Sunday, 19 May 2013

Crime fighting laundry marks

A rather different detective story connected to laundry marks, I found this fascinating reading:

'In many instances clothing worn is still identifiable after the body has gone with the elements. In any event the body may outlast the clothing or the clothing may outlast the body and any police department equipped to extract the last shred of evidence or clue from either has a definite ace in the sleeve.'
'... it is my experience that nearly everyone, knowingly or not, has traceable clues in his or her clothing.' Adam Yulch, 1946
Thank goodness!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Pride and Prejudice - Having a Ball

A fascinating programme, Pride and Prejudice - Having a Ball was shown this evening on BBC 2. This is a documentary 'celebrating the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, revealing the hidden world behind one of the greatest love stories of all time by restaging a regency ball at Chawton House, the grand estate of Jane Austen's brother. Amanda Vickery and Alastair Sooke lead a team of world class experts as they reconstruct the ball in loving detail, from music and dancing, to food and fashion.'

You can also see a catwalk show of some of the costumes, which is interesting because it shows the variety of fashionable and provincial styles. I also found it interesting to see how the dancers responded to the costumes, how it changed posture and movement. There is also a little film about how to dance the regency waltz, should you desire to don your dance pumps.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


Over the past few months I have read an enormous amount about costume related subjects. From fashion research theories, costume histories and pattern cutting to social history and consumer culture, the project has taken me through a diverse range of topics. In fact that has been one of the really interesting things for me; that one object can be read from so many different angles and can open out so many subjects. This is a way of working that really appeals to me as a researcher, starting with something very specific and by 'unpicking' it understanding all the different ways of 'reading' it.

I have been writing up a bibliography on the side bar if you are interested to see the range of texts I have been using. I have also been accessing some interesting libraries, including the National Art Library at the V&A, Manchester Metropolitan University and of course our wonderful library at Bradford College. I have also tracked down a couple of items through inter-library loans from the British Library and bought a couple of back issues of journals from Abe Books. I love the process of tracking things down, and have been grateful for the time I spent working as a librarian gaining the necessary skills.

You can find my ever growing bibliography on the right bar of this blog.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

How to dress like a dandy

From BBC 4's series Elegance & Decadence presented by Lucy Worsley, here is a little clip about the  fashionable men's costume of the regency period.

How to dress like a dandy

Friday, 29 March 2013

Riffling the Queen's knicker drawer

... well not our current monarch, but yesterday I did get to look at Queen Victoria's underwear during a special research visit. The lovely curators of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Historic Royal Palaces kindly agreed to let me look at some items in their collections, picking out some pieces with monograms and laundry marks.

Hampton Court Palace
Queen Victoria's split drawers, dated circa 1900, were made of fine linen and marked on the waistband with an exquisite, self-coloured, embroidered monogram and crown. The style of embroidery was much more elaborate than the marking on the Prince's Shirt and was also slightly larger. In short a completely different style of marking although it would have served the same purpose because it also had an number for laundry. You can see images here.

Queen Alexandra's nightdress had an almost identical style of monogram to Victoria's, this time below the front opening. Being from a similar date, it would seem this was a universal style for marking items in the royal household of this period.

Going back to 1810 (around the period of the Prince's Shirt) George III's white linen shirt was fascinating to see. The shirt was of a similar style to the Prince's Shirt, with a high standing collar and ruffled front opening, however it was less exuberant; the collar was shorter, the ruffle narrower, containing less fabric and the cuffs very short. The fabric of George's shirt was a fine linen but certainly nowhere near as fine as the Prince's Shirt, and there was no decorative embroidery around buttonholes. This completely took me by surprise as I had expected it would be comparable in quality. It would seem our Prince 'AF' had exceptionally fine taste indeed!

What was really wonderful to see was that the style of laundry marking was rather like to ours. On the right above the side vent was a tiny red cross stitch crown, the initials GR and the date 1810. The George IV shirt exhibited at Dress for Excess at Brighton Pavilion had a similar laundry mark.

Although there is no, one individual proof everything seems to point to The Prince's Shirt being exactly what it looks like. Fantastic news!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Mr Darcy's shirt

Something for comparison; a clip from the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth (in the shirt!).

Although this might not be useful in terms of historical research, it is interesting in bringing to life period style garments; understanding how they might look in real life, how they might move, etc.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Gallery of Costume at Platt Hall

This morning I had the opportunity to visit The Gallery of Costume at Platt Hall, Manchester. I arranged to look at their collection of shirts dating from 1800 to 1850. It was interesting to make comparison with the Prince's Shirt in terms of garment cut, style and weight of the cloth.

The box that was brought out to me was crammed with 13 linen shirts, folded between layers of tissue paper. Each was different. None of them quite matching the style of the Prince's Shirt, but finding familiar features amongst them.

Most of the shirts were quite yellow and stained. Marks from water, wear, staining, fold marks, etc. Some also showed signs of mending; darns, patches alterations and replacement sections. It made me aware what a wonderful condition the Prince's Shirt is in and how white it is. Has it been washed with modern detergents or just very well cared for?

The main thing I was able to observe was the difference in quality and weight of the fabric. From the collection at Platt Hall I found nothing even close in quality to the Prince's Shirt. The Prince's Shirt is a floating, transparent lawn, by comparison the other shirts seemed heavy. Dr Miles Lambert confirmed my thoughts about this and agreed that the shirt was of extremely high quality and something of very high status.

It made such a difference to see 'the real' thing rather than looking at images online. Handling the shirts and looking at their construction allowed me to see the similarities and understand how styles gradually evolved. I also found it fascinating to see the mended shirts, to realise how clothing and textile was valued and preserved.