Archive for the ‘Costume’ Category

Pre-Brummell male splendour

January 16, 2014
Embroidered oak leaf and acorn design on a cream silk tabby waistcoat, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Embroidered oak leaf and acorn design on a cream silk tabby waistcoat, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I have just discovered a blog called The Hidden Wardrobe, which focuses on the costume collection assembled by Charles Paget Wade (1883-1956) which is now housed at Berrington Hall.

Skirt and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with sprays of flowers and leaves on ivory ribbed silk, 1775-85, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Skirt and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with sprays of flowers and leaves on ivory ribbed silk, 1775-85, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Charles Wade was an eccentric collector who amassed a huge variety of historic artefacts at his Cotswold home, Snowshill Manor. He was fascinated by the aura of old, beautiful and well-made objects, and Snowshill is still an extraordinarily evocative place to visit.

Running sprays of leaves in gold purl, passing and sequins on the leading edges of a silver lamé silk waistcoat, 1775-80, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Running sprays of leaves in gold purl, passing and sequins on the leading edges of a silver lamé silk waistcoat, 1775-80, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

After the National Trust acquired Wade’s collections the costumes were taken to Berrington to improve their storage conditions. The Hidden Wardrobe now provides a glimpse of some of the 2,203 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century costume items in the collection.

Buttons and skirt of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Buttons and skirt of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I was particularly struck by these sumptuous men’s waistcoats from the late eighteenth century. I suppose these represented the style that the Regency dandy Beau Brummell was reacting against when he crafted the minimalist look that is still influencing men’s suits today.

Front view of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Front view of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

These pre-Brummell waistcoats, by contrast, project a more exuberant kind of masculinity – more Versace than Armani, perhaps.

Skirts and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Skirts and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I am also fascinated by the interaction between the floral motifs, the colours and the background textures of the fabrics. They hint at the artistry of the anonymous tailors and embroiderers who created these items, now once again being brought to public attention through digital means.

Painted pomp

April 23, 2013
Portrait of Lady Anne Sackville, Lady Beauchamp (1586–1664) or Frances Prynne or Prinne, Lady Seymour of Trowbridge (d.1626), attributed to William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486187). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Lady Anne Sackville, Lady Beauchamp (1586–1664) or Frances Prynne or Prinne, Lady Seymour of Trowbridge (d.1626), attributed to William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486187). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Over the weekend I visited an excellent small exhibition at the Holburne Museum in Bath, entitled Painted Pomp, about portraiture and fashion in the Jacobean period.

Ushak carpet at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire (inv. no. NT42883). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire (inv. no. NT42883). ©National Trust Collections

The exhibition includes nine full-length portraits by William Larkin (early 1880s-1619) of relatives of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk (1561-1626). The paintings originally hung at Charlton Park, Malmsbury, a seat of the Earls of Suffolk and Berkshire, and were given to the nation in 1974. They are now in the care of English Heritage at Kenwood in north London.

In this post I am showing some other portraits by and after Larkin in various National Trust collections.

Portrait of Francis Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (c.1590-1664), in the style of William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486188). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Francis Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Trowbridge (c.1590-1664), in the style of William Larkin, at Petworth House (inv. no. NT486188). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The pictures document some of the extravagant and highly crafted fashions of the period, such as pinked silk, embroidered shirts, punto in aria (‘stitches in the air’) lace collars and shoes and gauntlets trimmed with gold and silver thread.

Ushak carpet at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (inv. no. 653287). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (inv. no. 653287). ©National Trust Collections

It is interesting to see how the men are sometimes more gorgeously attired than the women. This was clearly an age when ‘power dressing’ meant dressing as flamboyantly as possible.

Portrait of Mary Curzon, Countess of Dorset (1585 -1645), by William Hamilton RA (1751-1801) after William Larkin, at Kedleston Hall (inv. no. NT108775). ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Portrait of Mary Curzon, Countess of Dorset (1585 -1645), by William Hamilton RA (1751-1801) after William Larkin, at Kedleston Hall (inv. no. NT108775). ©National Trust Images/Ian Blantern

Prominently visible in the portraits are the Turkish Ushak rugs, expensive status symbols in the early 17th century, and the exhibition includes an actual Ushak rug.

Ushak carpet at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire (inv. no. NT1430658). ©National Trust Collections

Ushak carpet at Chastleton House, Oxfordshire (inv. no. NT1430658). ©National Trust Collections

There are also a few surviving items of Jacobean clothing on show, as well as two replica costumes made for use at Shakespeare’s Globe, London.

Lord Fairhaven’s wardrobe

March 7, 2013
A pair of the 1st Lord Fairhaven's co-respondent shoes. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

A pair of the 1st Lord Fairhaven’s co-respondent shoes. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Anglesey Abbey, its garden and its sumptuous collections are largely the creation of Huttleston Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven (1896-1966). The co-heir to several American-made fortunes, he made Anglesey Abbey into a microcosm of luxury, craftsmanship and art.

Lord Fairhaven and his mother, Cara Rogers, on board her yacht Sapphire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lord Fairhaven and his mother, Cara Rogers, on board her yacht Sapphire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lord Fairhaven left Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust, and in his will he expressed the wish that the house and the garden ‘should be preserved and kept representative of an age and a way of life that is quickly passing.’ Part of Lord Fairhaven’s extensive wardrobe has been preserved in the house and it, too, is redolent of mid-20th-century upper-class life.

Part of Lord Fairhaven's wardrobe. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Part of Lord Fairhaven’s wardrobe. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Lord Fairhaven owned about 50 suits. He regularly wore a carnation in his buttonhole – coloured during the day and white during the evening.

Lord Fairhaven's umbrellas and walking sticks in the Long Gallery at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Lord Fairhaven’s umbrellas and walking sticks in the Long Gallery at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Although – or perhaps because – he lived alone, Lord Fairhaven liked to invite friends over for dinner, for which formal dress would be worn. The after-dinner conversation would stop promptly at 9, when the butler brought in a radio on a silver tray so that the assembled company could listen to the BBC news.

A sense of drama

September 20, 2012

Portrait of Elizabeth Delaval, Lady Audley (1757-1785), holding a book, with a water-spaniel, in a landscape. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by H.M. Treasury and allocated to the National Trust for display at Seaton Delaval Hall, 2009. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The recent catwalk show at Seaton Delaval Hall discussed in the previous post was inspired by some of the dashing and dramatic women who grew up and lived at the house in the 18th-century.

Portrait of Sophia Delaval, Mrs Jadis (1755-1793), holding a Claude glass to the landscape. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by H.M. Treasury and allocated to the National Trust for display at Seaton Delaval Hall, 2009. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The family was known at the time as the ‘gay Delavals’ because they encouraged travelling players to call at the house, put on plays themselves and subjected visitors to practical jokes.

Portrait of Sarah Delaval, Countess of Tyrconnel (1763-1800) with a white peahen, in a landscape. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by H.M. Treasury and allocated to the National Trust for display at Seaton Delaval Hall, 2009. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

There are stories of bedroom walls suddenly being hoisted up like theatre scenery, of a bed being flooded with water and of a bedroom with upside-down furnishings designed to unsettle guests who had had too much to drink.

Portrait of Frances Delaval, the Hon. Mrs Fenton Cawthorne (1759-1839), with a watercolour of a rose, in a landscape. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by H.M. Treasury and allocated to the National Trust for display at Seaton Delaval Hall, 2009. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

These slightly naive but rather vivid portraits, attributed to Edward Alcock (fl. 1757–1778), show just a few of the 18th-century Delaval women: four of the five daughters of John Hussey Delaval, Lord Delaval, and his wife Susanna Robinson.

Dressing up at Seaton Delaval

September 18, 2012

©National Trust /Jane Hall

Seaton Delaval Hall has just hosted a Georgian-style catwalk show billed as Dressed Up @ Delaval.

©National Trust /Jane Hall

Models showed a collection of 25 outfits created by costume designer Paul Shriek, inspired by the dashing and spirited ladies of the Delaval family.

©National Trust /Craig Richardson

Helen at Design Inspiration was at the show and has done a great post about it.

©National Trust /Maureen Ritson

The costumes were made by students and volunteers from Newcastle College, Walbottle High School, Seaton Sluice Middle School, a group meeting at Astley Community High School and Blyth-based Northern Butterflies.

©National Trust /Mark Warr

Techniques used included proggy matting, embroidery, knitting, quilting and dyeing.

©National Trust /Maureen Ritson

Visitors to Seaton Delaval can try the dresses on and imagine themselves as outrageous 18th century aristos.

©National Trust /Maureen Ritson

Dresed Up @ Delaval is the centrepiece of a project at Seaton Delaval Hall, jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Trust, that highlights the lives of those who lived and worked there in the eighteenth century.

©National Trust/Jane Hall

I am amazed by how these costumes simultaneously channel Blade Runner, François Boucher and Gothic Lolita.

©National Trust /Craig Richardson

In a follow-up post I will show some of the portraits of the women whose sense of style inspired this catwalk show.

Handbags of state

March 20, 2012

Portrait of John, Lord Hervey, holding his purse of office as Lord Privy Seal, by Jean-Baptiste van Loo, 1741 (inv. no. 13016). ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

Those who follow Courtney Barnes’s blog Style Court will know of her strong interest in textiles, and it will come as no surprise that she wanted to know more about the splendidly embroidered purse of office held by John, Lord Hervey, in the portrait shown in the previous post and above.

Portrait of Sir Thomas Egerton, 1st Viscount Brackley (1540-1617), as Lord Chancellor by Edward Wright (fl. 1730s – d. c.1773), 1615, at Dunham Massey (inv. no. 932327). © National Trust Collections

I am no textile historian, nor do I know much much about British court ceremonial (so anyone who does know about those subjects, please do comment), but I have found a few other depictions of such grand ‘handbags’.

They were originally made for ministers to carry important documents to and from the sovereign and to hold objects associated with offices of state such as the Great Seal. Over time they evolved into portable symbols of the prestige of high office.

Portrait of Sir Thomas Coventry, 1st Baron Coventry of Aylesborough (1578-1640), as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, after Cornelius Janssen van Ceulen (1593-1661), 1650, after an original of 1625, at Erddig (inv. no. 1151371). © National Trust Collections

Even today (as Andrew reminded me in a comment on the previous post) the Lord Chancellor still carries a purse of office during the State Opening of Parliament, containing the Speech from the Throne which he presents to the Queen for her to read out – an elaborate display of deference that also hints at the fact that it is the Government which largely determines the contents of the Speech.

Portrait of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), as Lord Chancellor by the Reverend James Wills (fl. 1746– d. 1777), c. 1740, at Erddig, inv. no. 1151294. © National Trust Collections

Incidentally, the famous handbags of Mrs (now Lady) Thatcher seem to be a modern mirror image of the purse of state, working in similar but opposite ways. Starting out as unassuming, self-consciously traditional objects, they somehow took on a symbolic quality because of their association with the particular aura of a particular Prime Minister.

One curious detail about this small series of images of office holders with their purses is that Lord Hervey is the only one not wearing robes of state. I am not sure whether that is a sign of his self-confident personality or whether there were several possible degrees of formality in this type of potrait.

Tudor and Stuart fashion moments

January 10, 2012

Portrait of Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton, attributed to George Gower, 1577, at Montacute House, Somerset (Sir Percy Malcolm Stewart bequest). ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

I vividly remember seeing this portrait years ago at an exhibition about Elizabeth I at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It sang out with its self-confident fashion sense. 

It comes as no surprise that this woman, Elizabeth Knollys (pronounced to rhyme with bowls), Lady Leighton, is thought to have been in charge of the Queen’s wardrobe – in effect a kind of fashion adviser or dresser.

Portrait of Margaret Layton, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts, c. 1620. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Her own appearance is very sophisticated, the orange dress echoing her reddish hair, but toned down by the black slashed bodice (if that this correct technical term), with the pattern of the slashes seeming to mimick the bow fastenings, and set off by various jewels which also return in her sassy tall hat with its elegant pink feather.

The portrait of Margaret Layton together with the linen jacket worn by the sitter, embroidered with coloured silks, silver and silver-gilt thread, made c. 1610-1615, altered c. 1620. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A slightly later fashion moment, from the Jacobean period, has been preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where a c. 1620 portrait of Margaret Layton is shown next to the actual jacket she can be seen wearing in the picture.

Portrait of a lady, possibly Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth (m. 1619), attributed to Robert Peake, at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

At Dunham Massey we hope to create something similar later this year: fashion student Jennifer Craig is working on a recreation of the costume of Vere Egerton, to be displayed near her recently acquired portrait. The current plan is to partly open up the costume, to show how it was constructed and what it would have been like to wear.

One of Jennifer Craig's sketches. ©Jennifer Craig

Jennifer is keeping a blog called Recreating the Costume of Vere Egerton to show the results of her research and the progress with the costume.

Cultural cross-dressing

November 1, 2011

Portrait of Sir Robert Shirley, by Sir Anthony van Dyck. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

I recently spotted this extraordinary pair of portraits by Van Dyck at Petworth. They show Sir Robert Shirley (?1581-1628) and his wife Teresia, he in Persian costume, she in her native Circassian dress.

The portraits were probably painted in Rome in 1622, where Sir Robert was acting as ambassador for Shah Abbas the Great of Persia.

Portrait of Teresia, Lady Shirley, by Sir Anthony van Dyck. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Sir Robert had gone to Persia with his equally adventurous elder brother Anthony to promote trade between England and Persia and to solicit the support of the Shah against the Ottoman Empire.

He stayed there for a number of years, married Teresia, and was then sent back by Shah Abbas to tour a number of European courts in order to cement the alliance against the Ottomans.

These portraits are a wonderful evocation of Sir Robert’s pride in his acquired identity as a Persian grandee.

A triumph, darling

April 6, 2011

©NTPL/David Levenson

I recently posted about the news that Ellen Terry’s beetle wing dress was returning to Smallhythe Place

©NTPL/David Levenson

I now want to share these images, which have just become available, of the installation of the dress in its custom-made display space.

©NTPL/David Levenson

After the painstaking restoration work, the mounting of the dress on its mannequin was handled with equal care.

©NTPL/David Levenson

Some of the source material Terry used as inspiration for the dress is also still at Smallhythe.

©NTPL/David Levenson

Bouquets to all those involved: it’s a triumph.

Beetles, darling

March 18, 2011

©Zenzie Tinker

One of the most spectacular costumes worn by Ellen Terry, the queen of the Victorian and Edwardian stage, has gone back on display at Smallhythe Place, in Kent.

Hand-coloured photograph of Ellen Terry as Imogen in 'Cymbeline', 1896. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Ellen Terry was famous for her dramatic roles, and to enhance her interpretation of Lady Macbeth in the late 1880s she wore an extraordinary emerald and sea green gown adorned with the iridescent wings of the jewel beetle.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, by John Singer Sargent, at Smallhythe Place. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

It gave her a silkily armoured, serpent-like appearance. She was portrayed wearing it by John Singer Sargent (one version of which is at Smallhythe, another, more finished, is at Tate Britain).

Smallhythe Place. ©NTPL/John Miller

The dress had been preserved at Smallhythe Place, the Kent cottage where Terry ended her days, but over time it had become increasingly fragile. Textile conservator Zenzie Tinker and her team were commissioned to restore the costume.  

©Zenzie Tinker

About 1,000 beetle wings were re-attached to the costume, both original ones and replacements that had been donated. The entire conservation process took 1,300 hours of work.

©Zenzie Tinker

Now the beetle wing dress is back at Smallhythe, in a new contemporary display space, together with other items from Terry’s dressing room which have never been shown before.

“Fabulous, darling”, as Ellen Terry might have said.

Update: More images cane be seen here on the Daily Mail website.


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