Saturday, 11 January 2014

Costumes at 'Pemberley' and Other Exhibitions in 2014

2014 is looking like an exciting year for costume exhibitions!



'The Only Way is Pemberley" until the 16th February 2014

Lyme Park aka 'Pemberley' in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has a selection of costumes from the series on display including the famous white shirt. You can find more information here.


Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

You can find more information here. There are several blog articles that have been posted to accompany the preparation and the set up of the exhibition and you can view some of the dresses on Pinterest.



Georgians, 18th Century Dress for Polite Society at the Fashion Museum, Bath 25th January 2014-1st January 2015

The museum will be displaying over 30 original outfits from their collection. You can find more information here




Charles James: Beyond Fashion May 8–August 10, 2014, Metropolitan Museum, New York.


You can find more information here




The Nature of Fashion, Killerton House (National Trust) From 15th February 2014

An exhibition highlighting the skills and processes involved in creating clothing from natural fibres. Click here for more information.





Sunday, 5 January 2014

Decoding Historical Clothing - Using patterned fabric to decipher the cut of a dress.


This article was initially inspired by studying the image of a particular dress which has been on my 'to do' list for a long time. The distinct striped fabric helped me to work out how I could make a reproduction.

 Dress Comtesse of Palfi,  Chateau Malmaison
Many of us who study and recreate historical clothing rely on the images provided by online collections and databases as we are unable to visit the collection in person.  However, if you look carefully at an image of a historical garment made from a striped or patterned fabric it can provide a lot of information and interesting clues about the cut as opposed to a garment made from a plain fabric.
Whilst my ideas may seem obvious to some I hope they will provide some useful tips for those studying historic fashion.




The cut of the 'Palfi' dress has always interested me. You can see how the stripes on the bodice match exactly those of the skirt. The direction of the silk on the sleeves is also interesting and shows a nice decorative contrast. The pleated detail on the bodice is very effective but has it been made from one piece pleated up or from strips made to imitate pleating? When you look at the proportion of the spacing on the fabric pattern perhaps using a continuous piece would be too bulky? Considering factors like these can perhaps help us to make more informed choices when we attempt a reproduction.

 The interruption of the striped pattern can reveal details of the cut when online photographs are not very clear. Zooming in on this example from the Kyoto collection shows a small inserted piece which would aid the drape of the skirt. It is a small detail but  from experience very effective when making a dress like this.

Screen shot, Kyoto Fashion Museum website.

 The back panel of the 1814 dress is cut on the cross grain of the fabric but this is unusual for the period. Was it decorative? To help the fit? Or was this the only piece left over after the rest of the dress was cut?

 V&A Collection c.1814

c.1827,  LACMA Collection

The 1827 LACMA collection dress is interesting because the pattern is not exactly matched on the centre front of the bodice even though this would have been quite noticeable. Was this due to lack of fabric? But on the other hand there are false tucks on the skirt made with fabric cut on the cross grain. This would have used up a large piece of fabric.


Studying the two striped dress bodices of the 1840s show the decorative use of fabric and a practical one too. Cutting the fabric on the cross grain in narrow sections helped the bodice fit tightly over the corset by adding stretch. The bold lines created by the stripes at this angle add a clever design detail and the waist appears thinner.

Bodice detail. Metropolitan Museum Collection.
 Kent State University Museum.



Striped sleeves can be very useful when looking for clues about the pattern. You can determine the angle of the bend of the sleeve  from the direction of the stripes. The Metropolitan Museum collections online has a high quality zoom in tool to help look at these details.

Bustle Dress Metropolitan Museum Collection


Sleeve Detail from the zoom in tool.





Walking Dress by Worth, Metropolitan Museum Collection.


The placement of the striped fabric on the Worth dress is clearly highly decorative rather than functional. The seam in the centre front panel of the skirt and the position of the grain are very different to conventional patterns of the period.  You can also see the striped pattern frames the edge of the bodice. The stripes give you a clear idea of the cut of the garment but the choice of the placement of the fabric is not necessarily based on the rules of pattern cutting on the correct grain.

This brief study did present more questions. Judging the difference between the decorative placing of patterned fabric, the necessity of using limited fabric to its best use and how this influences the cut of a historical garment. 

There are also technical factors to take into account such as the width of fabric when the garment was made. Fabrics such as silk and velvet were very narrow before the early 1900s. Some as narrow as 18 inches wide. This would have had more of an impact with patterned fabrics as they would have been less easy to pattern match and piece together.

Victoria and Albert Museum Collection.


One final detail which can be indicated by looking at patterned historical garments and even embroidered ones is remodelling and alteration. Most museums and collectors will indicate this in the item record but it is a good idea to bear this in mind if you plan to purchase an original garment as it can affect the value. Alterations could have been made close to when the garment was first constructed as fashion changed. The garment could also have been re-cut to fit another person as a hand- me- down. It is always useful to look at the embroidery pattern and see if it finishes abruptly or is not symmetrical.

I would like to make a suggestion for museums to add a close-up image of the fabric with a tape measure or ruler to show the scale of the patterned fabric. I believe this would really help anyone who does not have the opportunity to see the historical garment in person to gain a better understanding of its cut and construction.



Thanks to Abby and Janea from Colonial Williamsburg for their advice on 18th century cutting. I would also like to thank Caroline, Simon, Taylor, Irene, Angela, Karen, Jane, Nicole and Lorna for their insights on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Greetings, a treasure from the closet and some modern bits.....

I wanted to wish all my friends and followers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Before I take a break over the holidays I wanted to share some photos with you.

The first is a lovely silk/linen dress from the early 1900s in my collection. Sadly the silk is quite damaged but it is nice to study the details. It is mostly machine made. The bodice is shaped by pin tucks.



Embroidered panel with metal threads and tiny paste stones.

Covered button detail.

Side back fastening with metal hooks and handmade loops.

Loop detail.

Hem detail. Machine made with the fullness pleated at intervals. Interior seams left raw.



Finally I do sometimes like to use some of my antique treasures in my clothing. The first example are a pair of cut steel decorations which I used to decorate the back of a modern top. I did this by extending and finishing the opening in the centre back. I then mounted each piece on black tulle for support and hand stitched them to either side of the opening.





I joined these two military cuffs decorated with goldwork embroidery to make a belt.




Thank you for all the positive comments and suggestions throughout the year. See you in 2014!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Book Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to all those who entered the competition and for your lovely positive comments. All the names were put into my best Regency bonnet. My mother had the honour of drawing the winning name.





"Drum roll".......The winner is Michael Deibert! Congratulations! I have emailed you. I hope you enjoy the book. 


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Creating Historical Clothes Book Giveaway


Greetings to my followers! I have a copy of 'Creating Historical Clothes' by Elizabeth Friendship to give away. Here's the press release,


"Create stunning costumes for women in a range of historical styles, from the mid-16th century to the
end of the 19th century. Spanning 400 years of fashion history Creating Historical Clothes covers
everything you need to know to create stunning costumes for women.
Taking you from the bodices of the mid-16th century through to the bustles of the Victorian era,
Elizabeth Friendship’s instructions and diagrams will ensure you get each period detail spot on. You’ll
learn to draft and cut patterns to build your own historical costume wardrobe of perfectly fitted and
historically accurate gowns and garments. Friendship’s unique method of pattern drafting ensures that
they can be adapted to fit wearers of all shapes and sizes.
Lavishly illustrated throughout with historical paintings and illustrations Creating Historical Clothes is

ideal for costume students, professional historical dressmakers and amateur costume enthusiasts alike."

I was very impressed by this book. The patterns and instructions were easy to follow and the book was well illustrated throughout.

So if you would like to win a copy please add your name in the comments below. I do have to sadly moderate the comments first due to spam messaging so your name may not appear straight away. The competition closes on December 10th at 09.00 UK time. The winner will be chosen by random and I will announce the name on my blog on the 11th December.






Tuesday, 13 August 2013

I'm Back! A quick round up!

Showing a round gown c.1798 similar to one that Jane Austen describes in her letters (not original, but recreated by myself)
Photo courtesy of John van der Stap 
Attending the 'The Netherfield Ball' in Bath June 2013......or recreating Miss Bingley ;-)



Greetings to my followers. Time is passing so quickly this year and as always I have been very busy! 

I have also been creating a lot of clothing for my customers and travelling which has prevented me from updating my blog for a while.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to do my first ever talk on the subject of 'What Jane Wore' for a special event by PandP Tours. I talked about what Jane Austen actually wore through descriptions in her letters and other primary evidence. I also showed original items from my collection. 

The size of an original shawl....Photo courtesy of John van der Stap






Friday, 3 May 2013

Coming Soon.........A new Regency Ballgown..........

I am busy with many projects and continue to stitch the spotted muslin dress. Here is a sneak peek of the fabric for my new Regency ballgown.........watch this space!