Sunday, 29 January 2012

Museum of London Revisited

Another fabulous day spent at the Museum of London.  Day Two of examining my gorgeous pink brocade dress but more is to be revealed.........

Also visiting was my old college mate, Alice Gordon.  Her passion is 16th century linen so the day was passed not only having the benefit of Hilary Davidson's knowledge but Alice's as well.  Very pleasurable indeed.

On arrival, Hilary told me she had been digging around and that in another box she had found not only the 18th bodice but the 1840s bodice as well, all the off cuts (which included a pocket) and a stack of letters detailing the history of the dress.  How very exciting.  In my last entry, we concluded that the rouching around the sleeves of the 1880s dress was the 18th century bodice re-worked as there was evidence of 18th century seams and stitching.  The 18th century bodice has now been found but the rouching may still be bits of the old bodice as the brocade was literately cut away from the linen lining.

See the above photo.

The linen in the bodice is beautiful with the linen on the sleeves being much thicker than that on the back and front.   That is, I imagine for additional strength.  All that hand woven linen is extraordinarily beautiful.  The weave is exquisite.  When I get my hands on a macro lens I will put some photos in this journal.  A very interesting observation from my lovely friend, Alice, the linen on the sleeves was cut on the horizontal.  Note the selvage on the back of the right hand sleeve of the photo.  A beautiful selvage it is too.  Furthermore, Alice told me she always counts the stitches per inch on the garments she's analysing (per inch as that is measurement the garments were constructed in).   In her experience, she can tell generally tell whether a tailor has constructed the garment.  This isn't so relevant to me as I am working from the 18th century onwards where many women were working as seamstresses however, it interesting to possibly be able to ascertain the the sex of the maker.  In this bodice there were 7 stitches to an inch on average and they weren't that neat.  Maybe a tailor originally sewed it?

This bodice had also been altered.  The stack of letters proved fascinating reading.

The letters were correspondence from a Mrs Guiney to the Assistant Keeper at the Museum of London.  They were dated June 11, 1954.  The Museum of London bought the dress for £5.  Mrs Guiney wrote the history of dress in an attachment letter.   Anne (Nancy) Wilton married  Joseph Pawsey in 1776.  She was a very skilled embroider and taught Queen Charlotte and her court ladies embroidery.  The story says the dress originally belonged to Queen Charlotte.  Which means that Nancy was given it by QC most probably as a gift.

The dress was then altered again in 1840 by  Mrs Pawsey's son's wife and then again by her grandson's wife in 1880.  The wonderful thing is all these women kept the bits they had cut away.  The dress must have been very important to them all to not throw the various bodices away. Or maybe people just didn't throw so much away in those centuries.  Well, we know they didn't but I like the fact the discarded pieces all remained together and that the garment was passed down from generation to generation.

More info, Nathalie Rothstein analysed the silk and has identified that it originated from the Spitalfield silk weavers, Batchelor, Ham and Perigal.  I am afraid my reading of Ms Rothstein work has not progressed since last week.  Not through lack of interest but lack of time.  I really could do with one extra day in the week.  I plan to go back one more time and take more photos this time with a macro lens and a tripod.  Oh, how I wish I owned both of those camera accessories.  Mind you it would help if I could use the fancy camera that I have!

What is a Beautiful Garment?
So what else?  If I am to design and I am designing clothes like their historical sisters that can be re-fashioned to another garment, I want them to be beautiful.  I want them to sell.  I want them to sell to many women.  But how can one define beautiful?  I want the garments to be first beautiful but designed with durability, longevity in mind.  Not to fall into the  classification as some beardy weardy eco clothing.  How does the designer working in this field get away from that classification and label?  We live in such a representative world.  Clothes, I really believe are such signifiers.   It really is worth thinking about.

I have started reading 'Understanding Material Culture' by Ian Woodward.  It one of the those great book that summarises information so you can then take the overviews further.  Anyway, I am rather interested in chapter 6 'Objects and Distinction.  The Aesthetic Field and Expressive Materiality'.  Urgh,  sounds complicated but isn't.  The chapter looks at how objects acquire and represent status, aesthetic value etc.   

The reason I feel I need to explore these theories is that a) I am doing a PhD and b) I want my designs to be seen as beautiful in their own right not because they have a label attached.  I really admire Margiela for his work.   (I know he did have a label, in a sense, but his sympathy is my admiration).   I don't want my designs to be branded as 'eco' or 'durable'.  I want them to beautiful with added extras.  I want them to be like Mrs Pawsey dress.  Endless, adaptable, beautiful........   Ha ha - big task.  

Books I am Reading
Still am desperate to get my teeth stuck into Natalie Rothstein.
Understanding Material Culture by Ian Woodward (2007) Sage
and just because I want to, 'Heart of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad.  Actually, I am not reading it.  I am listening to it unabridged on my iphone.  I download books and then listen to them when I am walking to work.  Great way to catch up on novel.  I listened to 'The Great Gatsby' the other week.  Fantastic book. I don't do this very often but I listened to over again, straight away just appreciate the skill of F Scott Fitzgerald.   

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