Monday, 2 May 2011

Before Easter and After

It seems ages since I last posted and really I can't think how to begin.  Went to the archives of the Museum of London to look at some refashioned 18th century dresses.  Where to start?  Hilary Alexander, the assistant curator is so very helpful and nice.  She got me out numerous dresses to view but I just settled on the one, what with time being tight.  Luckily, my trustee friend Jen Ballie was with me to act as my assistant.

I selected a beautiful cream silk dress from the late 18th century embroidered with tiny silk flowers.  The selvedge was yellow and somewhere deep in the back part of my brain, I think that 18th century imported silk from China always had a yellow selvedge.  The embroidery consists of small floral sprigs sewn in pink, green and blue satin stitch (they cover the entire garment).

The dress has been re-fashioned many times and all that remains intact is the bodice which has a boned back with a closed front.  The sleeves would have been elbow length and very tight fitting.  The dress has now rather ugly faded silk velvet sleeves and a sash which were probably added late 19th century.  It was altered before that in around 1830 with the application of a lace bertha.  (The definition of a 'bertha' as per the reprint of The Dictionary of Fashion History is this, 'a deep fall of lace or silk encircling the neck and shoulders, or merely the shoulders, in a low decolletage; a Victorian revival of the mid - 17th century fashion").  The dress was a gift to the museum by Lady Thompson in June, 1937.

For study purposes, the dress was a beauty.  The hand embroidered silk was stunning and the dress quite fascinating in the way it had been altered and refashioned.  I literately could have spent hours examining it.

The dress would have looked far more beautiful had it been placed on a mannequin!
This is the original bodice and this too has been altered, it has been made smaller.

The wrong side of the bodice.  Note how it was unpicked from the dress.  See the baleen  poking out.
I have many more photos going into significant detail to how the dress has been refashioned.  If anyone would like to discuss this further I would be more than happy to oblige!

Finally one last thing to add, I went to see the Hoppe exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery.  Brilliant.  The Cult of Beauty at the V & A, so worth a visit but was very underwhelmed by Yohji.   I didn't like the way it was curated.  The best bit of the exhibition were the garments placed elsewhere in the museum.  Upstairs in the British Galleries is where the clothing looks quite beautiful.  Maybe the whole exhibition should have been dotted around the museum like some fantastic treasure hunt!