Sunday, 10 March 2013

The more you look, the more you see.

One of the many things I have found fascinating so far about this research process is that by having the luxury of time to look at and study something in great depth, the more you look the more you see. Things that I barely noticed initially become fascinating elements requiring thorough visual study to understand construction.

I have also found that by starting to read about costume history alongside this it has made me interrogate the garment differently. A good example of this is that I read about a shirt in a museum collection being made from one piece of cloth for the body, folded at the shoulders. Now I had assumed (crucial error!) that the shirt was made from a front and back piece joined at the shoulder because I had seen a line of stitching there. On closer inspection after reading this I have ascertained that sure enough the main shirt body is one piece of fabric. The stitching across the shoulders is the addition of a narrow strip of fabric, stitched to the inside of the shirt, possibly this would have strengthened the garment.

So I feel more than ever that although it is good to look, study and record without bias, we already have bias and assumption. What is needed sometimes is further information to help us frame relevant questions.

Below are some more details that help to unpick the form and function of the shirt.

Button and buttonhole at cuff
Side vent/gusset
Triangular neck gusset
There is a very good reference to this neck gusset and other elements of the shirt in 'Cut My Cote' by Dorothy K. Burnham.


  1. those tiny details are wonderful - they say a lot about how much attention was given to the making of the shirt ..... i hope it means that someone cared about the wearer very much

  2. That's a nice thought... perhaps just a little romantic. I'm guessing that the seamstress making this shirt would have worked hard long hours, without much choice about the work she was doing. But certainly she must have been very skilled. During this period the economic and social gulf between the maker and the wearer must have been enormous, something I hope to research in more detail.