The skill of the seamstress took centre place this month in the Divine Deco presentation from the ever popular History Wardrobe team. A packed hall of C&TA members spent a delightful afternoon learning how a generation of women changed silhouette and created beautiful, less restrictive clothes.
Our monthly zoom lectures in June and July also gave us fascinating insights:
‘Show me your glove and I’ll tell you who you are’ was a common saying in the 19th century. Anne Green, Emeritus Professor of French at Kings College London handed us a fascinating us window on the history of gloves and their significance, touching on gloves found in Tutankhamun’s pyramid tomb, exquisitely embroidered and sequined confections, to 21st century Bluetooth-enabled gloves. Linked to honour, status and identity as well as to decadence and deceit, gloves have been credited with powers that extend to marriage, magic and even murder
Deborah Phipps, a professional textile conservator, gave us an idea of the huge amount of thought, research, skill and planning needed to put costumes and textiles on display. Clothes being prepared as museum exhibits must be capable of being on show 24/7 for many months, if not years. Just the weight of the fabric can create strain and weak points that all have to be guarded against.
Fastenings, silhouette, sleeves, waistline, length all inform the choice of mannequin or display, exposure to light, pose, access, all these must be thought of (none of them in isolation). Deborah led us through the step by step decision making process, cleaning, stuffing, paddin g and petticoats that create a successful display without damaging precious exhibits.
Now news of an exciting new resource for costume and textile fans:
Introducing a new Fashion Central collection Bloomsbury Dress and Costume Library
Bloomsbury Dress and Costume Library will be the first comprehensive online collection for the study of dress and costume history, design and making. Launching in June 2023, it will take its place as part of the wider Bloomsbury Fashion Central platform to bring together the Encyclopedia of Film and TV Costume, an exclusive and authoritative reference work on costume on screen, alongside an extensive curated collection of monographs, practical eBooks, further reference and historic works such as Norah Waugh’s Cut of Women’s Clothes.
We look forward to hearing more as the project comes together.
Caroline Whiting is a trustee of C&TA, an art historian and guide at Norwich's Norman Cathedral who is passionate about textiles as an art form, from medieval to modern.