Fashion Museums in Britain

Red Silk Robe a l’Anglaise, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1760’s

Victoria here, taking some time off of Pinterest for a change…and ruminating on the wonderful fashion museums which have so carefully preserved the clothing and accessories of bygone eras.  The U.K. is replete with wonderful museums, almost all of which have some fashions, in even the smallest of local collections. The grandaddy of them all is, of course, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which modestly calls itself, The world’s greatest museum of art and design.” The website is here.

I suppose no one who has visited the sprawling site on Cromwell Road would quarrel with the designation, for it is truly superhuman to cover its many displays even in multiple visits.I can hardly drag myself out of the fantastic gift shop when I get there!

Would you be disappointed if I did not include a link to that wonderful shop?  Be forewarned — they are excellent at shipping.  Click here — if you dare.

The Costume Collection has been recently redone and has re-opened with an exhibition of ball gowns from the 1950s to the present. It will be on display through January 2013, along with selections from the permanent collection of historic fashions.

I love the Georgian, Regency and Victorian gowns usually on view.  Due to their fragility, the items are frequently rotated from storage to display and back.

V and A: White Dress with scalloped hem, ca. 1830
British, cotton muslin with wool embroidery, silk, satin and wadded rouleaux

V and A: Evening Dress, 1807-11  British,
machine made silk net, embroidered with chenille thread, with silk ribbon, hand sewn; over red petticoat

Among the V and A’s fashion exhibits

Also in London, Kensington Palace stores, conserves and exhibits Historic Royal Fashions.  Recently, the collection of Royal Wedding Gowns was restored. Beginning this fall, some of the storage areas, formerly Princess Margaret’s Apartment 1A, will be renovated for Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and his Duchess, the former Catherine Middleton.

Parts of Kensington Palace formerly housed Diana, Princess of Wales, and is the home in which Prince William grew up.  Other members of the extended royal family also have quarters there.

Here is an article that tells more about the Palace, the renovations and the Royals.  For more details, click here.

Parts of Kensington Palace include the State Rooms of William and Mary, the childhood rooms of Queen Victoria, and the Royal Fashions.   I have not seen an announcement of the final plans for the fashions, but one assumes that  Historic Royal Palaces, which administers Kensington Palace a well as other former Royal residences in the London area (e.g. Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace) will take advantage of sharing the complex with the popular young Royals to attract visitors to their displays.

Queen Victoria’s Wedding Gown, Kensington Palace
The Assembly Rooms, Ba

In Bath, The Fashion Museum is located in the Assembly Rooms, which are administered by the National Trust.  The Fashion Museum has more than 30,000 items from1600 to the present. The website is here.

a view of storage at the Fashion Museum
display at the Fashion Museum
Gown of plain-weave white cotton, ca. 1813, with striped wool shawl
 Bath Fashion Museum
Lilac cotton sateen corset lined with cream cotton
1880-85, Bath Fashion Museum
Shoes of many eras carefully preserved, Bath Fashion Museum
Another excellent Fashion Museum shows many items owned and preserved the the National Trust at Killerton House, a Regency-era country villa in Devon. The website is here.
Killerton, NT
Croquet Dress, 1863-65, silk taffeta with glass buttons
Killerton House Fashion Collection
Man’s Waistcoat, 1750, silk, satin, metal
Killerton House Fashion Collection

Also at Killerton are many attractive rooms and an extensive garden to explore.  As always, NT has a selection of tasty delights at the tea-room not to mention the temptations of the NT gift shop.

Manchester City Galleries

I have never visited Manchester (something I need to remedy), but the Manchester City Galleries website (here) has an extensive on-line fashion collection.  Here are a couple of examples of their holdings.

Man’s Court Suit, 1775-85
Tennis Dress, 1880’s

Bodice, 1650-1660, Dorset, UK

For a list of museums with fashion and costume collections, click here.  And if you are a resident of the US, there are many outstanding fashion collections here too.  Do you have any recommendations for good fashion collections on either side of the pond?

The Kyoto Fashion Institute seems to be an amazing place, or at least its website and publications are excellent.  They organize many exhibitions, some of which are shown in venues outside Japan.    Click here.

All The Queen's Hats

In the past  months, we have been watching Queen Elizabeth II at many events — the wedding of her grandson, the Diamond Jubilee, and many annual ceremonial events.  We are constantly fascinated by her lovely hats. 

Her hats cannot cover up her face, since that is why people come out — to see her!  So that means none of the big brims or fluttery veils that can be so flattering. And since she so often is climbing in and out of limos, they can’t be too big.  Or in danger of blowing off. However, her milliners certainly manage to come up with a wonderful and colorful selection of styles — here are a selection of our favorites.

For the Silver Jubilee in 1977, The Queen’s pink chapeau, decorated with 25 bells for the years in her reign, was designed by milliner Frederick Fox, who made more than 350 hats for Her Majesty.

At the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, 2011

The Queen with the Duchess of Cambridge in Leicester

Boarding the Spirit of Chartwell for the Thames Procession
Both of the Queen’s ensembles were created by her chief dresser-designer, Angela Kelly, who also made the creamy lemon outfit Her Majesty wore to the Royal Wedding.
At the Silver Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, 5 June, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II in Northern Ireland, June 26, 2012, in Wedgwood Blue

Below, the pink number that is Victoria’s all-time favorite, worn at Ascot, 2011.

Another view below:

Trooping the Colour, 2011.

A rainbow of colo(u)r:

The Queen at Epsom Derby, this hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan
A paler blue hat by Philip Somerville, also a long-time milliner to Her Majesty

The Queen rarely wears beige, brown or black, being more visible in her favorite colorful couture, but there are exceptions!

At Remembrance Day, November 13, 2011

Sometimes, while not on official duties, the Queen enjoys a headscarf!
Regalia of the Order of the Garter

The Real Thing in Headware
9 May, 2012 opening Parliament

200 Years Ago: Spring and Summer Fashions

Here are a few fashions from 200 years ago, from Victoria’s print collection.  You might see something similar at Jane Austen Society meetings, Regency Dance groups, or Writer’s conventions, but few us us would probably want to cope with these outfits every day. Or want to change gowns several times a day.
At the end is a greatcoat for a gentleman to wear in the cool weather.
   Thanks to Sue Forgue at the Regency Encyclopedia for some of the descriptions I was missing.
Ladies Monthly Museum, April 1812
The Full Dress (left), for this month, is made of white satin, ornamented round the bottom with a rich Grecian border, over which is worn a tunic of yellow Italian gauze, trimmed with deep white lace, and fastened up the front with cord of blue silk. Head dress à la Diana, ornamented with wreathes of artificial flowers in dead gold, with a crescent in front of the forehead, composed of pearls and sapphire; the necklace and ear rings to correspond; kid gloves and shoes of pale pink.

The Walking Dress (right) is a white Indian robe of Muslin, made high in the neck; with a richly worked collar to turn over that of the pelisse, which is of blue silk, trimmed with white lace; over which is worn a white,or coloured shawl; the bonnet to be of the same materials as the shawl, and is ornamented with a white feather;–laced half boots of regency brown.

Ackermann’s Repository Morning Dress April 1812

A superfine Scotch or French cambric, over a cambric slip, with full long sleeves, and ruff à la Mary Queen of Scots. A neck-chain and sight set in gold; bracelets and necklace of white or red cornelian. A Flora cap, composed of white satin and lace. A capuchin or French cloak of blossom satin or Pomona green, trimmed with thread lace. Slippers of pale pink or green kid; and gloves of tan or Limerick kid.

Ackermann’s Repository, Ball Gown, April, 1812
A round ciracassian robe of pink crape, or gossamer net, over a white satin slip, fringed full at the feet; a peasant’s bodice, of pink satin or velvet, laced in front with silver, and decorated with the same ornament. Spanish slash sleeve, embellished with white crape foldings, and furnished at its terminations with bands of silver. A Spartan or Calypso helmet cap, of pink frosted crape, with silver bandeaus, and embellished with tassels, and rosets to correspond. A rich neck-chain and ear-rings of Oriental gold. Fan of carved ivory. Slippers of pink kid, with correspondent clasps; and gloves of white kid: an occasional square veil of Mechlin lace

Ackermann’s Repository, Morning Dress, May 1812

A French frock of fine plain India muslin, with demi-train, and long full bishop’s sleeves. Waggoners’ cuffs, with gaged front, and shoulders to correspond. Tucker of double-rolled muslin, which also finishes the cuffs round the hands. A Parisian mob cap of fine lace, confined round the head, and terminating on one side with a celestial blue or silver grey ribbon. Sash of the same, tied in small bows and ends in front. Hair in waved curls, divided in the center of the forehead. Spanish slippers of lemon-coloured kid, and gloves of the same material.  The peculiar taste and elegant simplicity of these habiliments are further specimens of the graceful invention of the celebrated Mrs. Gill, of Cork-street, Burlington-gardens, from whom we have obtained them.

Ackermann’s Repository, June 1812

A round robe of jaconot or fine cambric muslin, with long sleeve and high waist, with fan ruff of lace, ornamented up the front with borders of needle-work or lace, and finished at the feet with ball fringe. A Spanish hussar clock of deep amber sarsnet, lined with sea green or white, and trimmed with broad thread lace, put on very full.  Hair disposed in bands and waved curls; a large square veil of white lace, thrown over the head and shading the face. Half-boots amber-coloured kid, and gloves a pale primrose. Small French caps of lace, ornamented with a small cluster of spring flowers, on one side, are often seen in this style of costume, and have an appropriate and pretty effect beneath the long veil.

Ackermann’s Repository, July 1812
An embr
oidered crape round robe, decorated at the feet with a deep Vandyke fringe; short melon sleeve; bosom and back to correspond. White or blossom satin under dress. Hair a dishevelled crop, ornamented with a small cluster of the Chinese rose on each side, and confined with a comb of pearl at the back of the head. Necklace, ear-rings, and bracelets, of pearl and wrought gold. Grecian scarf of lilac silk, with embroidered variegated ends. Slippers of white satin, and gloves of French kid. Fan of imperial crape and ivory, embellished with gold antique devices.
La Belle Assemblee,  Evening Dress, April 1812
An embroidered white crape, or fine India muslin frock, with long sleeves, and trimmed round the bottom with fine lace, set on full, worn over a blush colour satin or sarsnet slip; the frock ornamented down the front of the skirt with beads and lace in the Egyptian style.  Parisian mob, worn unfastened, of puckered pink, and white crape over pink satin. Small pink satin tippet, with full plaiting of lace. Cestus of pale pink, confined by a clasp of pearl. Pink satin slippers, with white rosettes. The jewellery worn with this dress is the shaded cornelian or large pearls.
La Belle Assemblee, Evening Dress, 1812
A robe of Imperial blue sarsnet, shot with white, with a demi train, ornamented with fine French lace down each side the front and round the bottom; the trimming surmounted by a white satin ribband; the robe left open a small space down the front, and fastened with clasps of sapphire and pearl over a white satin slip petticoat: short fancy sleeve to correspond with the ornaments of the robe.  Parisian cap made open, formed of rows of fine lace and strings of pearl, the hair dressed à-la-Henriette of France, appearing between, and much separated on the forehead. Pearl necklace, and hoop earrings of the same. Scarf shawl in twisted drapery of fine white lace. White kid gloves and fan of ivory, ornamented with gold. Slippers the same colour as the robe, with white rosettes. This beautiful dress is the creation of Miss Walters, Wigmore-street, Cavendish-square 
Ladies Monthly Museum, Morning Dress, June 1812  
A white jaconet muslin gown, buttoned down the front with white regency buttons and trimming formed en lozenge; handkerchief, gloves, and sandals of dragon fly green; figurante cap ornamented with a rose in front.

Text from Michelle Anne Young’s Regency Rambles 

La Belle Assemblee,  Riding Outfit,  August,1812

Made of ladies habit cloth or Maria Louisa Blue, trimmed down each side of the front with Spanish buttons, the waist rather long with three small buttons on the hips; a short jacket full behind, the front habit fashion with small buttons up the neck and a row of small buttons on each side of the breast; a lapel thrown back from the shoulders and trimmed with Spanish buttons, has a most elegant effect and gives a graceful finish to the dress. The collar is made about a quarter inch in depth and fashioned negligently at the throat with a large cord and tassel; it opens sufficiently to display the shirt which is of lace in general but this article admits of considerable variations; some of our elegants wear a collar of lace to fall over, others have a shirt edged round the neck with a rich lace frill and not a few, in despite of the heat of the weather, envelope their necks in a large cravat of India muslin. A small woodland hat, whose colour corresponds with the dress with two white ostrich feathers fastened behind and falling carelessly over the left side. A cord and tassel is brought round the hat and fastened near the top of the crown on the right side. Buff gloves and half boots either of buff jean or leather.


                                       Costume Parisienne, 1812:  Five-collared Carriage Coat (Redingote) 

Style from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II

Victoria here, reporting on a delightful presentation I attended in Naples, FL, at the public library. Presenter Cheryl Lampard, who is a consultant on fashion, make-up and image, spoke on royal style to an eager group of mostly females who peppered her with questions at the end of her talk — mostly about the upcoming royal wedding. What did she think the Queen would wear?  What about the royal limousine, THE dress and so forth.  I can reliably report that here in FL, the audience for the great event will be huge.

Cheryl Lampard’s business is Style Matters International, based in Naples. Click here for her website.

Ms. Lampard’s power point talk began with a discussion of “Dress for Success” Elizabethan style. Ms. Lampard says, “Your image is your brand” and that applies to royalty as well as to the rest of us.  Elizabeth I needed to project an image of power nobles to foreign diplomats to the great mass of her subjects.  The luxury and splendor of her clothing represented the powers and strength of the nation over which she ruled.

Elizabeth I inherited her father’s fine taste and flair for showmanship. The first Elizabethan  Era is celebrated for its achievements, particularly in the arts, e.g. Shakespeare.
At left, Elizabeth I (1533-1603) as a girl, whose future was anything but assured. Nevertheless she outlasted her half-brother, Edward, and her half-sister Mary, to take the throne in 1558 at age 25. She ruled for 44 years, overcoming both internal threats (e.g. Protestants vs. Catholics) and external threats from continental powers.

In the painting, Tudor style prevailed in dress, jewelry, hair and make-up. As Ms. Lampard pointed out, nothing is new when it comes to fashion; we see cycles of clothing and make-up styles throughout history.  A primary example: the wasp waist.  Clothing emphasized the narrowness of the waist in contrast to the wide skirts and sleeves. As time went on, Elizabeth I’s fashions exaggerated the small waist, as well as sumptuousness in fabric and decoration.

To emphasize the narrowness of the wasp waist, women wore a “stomacher,” in the shape of a triangle across the chest and pointing down at the waist.  Often richly decorated, the stomacher was a separate piece of clothing that was tied or otherwise fastened on and used with a variety of gowns.

A set of hoops called a farthingale spread out the skirt and widened the gown from hips to floor. Both the stomacher and farthingale were stiffened with wood, whalebone, ivory or mother-of-pearl.

In order for the skirt to fall in graceful folds, often it was necessary to use a bumroll below the waist.

The effect was obviously to make the waist look small in comparison to the hips, carrying the hourglass figure to extremes.  Full sleeves and wide shoulders add to the illusion.

The Armada Portrait (at Woburn Abbey with other versions and/or copies elsewhere) shows Elizabeth I in a setting rich with important  and impressive symbolism. The gown of expensive satins and silks is crusted with jewels, emphasizing the prosperity and magnificence of the court. Her hand rests on the globe, to portray England’s dominance of the sea, and on either side of her head, two stages of the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada can be seen.

By late in Elizabeth I’s reign,  everything was exaggerated.  The skirts were  amazingly wide and heavy. The sleeves look like her arms would be nearly unmovable. The tall r
uffs would make turning her head uncomfortable.

The make-up, too, was dangerous.  Pale skin was admired, signifying that the person never had to work in the outdoors. In another recurring fashion trend, this white make-up was lead- based well into the 19th century, poisonous to the system and causing pockmarks on the face. Fashion can be foolish indeed.

Ms. Lampard described many more details about Elizabethan fashions, the sleeves, the  ruffs, (tall, starched, and probably scratchy), and the discomfort endured for the sake of image.  She jokingly compared these fashions with today’s exaggerated platform stiletto-heeled shoes. 

Moving to the Victorian period, she discussed the return of the wasp waist, the continued need for the monarch to project an image of stability and power, and the adoption (forever and ever) of Victoria’s white wedding gown as the standard for brides worldwide.  Formerly, she said, silver had been the usual color for royal brides.

Victoria became the mother of nine children, then endured a long period of mourning after her husband’s death. But she knew how to dress for the role of head of the empire.
Even in the 1880’s Victoria kept up appearances. Below, a photograph of Queen Victoria
for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Moving on to today’s era, the second Elizabethan Age, we see again in the young Princess Elizabeth, the recurrence of the wasp waist, for her 1947 wedding gown and a few years later for her coronation in 1953.

Wedding gown, 1947, by Norman Hartnell

Coronation gown, 1953, by Norman Hartnell

Although the current Queen Elizabeth has not been in the forefront of fashion trends, she too has recognized her obligation to represent her nation in a modern way.  For ceremonial events, of course, she is suitably gowned, crowned and bejeweled.  For her day-to-day activities, Ms. Lampard said, she can be particularly admired for her choice of hats.  Designing a hat that is flattering, attractive and capable of having the monarch’s face visible is not an easy job.
Here are a few views of the Queen’s headgear.

Here is a gallery from CBS News of Queen Elizabeth II’s hats.

All in all we had a wonderful time last week covering centuries of royal fashion and chatting about the wedding to come.  Many thanks, Cheryl Lampard of Style Matters International.

Regency Reflections: Fashions of the Era

Fashions for females in the Georgian Era changed dramatically, from wide skirts and narrow waists, high-piled coiffures, and fussy decoration to simple, high waisted gowns — and back again in the space of a few decades. Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), Queen of France, right, might have been the most extreme. She was painted in 1778 by Elisabeth Vigee le Brun (1755-1842) in a huge hooped skirt and hair powdered,  drawn high and topped off with a fountain of feathers.  In an upcoming post, we will look at some of the fashion plates from various lady’s magazines of the Georgian era. In this post, however, we will indulge in the representations of fashion shown in portraits by celebrated artists.

Left is Grace Dalrymple Elliott, subject of Jo Manning’s excellent biography.  My Lady Scandalous: The Amazing Life and Outrageous Times of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Royal Courtesan.  She was painted by Gainsborough in the late 1770’s.   One of the outstanding features of Gainsborough’s portraits is the depiction of the sumptuous silks and satins worn by his subjects. Again, the hair-do is exaggeratedly high and powdered to a pewter shade rather than the white powdering of a few years earlier.  Imagine how many hours had to be spent by these ladies while their minions teased each strand up and over whatever bird-cage-like platform was used.

In the 1780’s and 1790’s, the styles became simpler, perhaps bucolic. Even the French Queen favored a version of the  simple muslin chemise.  The mode, color and fabric were copied by aristocrats on both sides of the Channel.  Hair is more naturally arranged, though still powdered a little, and one could hardly say the hat would be worn by a peasant.  Again, the painter is Vigee le Brun.

The Frankland Sisters by John Hoppner, 1795
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.

Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Oxford, 1797 by John Hoppner
Tate Britain

Gradually the gowns evolved into looser skirts with high waists just below the bosom. The two portraits below by Sir Henry Raeburn(1756-1823) show the exact changes.

Mrs. Eleanor Urquhart, 1795
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Elizabeth Campbell  1812

During the nine years of the Regency, fashions became more elaborate with fancy work and embellishments for the sleeves and around the hems. After about 1800, the hair powder is gone for good and the styles are simpler. By the official end of the regency in 1820, waistlines had begun to sneak back to their natural spot. In the 1820’s, the corseted waist and wide skirts returned, and in the 1830’s, the hair rose again. Below are two portraits by Thomas Sully (1783-1872), born in England but who lived most of his life in the United States.

 Lady with a Harp, Eliza Ridgel
y, 1818,
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Abby Ann King Turner Van Pelt, 1832

Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) painted many portraits throughout the regency and afterwards.  Here are a few of his portraits, showing the change from the late 18th century to several decades into the 19th.

Queen Charlotte, 1789, National Gallery, London

Caroline of Brunswick, Princess of Wales, 1798, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Mrs. Jens Wolff, 1815
Chicago Art Institute

 Julia Hankey, later Lady Bathurst, c. 1825
Dallas Museum of Art

Hair has remained unpowdered throughout the late Georgian period, but by the 1830’s, there were some fantastic top-knot arrangements, as seen below.  Not to mention the fantastic hats that came back into style.

To the left is a portrait of Fanny Kemble (1809-1893) with her aunt Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) painted by Henry Perronet Briggs (1791-1844) in 1831, shortly before Sarah went to her considerable reward.

The  print to the right is Princess Victoria, later Queen, based on an 1833 painting by Sir George Hayter (1792-1871).  Fanny and the princess share a top-knot hair style.

Below is a feathered hat even Marie Antoinette would have loved. The painting hangs in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Sir George Hayter portrays Countess Vorontsova in 1832.  Another hat the ill-fated queen might have enjoyed wearing is shown in a portrait of Julia, Lady Peel, nee Floyd (1795-1859) by Sir Thomas Lawrence; the real thing can be viewed at New York City’s Frick Collection.

 So the fashion cycle comes full circle in about seventy years from the 1760’s to the 1830’s.