Tag Archives: historical costume
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!

September 14, 2009

Dressing "Ophelia"

costumerack Okay, as promised, here is the step-by-step costume demonstration we enjoyed at the Globe Exhibition Saturday with Lindsay as our model! (At left you see the rack of sample costumes from various Globe productions.)

This is Lindsay in the linen chemise with very finely knit stockings (you see Kitty kneeling at right). James is pointing out the fineness of these stockings. Working classes wore very rough, wide-gauge stockings.

This is Lindsay in the linen chemise with very finely knit stockings (you see Kitty kneeling at right). James is pointing out the fineness of these stockings. Working classes wore very rough, wide-gauge stockings.

Kitty and James "cross-garter" Lindsay. This was the best way to secure stockings so they didn't fall down during the day. The garters are long fabric tapes that cross behind the knee and are tied above the knee.

Kitty and James "cross-garter" Lindsay. This was the best way to secure stockings so they didn't fall down during the day. The garters are long fabric tapes that cross behind the knee and are tied above the knee.

Now Lindsay's doeskin shoes are laced on. These are buttery soft and have cutwork on the top.

Now Lindsay's doeskin shoes are laced on. These are buttery soft and have cutwork on the top.

Lindsay has slipped on the corset and waits for Kitty to lace her up.

Lindsay has slipped on the corset and waits for Kitty to lace her up.

"Suck in!"

"Suck in!"

Now we get a back view as Kitty finishes the lacing.

Now we get a back view as Kitty finishes the lacing.

Kitty is tying the Spanish Farthingale to brass-tipped cords hanging from the waistline of the corset. This supports the Farthingale so it doesn't slip down.

Kitty is tying the Spanish Farthingale to brass-tipped cords hanging from the waistline of the corset. This supports the Farthingale so it doesn't slip down.

Time to add the bumroll (or French Farthingale), which gives the skirt its distinctive "pouff" at the hipline.

Time to add the bumroll (or French Farthingale), which gives the skirt its distinctive "pouff" at the hipline.

This is the hand-blocked skirt, which is an exact reproduction of a skirt in the Museum of London.

This is the hand-blocked skirt, which is an exact reproduction of a skirt in the Museum of London.

Over her head goes the skirt...

Over her head goes the skirt...

...and James and Kitty tie it in place as they did the Farthingale.

...and James and Kitty tie it in place as they did the Farthingale.

Lindsay shows off the skirt, front view...

Lindsay shows off the skirt, front view...

...and James turns her around to show the "shelf" created behind by the bumroll.

...and James turns her around to show the "shelf" created behind by the bumroll.

Now the partlet is tied--a little demi-blouse that goes between corset and jacket.

Now the partlet is tied--a little demi-blouse that goes between corset and jacket.

Kitty shows us the jacket before it goes on Lindsay. Note the front ties and contrasting color to match the skirt.

Kitty shows us the jacket before it goes on Lindsay. Note the front ties and contrasting color to match the skirt.

Kitty ties the jacket in front.

Kitty ties the jacket in front.

Lindsay makes an adjustment and turns around to give us the full view...

Lindsay makes an adjustment and turns around to give us the full view...

A shot to give you the jacket front in full...

A shot to give you the jacket front in full...

And all that was missing was the hat! Lindsay has let her hair down as a young girl of Ophelia's age would.

And all that was missing was the hat! Lindsay has let her hair down as a young girl of Ophelia's age would.

Isn't she demure?

Isn't she demure?

Full back view...

Full back view...

And now, what went on must come off...

And now, what went on must come off...

Kitty has the bumroll beneath her arm, so you can see the shape clearly.

Kitty has the bumroll beneath her arm, so you can see the shape clearly.

Untied, the Farthingale slips off over the shift.

Untied, the Farthingale slips off over the shift.

James holds the Farthingale while Kitty unlaces the corset.

James holds the Farthingale while Kitty unlaces the corset.

And, finally, Kitty unties the garters.

And, finally, Kitty unties the garters.

Now you know why ladies of means had servants to dress them! ;) Hope you enjoyed this little jaunt through Tudor fashion. See you again soon!

September 12, 2009

Time slipped away from me…

Well, I had every intention of blogging all about yesterday and today this evening, but it’s 1 a.m. London time, and I’ve just had the most delightful gab-fest in my room with half a dozen other gals, so I’ll have to blog tomorrow night. ;)

I downloaded wonderful Friday photos from Lindsay’s camera, but they’re in the wrong format, so I can’t even give you a sneak peek. So sorry to keep you in suspense! We have had a complete blast, and I look forward to sharing in detail ASAP. In the meantime, here’s a fun shot to tide you over — this one from our tour of Shakespeare’s Globe, where Lindsay got pulled for the costume demonstration, dressing in “Ophelia’s” 100% authentic outfit from the shift out:

dressinglindsay

Wish you were here! I promise longer “postcards” very soon! :)

Warmly,

Jennie

September 9, 2009

Preparing for take-off!

Well, we fly out of New York tomorrow night, so we’re in the last mad dash of packing and preparing here in Alabama. I look forward to sharing this trip with everyone who is following from Facebook and Twitter and my site’s newsletter. Thanks for your kind comments and for tagging along virtually!

Warmly,

Jennie

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July 23, 2009

Counting down to the big fall tour!

england-trip-day-1-london-109I can’t believe we are just seven weeks out from the big historical costuming tour! My husband and I will be leading a group of 23 ladies through a one-week tour of London’s best spots for studying the fashions of history — including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of London, Kensington Palace, the Greenwich Fan Museum, and Shakespeare’s Globe. We’ve also left time in the schedule for visiting the National Portrait Gallery and other wonderful spots all around London Town. It’s going to be fantastic!

I’ll be “live blogging” during our tour, September 10-17, and then again during our weekend extension to Bath for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival. Stay tuned for lots of wonderful photos by our group photographer, Lindsay Keen of Deep South Images.

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