Wednesday, 7 November 2012

My Fashion Style

I have been thinking lately about contemporary fashion, and how, in a way, I am very fortunate to live now. And perhaps the title of this post should have read 'My Dressing Style', as I haven't bought into the idea of fashion for donkeys of years now.  I was looking through Famous Fashion Quotes this morning, and have picked some out that speak to me especially.

The wonderful thing about today is that we can make decisions about how we dress. In the past women were slaves to fashion, or money, or status.... or lack of money- what was available within the home (often hand me downs from decades ago in centuries passed), or simply what fit them and kept them decent!

In 2012 I can express what music or sub-culture I am in to through the clothes I wear. I can express my personality, I am able to wear clothes that say so much about me before I even open my mouth (in centuries gone by the only main thing that you would have seen was my position in society, and how much money I had).

And more important of all, I have the freedom to be myself. Growing up out of my 20s and into my 30s, has made me realise how special this is. I hear of women saying 'oh no, my husband won't let me wear anything like that...' and I think pardon me? I am not talking immodest dress here, I am talking of the small things, like a certain colour or style.

Another reason why my heart quickens when Autumn and Winter come around is due to the love of the clothes I get to wear then:
*wool fabric
*heritage- Aran jumpers, Fairisle, tweed.
*knitted, patterned tights- tricky to find, but ooooh, yummy!

1930s Needlework magazine, from Sew Much Frippery on Etsy
Of course, as a lover of historcial fashion, I am always looking into the past for inspiration. I love 30s/40s skirts, with pleats and back vents, 50s jumpers, cardigans (my dear mum knits a lot of woolies for me), and 60s shift dresses. Ooooh, and pinafore dresses- squeal!! I would love a longline belted cardigan, like the ones worn in 'The House of Eliott' too!

I really like this pencil skirt from Art Affect on Etsy:

If I had to label my style, it would probably be "Vintage Librarian". Today I am wearing a skirt I made about 2 years ago, from a fabulous, thick wool which was given to me by a very kind relative, and was actually made by a great uncle, so is probably 70ish years old! I made 2 skirts from it- the straight skirt I am wearing today, and also a 1950s wider skirt with an appliqued rose on one side. It's so cute! With the skirt I have on a red blouse made from a Burda Style online pattern, and a royal blue cardigan knitted by my mum.

Yesterday I finished a pair of trousers (now I should mention here that I am not so keen on trousers, and haven't worn jeans for a few years now. A pear-shaped gal looks so much better in a skirt!) BUT I had had in mind for a while now a pair of blue wool trousers, with a big turn up at the hems (1930s men's style). I am so pleased to have finally finished them! I thought, quite reasonably, that I would need at least one pair of trousers, if we get a snowy winter, falling over in trousers is not so bad.

I love the style and strong colour of this yummy cardigan, from Rock Street Vintage on Etsy:

Thinking about all this makes me feel very fortunate to be able to make my own clothes; I can choose the fabric, colour, cut, style, and get it to fit me! I love sewing!!! :)

Here are the quotes from fashion masters that express how I feel: 

"Fashions fade, style is eternal."
— Yves Saint-Laurent

"The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows & the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years."
— Audrey Hepburn

"It’s a new era in fashion - there are no rules. It’s all about the individual and personal style..."
— Alexander McQueen

"Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live."
— Gianni Versace

Are you free to express yourself? I do hope so!!


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Merchant and Mills - Draper, England

A couple of months back, whilst I was flicking through one of my sister's copies of 'Country Living', I came across an article about Carolyn Denham and her haberdashery and patterns company 'Merchant and Mills' (now in Rye, East Sussex)- very near me, actually.

Her dress patterns aren't to my taste, but if you like the simple, artist with palette-in-hand look, go and see!!
Merchant and Mills

Their patterns are on card, are sent in a tube, and look fabulous!! The website is a little overlapped, and could do with a bit of a tidy, but everything has a wonderful, old style to it, and I have to admit to spending quite a bit of time ooohing and aaahing over it all a week ago, and ended up buying the following:

The Bamboo point turner is a real find- I couldn't seem to get one anywhere for love or money, and the same is true for the needle threader- the last few I have had have come out of Christmas crackers, and I have had a fair few 'yow!!' moments, when the fine wire has come out of its slot, and found its way into my finger.

They also have some fabulous stationery and workroom accessories. I would love this mug one day:

Merchant & Mills have stockists in Japan, Europe and the US, so keep your eyes peeled.
The fabric collection is full of muted colours, but the quality looks excellent, pricey, but worth it- linens, organic, cottons and muslins.

British Linen

There were a few teething problems with the website, but I think that it have all been rectified. I would also love this in my workroom:

Happy sewing!


Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Symington Side Lacer

R. and W.H. Symington were corset makers who began their business in the middle of the nineteenth century, up in Leicestershire, Gt. Britain. The Symington Collection houses corsetry and other underpinnings, and was given to  Leicestershire County Council's Museums Service in 1980, so if you are up in that neck of the woods, you would be able to see around a hundred or so years of corset heaven! You can study a few handful of items online here .

The point of this post though is to look at one of their innovations, the Symington Side Lacer. Produced during the 1920s, when the fashion was to be boyish and almost androgynous, the side lacer was a garment which flattened a lady's breasts via assistance from side laces. Underpinnings during that time were very minimal, but very pretty! Lots of silk fripperies!!

So if you wanted to look like this, and were on the side of generous proportion wise, you would certainly need one!

A few months back I came across one on ebay:

1920s Symington Side Lacer

Fascinating stuff! I did wonder if this particular one had been altered, as the shoulder straps look as if an extra piece has possibly been added (or even elastic), but it is tricky to tell with these photos! It was so great to find this one, as I hadn't actually seen any images of one. :)

On a personal note, I am beginning to feel much more like my old self again. I would recommend Bereavement Counselling to anyone who is struggling with grief, and the pain of losing someone close in a traumatic way.

Have a super Saturday!


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Apologies for my Absence

This is just a quick 'catch up' note, to explain my absence from both my blog here and over at 'Historika'.

I have had a rough time of it over the past 12 months or so. From Dad's terminal diagnosis, to caring for him, to him passing away. At the same time I did my best to keep my two Etsy shops open, re-decorate rooms at my parents' home, and cope with my own auto-immune disease. All of this it seems, has finally caught up with me.

At the moment the symptoms of my Hashimoto's disease have rocketed, and as I work through treatment for this, I will be unable to work on custom orders. Sadly my last grandparent, my mum's mum, passed away this week, so right now my hands are full.

Antique Historika is still open, however, and over at Historika, I have 10% off some Ready to Ship items.

BUT I fully intend to get myself well again, although this may well take a month or two. I am a positive person, and know that it is appropriate for me to take this time out to allow my body and mind to heal.

Thank you to those lovely kind customers and friends for all their well wishes, I appreciate them so very much.

I hope to be back soonish, on this blog at least during the next couple of weeks.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Romantic Era Sleeve Supports Completed

Yesterday I made a great start on making the sleeve puffs/supports for my late 1820s dress project, and I have just completed them this morning.  From looking at the various examples of my research post, I decided to try to re-create the English pair from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London:

c.1830 Victoria & Albert Museum

I was drawn to this pair from the start; I liked the simple shape, and knew that it would be fairly straight forward to reproduce.

I ended up using a lovely and thick Irish linen, which is an ivory colour. As well as the thick fabric helping to hold them up, the wool that I have used to stuff them is cream, and the colour of that would show through a lighter fabric, so it worked well.

The only really tricky thing was deciding where those ties should go. Looking at the image from the V&A, it seems that there are 4 ties on each; one at each corner. So I stitched these on once the whole sleeve support was complete, again I can just about make this out from the image. I then started wondering how they attached, and to what.

As I was thinking this, I remembered that I had seen a sketch of exactly that in one of my books- 'Underwear Fashion in Detail' By Eleri Lynn through Victoria and Albert Publishing, which is below:

Accompanying the drawing is the following text:

''These sleeve pads were held in place with tapes...that were tacked onto the corset''

Right, mystery solved! I think that I will tack the ties onto the stays, but not tie them centre front and back as shown here, as I don't want it to look bulky around the bodice area, but I'll work that one out later.

My sleeve supports

Now I just need to make myself a pair of pantalettes, and all my late 1820s underpinnings are done!  I shan't blog about those, because they are not wonderfully exciting, and are on my shop for those who want to have a look at a pair.

Right, back to my ideas for the 1820s dress- just how do I want the bodice to look?!

with love,

Monday, 9 July 2012

Charlotte Grove - Regency Diarist

Whilst I was going through my father's genealogy magazines over the last few weeks, I stumbled across a small column about the publication of some Regency and Romantic era diaries written by a lady that I had not heard of before, Charlotte Grove. However, I had heard of her sister Harriet Grove, who is well known as the great love of the poet Shelley, who was a cousin of theirs.

Two volumes were written before she was married, then come 2 more after she was married, which are penned by Charlotte 'Downes'. Although the first three sets of diaries have been published, the last one (1839-58) is sadly 'to be published at a later date'.

They are all going on my 'Christmas List', and I do hope that the last volume is published in the not too distant future. They are only available to purchase here.

So, who was this lady? Charlotte Grove was born to land owning gentry in 1783. She was sent away to school, and by the time she was a young lady, became a very fine proposition for a man on the look out for a wife. It comes as a surprise to me that she was not married before the age of 44, in 1827 to a clergyman. Charlotte was a prolific diarist, but sadly fifteen years worth of documentation is missing, including all from the period 1847-56.

Charlotte lived a long and interesting life. Her diaries must be fascinating to read, spanning from 28 years of age until her death in 1860 at around 87.  They must obviously hold details and descriptions of both a privileged and auspicious Regency society, as well as the day to day lives of the less fortunate, whom Charlotte must have come to know through her life as a Reverend's wife and daughter of a landowner.

To read more about Charlotte and her diaries, please visit this website put together by some of her descendants:

with love,

p.s. I didn't quite get around to the sleeve puffs over the weekend (blame the tennis!) I will get them done during the next few days, I hope!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Late 1820s to c.1835 Romantic Era Sleeve Puffs

Last night I tried all of my underpinnings on for the late 1820s day dress project, to see how things looked, and to take the measurements. Thankfully all was well, and looked great. That done, my mind turned to thoughts for the dress. I do want sleeve puffs, or sleeve supports, as the sleeves I plan to make will be fairly large at the top, and then will form into a more fitted sleeve from the elbow down, much like these examples:

British 1825-30 Victoria & Albert Museum

(I may tone them down a bit from the size here.) Just look at the vibrancy of this printed cotton:
British 1825-30 Victoria & Albert Museum

LOVE that cuff detail and the buttons!! Here is the second dress/sleeve example:

British about 1828 Victoria & Albert Museum

And the gorgeous fabric close-up:

British about 1828 Victoria & Albert Museum
My lovely flowery green fabric will be perfect, I think. Right, so back to sleeve supports. Here are some examples of various shape and size:

c.1830s Metropolitan Museum of Art
1825-35 Manchester City Galleries (from the book 'Fabric of Society' 1983) 

c.1830 LACMA
*And here are some close ups of sleeve supports for this era:

1828-33 Manchester City Art Galleries UK
c.1830 MFA, Boston
c.1830 Victoria & Albert Museum
Thank goodness for online collections!! Some sleeves actually had the supports sewn directly inside them (some with wiring and net), which would mean doing that for each dress, which seems a lot of work. Surely it would be much easier to have these above, which were basted/tacked in, or tied to the stays somehow. Some of the detachable ones were made with baleen or wiring (see the first example).

I wish mine to be much softer, and a little more discreet; suitable for the late 1820s. I am sure that the size depended also upon your social status and position. For some reason my heart always goes out to the working women, maybe the lower middle classes (Jane Austen and Jane Eyre spring to mind here). I want to know what real women wore, and how they lived; not those in grand estates.  So when making dresses I try to aim for that station in life, rather than the nobility or upper classes, who would have been at the height of fashion.

Materials- I plan to make mine fairly simply; from a firm cotton, and stuffed with English wool. Down feathers were most often used for this purpose, but wool is fine by me.

Right, I am off to start playing around with patterns, and hope to have them completed over the weekend.  I hope everyone has a good one!


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Regency Lovelies at Poppies Cottage

The lovely owner at Poppies Cottage has some awesome Regency items for sale over at her online shop 'Poppies Cottage'. How she finds these incredible pieces, I'll never know!!

So at the moment there is a stunningly beautiful and almost perfect Regency Reticule with ribbon and chenille work on offer (and the price is extremely reasonable!). The wonderful part of shopping at Poppies Cottage is that 1) this lady knows her stuff, and 2), as much provenance and information as possible is given with each item. Also, if she is not sure, the owner will say so, so you feel very safe when choosing what to add to your antique fashions collection. Even if you are not looking to purchase, and you are simply a fan of the Regency period and its fashions, you will learn much.

Now I must admit to being a bit ignorant when it comes to the various forms of embroidery. She writes along with the piece:

"Ribbonwork is always beautiful, if well done. Often it is difficult to date, because the revival of the craft in the late 19th Century was also very fine.
However, just one look at this superb reticule or pouch tells us immediately that it is Regency. This is because the delightful ribbonwork is joined by fine chenille work, the 'pipecleaner' chenille threads being carefully couched with the finest of silk thread to form flower heads and the structure of a flower basket to one side.
Each side is a different picture, both equally gorgeous. The flower heads of ribbonwork would include fine silk ribbons from France, in pinks creams and citrine yellow, so typical of the Georgian years.
The centres of each flower are French knots in silk thread and all of the larger flowers stand proud of the surface, some by the build up of ribbon, but one or two being padded and stuffed from below."

The other very interesting piece that she has on her site at the moment is an intriguing Regency Gentleman's Nightcap - so fascinating.

"The cap is labelled by a collector as wool and early 19th Century. It doesn't look or feel like wool, but wool would have been far warmer. Imagine the draughty, unlit and unheated bedrooms of the Regency period! Brrrrrrh! As the head looses more heat than any other part of the body, no wonder that a bed cap was essential! Clever Regency people!
The most interesting part of the cap is the top. Although there are no seams along the length, the knitter clearly had no idea how to reduce the sides to meet in the middle, so created 4 squared short joins to the pinnacle, so as to bring it to a peak! And how are there no vertical seams? was 'knitting in the round' possibly 200 years ago? I really need to research knitting."

She writes with such enthusiasm and fun, that she often makes me smile!

There is also a gorgeous Regency shawl, with no damage, and a Romantic Era dressing sacque! Wonderful!


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Antique Clothing- Poppies Cottage

In my quest to find antique underpinnings and accessories both for my own collection, and to restore and sell on Antique Historika, I came across Poppies Cottage on ebay.

The lady who owns this fabulous antique clothing business also has an website, with items not available over at ebay. She is a very lovely, friendly lady, and her passion for historical textiles and clothing is immediately apparent. She has a devoted following, and her items are often added to historical dress collections around the world.

She is one of the few people who sells items from the 1700s. There are often Georgian, Regency and Romantic era pieces, as well as Victorian and Edwardian.

Just look at these:
Regency Muslin and Linen Cap/Bonnet

Regency Silk Taffeta Ladies Shoes c.1810
Regency c.1810 Silk Scarf

19th Century Whitework Collar

 -This I am pretty sure would be from around the late 1820s/30s, due to the width? I would LOVE to own this! The skills involved in whitework such as this takes my breath away.

There is also a fab section under 'The Study' on her website, listing research books and a record of previous sales.

The owner of Poppies Cottage has very kindly allowed me to use her images, and blog about any pieces that are of especial interest to me, so watch this space!


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Bright Star- Regency Fashions

Well, as this week has been a little traumatic with dear Dad's funeral, (although wonderful too, as I finally met my beautiful nephew, and my godmother flew over from the States to be with us), I am going to remind myself of the gorgeous fashions from the 'Bright Star' film, costumed by designer Janet Patterson. This production is certainly in my top 5 for Regency clothing awesomeness.

I really admired the jumper dresses in this film, and LOVE this blouse here

Beautiful red striped spencer

I have been wanting a teal blue dress such as this for a long time...!
Too much frilly yummyness!

The bright, bold colours of this film made the costumes for me.

Must see the film again to find this outfit!

And I would just like to say, in signing off, that Ben Whishaw is a massive talent, and I eagerly look forward to seeing his career progress. I hope the BBC bring back 'The Hour' for a second series, too.


Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Peace and the Kindness of Others.

Sadly my father lost his battle with ALS (a form of Motor Neurone Disease, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease in the US) last week. His last couple of months were uncomfortable and painful for him, so whilst we are all grieving and missing him terribly, it is a comfort to us that he is no longer in pain.

Although he was not a father who you could sit down and have a 'heart to heart' with, I know that he was proud of his family, and that he would have done anything to stay with us all just a little longer.

His big gift to me has been the inheritance of his love of history; we were both especially interested in the Tudor era. The fascination of Henry VIII and all his wives, the architecture of the period and for me at least, the costume. Dad marvelled at the fact that I had started Historika, and was finally happy doing something I adored. And as the micro business grows and changes, I know that he will be there, somewhere, encouraging me.

This last week and a half has been tough, not surprisingly. But the thoughtfulness, kindness and love from others towards us as a family has been so uplifting. With friends nearby dropping what they were doing to help my mum get everything done that has to be done, to my godmother coming over from Las Vegas for the funeral in 2 weeks, to the wonderful friends I have made on etsy, especially those from the 'Positivity Team'; a BIG thank you to those wonderful, kind hearted people, those that have of course, been through similar pain, and know just how hard it all is.

And so as much as I feel like screaming at the world at the moment, angered by the very fact that he (or anyone) had to go through this wretched disease, having my hand held by loved ones makes me able to get through each day and remember my dad as a truly wonderful man and father. When I was very little and upset, he used to say 'do you want a cuddle?', and I would clamber up onto his lap and sit there until I felt so much better about the world.

Part of me feels like one of those cuddles right now, although if he were here I don't think he could quite manage me on his lap these days!!

           And hold me yet... awhile?
           Lights' encumbered fall becomes another step too far behind to reach me,
           Yet not forgetting,
           That I was ever here.


Saturday, 31 March 2012

Slop Workers

Recently I have been sewing clothes for myself for a change. I don't have a large wardrobe, and don't wish to; I make enough to see me through, and appreciate the lack of decision making I have to do first thing of a morning! I find that the 'modern' ways of dressmaking, i.e. zips and commercial patterns that rarely fit without huge changes to the original, somewhat perplexing! But I do enjoy the opportunity to make things that fit me so much better than any shop bought clothes ever would, and to decide on the styles that I like to wear, rather than having to wear what is 'fashionable' at the time.

In 2012 with a sewing machine, I can run up a basic pencil skirt in a day. Fantastic! But just how did women cope with producing or obtaining their own clothes without the use of one? The thought of hand sewing my own clothes is totally foreign, but this is how it had always been done prior to the middle of the 19th century.  So how did the seamstresses do it, and what were their lives like? Even once sewing machines had been invented, and for many decades on, women continued to painstakingly sew their clothing entirely by hand. As an adjunct, we also mustn't forget the roaring trade in second hand clothes throughout the centuries, for those too poor to purchase or produce their own, (although to admit this would of course have meant social suicide to many).

Now to swerve from the point a little, and look at tailors. Hundreds of years ago, it was the men who ran the businesses, and clothes and dressmaking were no exceptions. Male tailors were given the cloth, and would make up items for you.  The wages were low, and hours long.

'The Tailor' ~1565-70 Giovanni Battista Moroni (1525-78)    
Working men and women were able to purchase ready-made clothing from travelling salesmen, who sold at markets around the country. The only shops to speak of in the sixteenth century were based in the richest areas of London. Female seamstresses were confined to making underwear and lesser items of apparel.

By the 17th century, the second hand clothes market was booming, partly due to the increase in the cost of new silk. Though this was not the case during the plague outbreak, as "...the disease was so virulent that it could be caught by touching the clothes of the victim..." (The Art of Dress- Jane Ashelford).

'The Tailor' ~ 1741 Pietro Longhi (1702-85)
The situation of male tailors began to change by the late 17th century, as women for the first time slowly began to elbow their way into the profession. These 'mantua makers' produced the gowns and other garments for women which had long been the occupation of men. The men did however continue to make the stays, which required much hard work in the manipulation of the bones.

As the 19th century dawns, the length of time between one fashion and the next decreases greatly. This was assisted through greater and faster forms of communications, and the introduction of the fashion magazines from the previous century. Shops now house the wares of the crafts person who often lived above it, and simple items of clothing can be purchased ready made, such as cloaks and outfits for the lower classes.

1824 Plate of the The Ladies Dressmaker from 'The Book of English Trades and Library of Useful Arts', 1824. Manchester City Art Galleries

Due to lovers of Regency dress, this image is everywhere on-line, mainly because of the underpinnings that it depicts. Yet it is showing us a dressmaker taking measurements and draping fabric for her pattern making, with very little having altered since the previous century for the individual dress makers. A surge in women working in the sewing industry came about during the Regency era as large amounts of sails and military uniforms were in demand due to the Napoleonic wars of 1805-15, creating for the first time many, many jobs for women in the needlework profession.

It was also around about this time that fashion shops sprang up in greater numbers in the English capital, and the first department store was also opened. Ladies now had more of a choice in regards to what they wore and who they chose to make it for them. A dress could be bought in London, or at the very least sumptuous new fabrics to be taken home and made up by oneself or a local dress maker. It was not until the 1830s that a lady could purchase a paper pattern from which to make up a dress for herself at home. Although this was a service available in a very few shops, the 1850s saw the first magazine published which included paper dress patterns.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, shops which sold apparel began outsourcing their work to women who found it almost impossible to secure any other form of employment. This very fact led to long hours and extremely low levels of renumeration. And as I write this, I cannot of course, help but compare these seamstresses stories to those I hear of OUR fashion businesses here in the UK, who outsource their work to be completed abroad in much similar circumstances. (This is yet another reason why I haven't walked into a fashion store and bought an item of clothing for 4 or 5 years.)

And so now we reach the most miserable and dejected of women; the Victorian seamstress, depicted in many a book and film, hunched over her work in utter despair- "how will I get this shirt finished by morning?" she cries, whilst at the same time also knowing that she has not had a decent meal in a few days...

'A Tired Seamstress' ~ Angelo Trezzini (1827-1904)
Victorian seamstresses largely worked either at home, or at a business establishment. They worked ridiculously long hours, and were badly paid and cared for. Light was poor and working conditions almost intolerable. Often with poor ventilation, respiratory problems were rife, as the lint swirled endlessly around the cramped room and into their lungs. The women were either worn out at the busiest times, or dismissed when work was scarcer. Once without a job, many turned to prostitution as they were left with little option. The middle man between the larger clothes businesses and the women who worked in their own homes could often become a greedy bully, forcing the girls to work harder and harder as their cut became steadily greater.  (And it is here that we come across the saying 'sloppy work', which derives from the poor workmanship produced by some of these worn out women, who worked for the slop trade, producing cheap mass clothing at great cost to their own health.)

Home workers played a greater part in garment production as the regulations regarding factory work became more stringent, so employers would fall back on them more and more to meet deadlines that they simply couldn't get away with in the factory environment. In 1855, 'The Sempstress' (another word for seamstress), magazine attempted to record what wages these women received:

  "The shirt-maker makes shirts for 2s. a dozen; her usual time of work is from five in the morning till nine at night winter and summer; and for all this she earns on an average 2s 10 1/4 d. per week, or 2s. clear after deducting cotton and candle."

'The Seamstress' 1880 ~ Alexander-Hugo Bakker-Korff (1824-82)
Thankfully, by the close of the nineteenth century, groups were being set up to improve the needlewoman's working conditions, and  were trying to shine a light upon her exploitation and poor wages. These included 'The Society for the Relief of Distressed Needlewomen' founded in 1847, and 'The Association for the Aid and Benefit of Dressmakers and Milliners' founded three years earlier. These associations were eventually effective, producing fairer working conditions for all, and creating some provision for seamstresses in their old age.

Out of all of these tales of poverty and degradation, there is one thing which I find myself being almost jealous about; the fact that back hundreds of years ago, a person who wanted to enter the trade of fashion and clothes making was able to become apprenticed to a tailor to learn his or her 'art'.  Being largely self taught, I often long for a contemporary opportunity similar to that.

My other thoughts are with the women everywhere of the 1800s and beforehand, who of an evening picked up the work boxes and needles, and painstakingly added white-work to nightgowns, tucks to petticoats and embroidery to other items of underthings all by hand. Though not for money; the only thing dictating their hours of work were the fashions and conventions of the time. These garments must have taken months and months to produce. And yes, on the one hand I almost feel sorry for them, but the beauty of their work also makes me glad that they did take the time to do it all... so that one day, many decades later, people such as myself picking those items up, whilst marvelling at them, find themselves thinking 'where have our needlework skills gone to, and why don't we have the opportunity to wear such beautiful clothing today?'

with love,


Monday, 6 February 2012

The Rodmure System - Dress and Costume Cutting, Glasgow.

Apologies for the lack of any January posting. The month just gone was exhausting to say the least. But Dad is now having respite in our local hospice (fantastic places), and Mum and I have a little time to rest and prepare for when he is once again home with us.

Today I am looking at one of the schools of dressmaking up across the border in Scotland, the 'Rodmure School of Dressmaking and Design'. I came across a listing with 2 pattern books from 1899 and 1900, on ebay, and couldn't resist!!  When I received the package in the post I was delighted to find two pattern cutting pamphlets, and a cutting board, and some pattern pieces drafted out on one sheet of paper, along with the measurements taken by the student whom this obviously belonged to. It all came in its original folder, too. So at some point, I plan to sit down and go through the course myself (one day!)
The 'Rodmure' System Pattern Board. Turn of the 20th Century

The two pamphlets are Part I - Dress-Cutting, and Part II - Jacket Cutting. There is a part III, which is Blouses & Gowns, but sadly that one was missing. I shall have to keep an eye out for it. The first part was published in 1899, the second in 1900.

From reading the brief information about the company inside, the course made its way down to England after a few years, and was taught in schools and well as to private individuals. Part I explains how to take measurements, how to draft the pattern pieces, how to adapt the pattern, and 'hints on making up.' There are directions for how to make a skirt, and how to use the pattern for a child.

Part II includes similar descriptions to above, but there are diagrams to assist you as you go along, and directions to make a coat and cape also.
Part II - Jacket Cutting

 As well as the full sized pattern drafted onto paper which looked like it had only been completed yesterday, there were scraps of very old pattern pieces, well dog eared, with the name 'Martha' written on them. I do love these little personal touches on items such as this.
Close-up of Pattern Board
So now my mind is going into research mode, and wondering if there is any more information on the web about this Dressmaking School. Well, I was only able to find a few things. Firstly, although it no longer exists, I can't seem to find out when it closed. It moved premises a few times, and I came across a photograph of the building where it was housed along Sauchiehall Street from the 1920s. It seems that the owner Joseph Fox developed the system in the 1880s.
Rodmure is on the left hand side, up one storey.
I also came across a page from 'The Glasgow Story' online, about Joseph Fox's (1851-33) daughter (Rhoda Levine), who was the school's manageress for some time.  She had a sister named Muriel, who trained as a Milliner in Paris, and then returned to Glasgow and opened up a dress shop along the same street as The Rodmure school. Rhoda assisted in the shop, and her husband was responsible for accounts- quite a family business! It also had a little information about Joseph Fox, who was responsible for "introducing the method of individual pattern cutting to the city".
Rhoda around 1900. Scottish Jewish Archives Centre
There is also mention of the dressmaking school in the book "Cutting for All!" by Kevin L. Seligman, which sounds a very interesting read.

On the last page of both pamphlets is an advertisement for Rodmure Corsets:

I have had a try, but sadly can't find any information about the corsets that were made and sold by them, but I will certainly keep an eye out.

So, if anyone has Part III of this system, please, do contact me!

with love,