bodice...

And a Victorian bodice...

I’m speeding through highlights only in this post. We have hundreds upon hundreds of photos from yesterday! Wish I could share them all, but it’s just hit midnight here, and we’re heading to Greenwich at 8:15am to the Fan Museum! I’ll post about today’s fun tomorrow night.

Here are two final photos from yesterday — these of some of our ladies waiting in line at the Globe Theater for the evening performance of “As You Like It.”

Carilyn, Cassie, and Amanda, hamming it up and having fun.

Carilyn, Cassie, and Amanda, hamming it up and having fun.

Two mother-daughter pairs and one of our Aussies...

Two mother-daughter pairs and one of our Aussies...

All but three of us opted for “Groundlings” tickets, which means standing room right around the stage — really the best view in the house. Being rather pregnant myself, I opted for a seat in the second tier right at the railing, renting a cushion to sit upon! ;) We thoroughly enjoyed the play, complete with spectacular costuming as usual. Wish I could share photos, but no photography is allowed during performances. You’ll just have to come over here and get to the Globe yourself!

See you tomorrow!

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