I feel like a Pevinsie today. Chilling inside a big house on a rainy day with books and music and a project or three. And nothing but errands to do tomorrow. And exploring. I’d best enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t. I’m going to need study spots soon. You think they’d kick me out if I did my HW in the V&A? I love it there.
Corsetry is going to be extraordinarily fun, and a lot of work. All these classes are. The area around Lime Grove is great, reminds me a little bit of Cedar-Riverside in Mpls. There must be five or six little hole-in-the wall fabric shops a stone’s throw away. All run by well-dressed Indian men, often with their hair tied up in the Sikh style. Full of beautiful satins and silks and velvets, stacked against the walls. They look like little oases of glowing, living color in the wet, gray London street. For the record, there is one dude in Corsetry. I didn’t catch if he was going to make one for himself, or for some lucky(?) lady. The instructor told us with a smile that our finished garments would take up to 4 inches off our waists. Therefore my waist in my finished corset will measure 24 in. We are not going to think about that yet.
Oh, but I didn’t tell you about my Historical and Contemporary Fashion Research class (hereafter referred to as HCFS.) The professor is a small, rocket-fast walker of a lady, and I do really mean a lady. She talks easily at length without notes, taking us through the Natural History Museum, and the British Galleries in the V&A, connecting microscope photographs of insect heads to Alexander McQueen and horror movies, butterflies to Elizabethan embroidery and culture. But when we got the British Galleries she was really in her element. I will let the pictures do the talking about the clothes (talking too much about art is a bad idea), but she knows ALL SORTS OF THINGS. She was telling us about the lacemakers in Holland, before machine lace was made, how they would start at age nine, working long days in damp, dark cellars. They were often blind or dead of disease by the time they were 18. That brought her to discussion of today’s production methods, how Primark and similar companies, (Americanos, think Forever 21, Walmart, Target) abuse and exploit workers to make quick cheap fashion, however much the companies may protest to the contrary. That is a complex subject right there (better to be a child prostitute or work twelve hours in a dangerous factory?), but in her words “Save up for a few key pieces that will last. That’s my fashion advice.” Ah, but that requires people to have true style, to know who they are, and how they want to look, instead of listening to the billboards and the fads. How funny that my first reaction to that “know who you are” principle is “well then we’d have less diverse brands!” when really the opposite is true. There are so many different people, that we might see more diversity in brands and styles if we all dressed “according to the dictates of our souls” (that’s from a Vogue issue, hence the quotation marks, carn’t remember which issue though,) instead of inspecting the Joneses.
Here's the Natural History Museum. We only saw the butterflies and insects, which was actually quite enough for the time we had. It's free. This makes me really really happy. I think I will commit to blog about every single museum we visit in that class. London is our classroom. It'll help me learn.
The man who practically founded the N.H.M. was Hans Sloane. He had an enormous collection of all sorts of naturey things. He was the first to bring back a recipe for hot chocolate with milk from Jamaica: he found the straight chocolate and water mixture the natives liked disgusting.
Bugs. up CLOSE. They're somewhere between beauty and horror. They're so perfectly formed it weirds me out.
Here's the structure called the Cocoon where the butterfly/insect exhibit is stored.
Here are some more bugs. Don't just think, "oh iww. bugs." Look at how perfect their patterns are, how the colors play off each other. Look at how precise all their tiny joints and hairs and wing scales are.
More Victoria and Albert! I have to go get my journal from this class. The random tidbits are fascinating. Hold on.
Ok. am back.
Ages ago, fabric came with embroidery patterns printed on. The buyer would then take the fabric home, embroider the printed pattern, and make up the garment. The smock (Calvin and Hobbes!) in the exhibit was black thread on white muslin-type fabric, pattern very simple with intricate, stylized floral embroidery.
There was the biggest bed I have ever seen. You could have fit all seventeen students and the tutor on it.
It was called the Great Bed of Ware, and was mentioned in Twelfth Night. The innkeeper who owned it used to brag that he crammed it as full as possible. Now imagine, bathing was not fashionable nor frequently feasible. EEEeeeeeee. bugs. smells. yay for technology and hygiene.
She told us how Elizabeth I was given 24,000 "pynnes" on her becoming queen, and that led to how Somerset used to be a place of enormous glove production: the uncut leather would start at one end of the town and come out the little cottages at the end all finished.
Reminds me a bit of this, by Alexander McQueen, modeled by the lovely Sasha Pivovarova, out of Vogue.
Speaking of modern fashion, our tutor pointed out the tiny dolls that were the equivalent of viewing the collections online. They were dressed in miniature versions of the latest styles. Dior and various other designers did a similar exhibit when finances were tight, which boosted their sales and was just a general success.
A woolen wedding suit, with gold and silver embroidery. The embroidery was done in many stages: I can't imagine the hours. This particular one
is miraculously well-preserved for a wool garment.
These wacky pannier things were removable, so that the wearer could dance more vigorously.
Here is a room for you. It was in a house in Norfolk, and was brought to the museum. Obviously. The curtains would almost never have been let down, so as to show off all the wealth to the plebians down the hill. It has been used for numerous fashion shoots. It was a music room.
And finally, here is some embroidery by a lady named Anna Maria Garthwaite. Her house was in Spitalfields, London, and she employed Huegenot weavers to help her with her work. It is exquisite.
DATS ALL FOLKS. it's time for actual homework now. Peas haute. to borrow a Heather Weidemanism.