Sunday, 5 February 2017

Lace in Fashion – exhibition review



The 1580s smock in the first case
On Friday night I was lucky enough to go to a reception for the Bath Fashion Museum’s new exhibition Lace in Fashion. The exhibition will be open from 4th February 2017 to 1st January 2018, and on the first day of the exhibition I heard a fascinating talk by its curator, Elly Summers, about how the exhibition came about and the thinking behind it.

In April 2014 the Museum was given a grant by Arts Council England, to help catalogue its large lace collection. Fifty trays of lace, some with very little information, were sorted with the help of several people from the Lace Guild. Around 4000 items were examined. The majority received a very basic catalogue entry, but 400 exceptional pieces were catalogued in depth and photographed. These photographs will be made available via the Bridgman Art Library . While it was possible to photograph some lace flat, others were photographed over mannequins that were mocked up in black to the basic period outline.
The 1860s wedding veil

The exhibition itself takes up the large central area of the museum. The earliest item on display is a 1580s smock with plaited lace insertion down the sides of the sleeves.  Please note that my photographs were taken in low light in a very crowded exhibition, you really need to go to see the items for yourself. The most recent item in the exhibition is a 2016 laser printed dress,  which was bought online for £1.


The 1805 bobbin lace dress
Among the highlights for me were, the stunning 1660s silver tissue dress with parchment lace, the 1860s cream silk wedding veil that is a mixed of bobbin and needle lace applied to a machine net, the 1805 bobbin lace dress that may once have belonged to Queen Charlotte, there was an article about this in the Guardian, and I suppose if I have to chose something modern the red lace dress worn by Dame Helen Mirren.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

17th Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630 – book review



This is the third book in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s series of patterns from seventeenth century clothing in their collection, and the first to deal with men’s wear. (1) The book has 12 chapters covers 13 items in the V&A collection, 7 can be considered as accessories and 6 as main garments.
The book begins with a short summary of what a man’s wardrobe would consist of at this time, based on surviving wills and inventories from all levels of society. There is also an explanation of clothing terms used at the time, much of it based on Randal Holmes Academy of Armoury. 

There are almost 150 pages of patterns and construction details. Two thirds of these relate to the six main garments, which are three doublets (c1600-10, c.1620 and c1625-30), a suit comprising doublet and breeches (c1618) and a cloak (c1560-1600). Most of these have not had patterns published before, however the suit is that of Sir Richard Cotton, and patterns for that have appeared in Arnold (2) and Waugh (3), but not in such detail.  For each garment there are portraits of men wearing similar garments, masses of photographic details of both the exterior and interior of the garment and x-rays. These are followed by pages of patterns and finally by details of the construction. 

The seven accessories comprise a sword girdle and hangers, a felt hat, a picadil, an embroidered nightcap, a linen nightcap liner, a pair of mittens and a linen stocking. Again these have not appeared before and, although this is a book of men’s patterns, the hat, mittens and stockings could be worn by either sex. 

The detailed examinations that the authors have done are incredible, and show us both what can and cannot be ascertained though detailed examination, for example even though fibres from the hat were examined microscopically it was not possible to determine the type of felt used. Where possible details are given which will allow for reconstruction. The buttons on the first doublet are described as “woven in a chevron pattern using green silk floss and silver-gilt filé threads”.  The pattern for the bobbin lace on the nightcap is detailed enough for anyone who knows how to make bobbin lace to produce a copy. There are step by step instructions on how to produce the finger looped lace on the linen stocking.

At £35 (you can get it for less) well worth purchasing.

1. Braun, M, et al. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
2. Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620. London : Macmillan, 1985.
3. Waugh, N. The cut of men's clothes 1600-1900. London : Faber, 1964.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Women of 1640s Western Europe – Theatrum Mulierum and Aula Veneris.



Dutch Sailor's Wife
Those who study English clothing of the mid 17th century are very aware of Hollar’s Ornatus Muliebris the Habits [clothing] of Englishwomen, published in 1640. Perhaps less well known are his engravings of women from across the whole of Europe, and parts of North Africa, which he published in two series Theatrum Mulierum and Aula Veneris. The Latin subtitle of the Theatrum can be translated as, “the variety and differences of the female habits of the nations of Europe.” The publication history of these two is incredibly complex, and the plates come in various states, not least because they were being reprinted until well into the eighteenth century. For those wishing to untangle the publication, the place to go is Pennington. (1) The links given above are to the University of Toronto, Hollar Digital Collection, which has most, but not all, the prints.

Hollar was well travelled in Europe. He was born in Prague in 1607, by the late 1620s he was studying in Frankfurt, by 1630 he had travelled through Strasbourg, Mainz and Koblenz.  His first book was published in Cologne in 1635 and by 1637, under the patronage of the Earl of Arundel, he was living in London. Sometime after the Civil War started in 1642, he moved to Antwerp. He returned to London in 1652 and died there in 1677. 

Woman of Cologne
Some of his engravings are of upper class women, but many are of “ordinary” women, tradesmen and merchants’ wives and daughters, and sometimes countrywomen. They show regional diversity in the use of garments like huiks, they show how long ruffs continued to be worn by the middle and lower classes, long after they had gone out of fashion, and also the ubiquity of other garments, such as the waistcoat.

In the first example we have a Dutch sailor’s wife, wearing one of those hats that are often teamed with a huik in Dutch paintings, as seen in this late 16th century painting by Lucas van Valckenborch. The huik was worn widely in north western Europe, and Du Mortier has suggested that it may have its origins in Spanish fashions.(2)  In the second image, a woman of Cologne you again have huik. As Fynes Morison described them, “all women, in generall, when they goe out of the house, put on a hoyke or vaile which covers their heads and hangs downe upon their backs to their legges; and this vaile in Holland is of a light stuffe or kersie, and hath a kind of horne rising over the forehead, not much unlike to old pummels of our women’s saddles. ... but the women of Brabant and Flanders wear vailes altogether of some fine light stuffe, and fasten then about the hinder part and sides of their cap, so as they hang loosely not close to the body....and these caps are large round and flat to the head....like our potlids, used to cover pots in the kitchin.” (3) This last is an excellent description of the sailor’s wife’s hat.
Woman of Franconia

The third image is a woman of Franconia. She wears not a starched ruff, as in the two previous images, but a ruff which falls to the shoulders. Descriptions of the construction of surviving ruffs of all types are given in Arnold. (4) The garment (waistcoat/jacket) she is wearing is buttoned like a male doublet, much like the garment worn in the monument to Lady Elizabeth Finch, now in the V&A.  Similar buttoned garments can be seen in Hollar’s Woman of Vienna, and several of his women from Augsburg.

In the fourth image is a woman from Antwerp. She wears a falling collar and, since it appears to be summer, a straw hat. Her top is patterned, while her skirt is plain.

As a final example let’s add in Hollar’s English countrywoman. There are lots of differences between the Englishwoman and the other examples, but some things do carry across. All five women wear aprons and, as four appear to be marketing, they carry some form of basket, be it split wood, wicker or rush. All wear some form of headwear, and in three of the five you can see a coif under the hat. Discarding the lady from Cologne, whose huik covers too much of her garments, all wear some type of bodice/waistcoat/jacket which finishes at the hips, and skirts that finish short of the ground at the ankle bone.
Woman of Antwerp

If you go through the links to explore the collection you will find women from France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The further afield the subjects of Hollar’s drawings are, the less likely he is to have seen, or known, what was actually being worn. His Irish woman, for example, is copied from John Speed’s map of Ireland , and his “Virginian” is copied from a Theodor de Bry’s drawing in Thomas Hariot’s A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia. De Bry's drawing is itself based on John White’s originals made when he was with the Roanoke colony.

English Countrywoman

1. Pennington, Richard. A descriptive catalogue of the etched work of Wenceslaus Hollar. . Cambridge : CUP , 2002.
2. Du Mortier, B. In search of the origins of the huik. Arte Nuevo : Revista de estudios áureos . 2014, Vol. 1.
3. Moryson, Fynes. An Itinerary: Containing His Ten Years Travel Through the Twelve Dominions of Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland, Netherland, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Turkey, France, England, Scotland and Ireland. London : John Beale, 1617.
4. Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion 4 : the cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women . London : Macmillan, 2008.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Musée du Costume – Chateau Chinon




For those travelling to the east of France this year, I recommend a visit to the Musée du Costume at Chateau Chinon, in the Nièvre departement of France. It is usually closed from Christmas to sometime in February, and it does have its own website where you can get further information.

The museum was based originally on the collections of Jules Dardy, though it has grown since then, and has been open to the public in the mansion house of the Buteau-Ravizy family, since 1992.

The collection consists of over 5,000 items ranging in date from the late 17th century to the 1970s. The two photographs shown here are from the guide Voyage au Coeur des Collections, by Francoise Tetart-Vittu and others, published in 2011 (ISBN 978 2 914003 05 6; €15). The guide is recommended and well worth the money. It is well written and extremely well illustrated in colour,  but is not unfortunately available in English. 

The top photograph shows three men’s nightcaps or “bonnets d’interieur”, the top example is c.1690, the middle example is from the the first quarter of the 18th century, and the bootom example has just been dated generally to the 18th century.

The lower photograph is of a robe a l’anglaise of about 1785, in linen embroidered with silk.

An article on the museum, again in French, is available here.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Exhibition – French portrait drawings: Clouet to Courbet



Currently there is a temporary exhibition at the British Museum in Room 90, on the 4th floor, of some beautiful drawings dating from the sixteenth century through to the nineteenth century, some have not been exhibited before.  The exhibition, French portrait drawings from Clouet to Courbet,  is on until the 29th January 2017. 

As well as the drawings themselves there is also a case of medals and enamels, so that the earliest item in the exhibition is a medal by Jean Lepère, showing King Louis XII of France and his wife Anne of Brittany, 1499.

To the right is the first drawing that appears in the exhibition. It is  by Jean Clouet  (c.1485/90–1540) of an unknown man of c.1535 inscribed, the uncle of the Seigneur de Tavannes, but no longer identified as Jean de Tavanenes. You can just see sketched the gatherings around the top of his shirt and the ties to it. 

Here to the left is another unknown, this time a young girl c.1615 by Daniel Dumonstier (1574-1646). Lovely details are how the collar lays, the bows on her sleeves, and that lovely and unusual necklace. 

For each drawing in the exhibition if you go to the museum’s illustrated handlist, available here, you get the drawing with its description and a link to the Museum’s catalogue record for further information. Do click through, the museum's images are of far better quality than my photographs

Finally below, just to prove it is not all nobility, though most of it is, here is an old man in working dress, attributed to Pierre Biard II (1592–1661).