Archive for July, 2008

The Mystery-Puzzle Dress of Bath!

I was in Bath at the end of last week for an appointment in the stores of the Fashion Museum collection (from which I was able to basically draft a pattern for the set of stays I’ll do – wheeee!!!!). I decided to go for a couple of days to do some other sight-seeing too, and let me just say: Sooooooooooooooooo beautiful!!!!!!!!!! The place looks frozen in time c. 1800-1810. And the surrounding landscape is idyllic.








As a Jane Austen dork, I could not help going to the Jane Austen Centre there and taking the tour.  They had an exhibit from the recent BBC (I think) production “Miss Austen Regrets” of costumes and some period artifacts.  One of the period pieces was a dress with a very interesting recent history:

The story with this dress is that it was apparently recently given to a woman who is interested in costume and fashion history.  However, the way it was given was……unconventional.  It was crumpled up in a shopping bag, and it was all in pieces!  So the lady who received it, and her daughters pulled all the pieces out, steamed them flat and set to putting the pieces together.  It took them the better part of an evening to figure out what was what, and went where.  They also had only the vaguest idea just what they were trying to put together, so it was like doing a puzzle without a picture.  The lady it was given to then spent considerably longer than an evening sewing it together by hand so as to protect the delicate silk, and maintain accuracy.  This is the result they came up with, how cool is this!?  I wish someone would hand ME a bag like that!!




Which Hoops?? Help!


After some more vascillating I have decided to stick with the pocket hoops – and to also revert to my original time span of 1750-75.  Seems like I had it right in the first place, D’oh!

Let me tell you why I have decided this – and feel free to counter, I will listen.

I found two sets of pocket hoops at the Museum today.  They were both given dates of c. 1746-1760.  I have been skeptical of the dating of artifacts there already, so I was not about to take this just at face value.  There were also question marks beside each date: 1746?-1760?  Very helpful indeed. 

So I started looking hard into some other books.  Turns out that Norah Waugh herself suggests in Corsets and Crinolines that pocket hoops were worn from mid-century to 1775, and that the oval kind were discarded for all but the most formal occassions thereafter (p. 47).  What this spcecifically refers to is unclear – I think what she means is that the really hugely crazily wide panniers of the 1740s survived only in highly formal/court dress.  More modest oval hoops were surely not dropped as of New Year’s Eve 1750.

I also looked at the Cunningtons’ book The History of Underclothes, where they suggest pocket hoops were used as early as the 1740s (p. 60).  My own feeling is that this is a little early, however it does support the notion that the 1750s is a reasonable date by which to see them.

The solution I am currently considering is making the pocket hoops, and in the exhibition displaying an image of the oval variety with label copy on its presence and position.


What do you think?




I’ve been debating back and forth about this with myself for a little while now and am having a hard time deciding.

Should I make pocket hoops, which I’ve done before (albeit mostly by machine), and seem easiest/quickest:


Or should I make an oval hoop petticoat (as yet untried, and more complicated if the example I saw at the V&A in Feb is any indication, but seemingly more widely used):


Please send in votes to help me with this dilemna!

As I slowly learn about blogging, and how to organize things here I realized that keeping the exhibition proposal in the first post was not such a great idea.  I have, therefore, just moved it to a page of its own since it is part of the basis of all this and shouldn’t get lost as I do more posting.

On a different topic, in the days I’ve been at the Museum of London so far, I have seen some very interesting stuff!  I even found a tag/label sewn into the armhole of a dress with “Louisas” handwritten on it in ink and a script that may well mean it’s original, and that no one had found before!!  I have also already (nervously) contested the dating of another gown.  I would very much like to present my findings here to get additional opinions, however that would require include photos.  I am taking photos for the museum’s database, but I’m not sure if I would be allowed to post them here.  I already know I need to fill out some forms to be able to use them in my exhibition.  I will look into this, because I’m pretty excited about some of this stuff!

First Change (of likely many) in Plans

I realized today two changes I need to make to this project.  They aren’t huge, but I think they’re important.

1) I need to add at least one apron to the list of garments to make (where I will add the time for it is the difficult part).  I can’t believe I didn’t clue into this much much earlier!  I think I had it on the list way back in the beginning of my thinking about this project (1 1/2 – 2 yrs ago), but it somehow got missed.  Shame on me – aprons were ubiquitous at every level of society.

2) I’m going to reduce to scope in time slightly from 1750-75 to 1760-75.  The reason for this is a little tid-bit from Norah Waugh’s Cut of Women’s Clothes book/costume bible.  On p 68 she informed me that pocket hoops appeared c 1760 and were out of use by the late 1770s.  I really don’t think I would have time to make more than one set for display, so changing the timeframe was much easier.  Besides, since I have started examining more actual garments at the Museum of London, I think it may have been too broad a time span, stylistically, anyway.

I’m workin’ on it!

I’ve just arrived in London (well, arrived yesterday, but was about as active and with it as mashed potato after the 9hr flight, being up 24hrs by time I arrived, and fighting to not fall asleep early so I could actually start getting back to normal).  Tomorrow I start l my internship/research of 18th century garment construction at the Museum of London – wheeeee!!!!!  Ironically, being here will afford me more time to work on this blog and get it going (and hopefully interesting) than I had at home in boring Edmonton – go figure!

My immediate plans for the blog are to break-down the reproduction components into the separate garments and do a post for each on their individual histories and construction.  I will include as many yummy and useful photos as I can scrounge up.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I can use photos I take of Museum of London photos.  I have received permission to use them in my exhibition next spring, but I think the internet is asking too much.

I am also thinking of adding a section that explains and demonstrates the types of stitches I will be using to construct my reproductions, and where in the garments they are found.  For example, while backstitches are the strongest, they are also quite time consuming.  Therefore, quick running stitches appear to have been the technique of choice for long, stress-free seams like skirt panel.  Backstitching appears to have been mostly reserved for seams that experienced significant tension…mostly.

I have brought some linen fabric with me to practice my hand-sewing while here, and will likely have some comments about that as well in the future.  Probably something along the lines of: ohhhhh…..this takes so much longer than I’d anticipated, I am so not getting any sleep this fall.

p.s. I went to the V&A for a bit today (yay for free admission!!), and saw this georgeous green brocade woman’s banyan dated 1750-70.  So now I am, of course, thinking of adding one to my project….’cause you know, I don’t have enough to do already.  I’ll try and get a better shot of it with my spiffy new digital SLR sometime soon!

woman\'s silk brocade banyan, c. 1750-70, on display at the V&A