So, a few years ago when I was about half way through my Costume Degree I decided to take a trip across the UK and visit as many Costume Collections as I could. Some eluded me because of refurbishments and opening times mainly however; it took about a month but I saw some amazing things, met some wonderful people and thought I would slowly start to share some of the amazing pictures I collected along the way with you.
1700-20 Waistcoat – Fine linen top and coarse linen underneath, quilted all over with cream 20 ply silk in back stitch. Design of small feathers and ‘rose window’ marguerites threaded with twisted sheep’s wool. Ground of small lozenges. Fronts curve away – slashed at sides and centre back. Sleeveless. 9 eyelets over sewn for front [Stomacher is missing] lacing.
The first is this simply stunning Waistcoat, still my favourite piece from any collection I have seen (and I’ve seen many around the World!) however; I hadn’t noticed its awe inspiring beauty until the Curator, Althea Mackenzie, lifted the piece and the cold blue light of the mid-morning sun illuminated the expert craftsmanship.
We had been gazing at Quilted Petticoats from the late 1700’s at the Wade Collection for some hours, and this piece was just one in many but it still resonates with me. I have long been a fan of Quilting as a decorative form- having been taught to sew through Patchwork and Quilting- and this is the finest example of that I have ever had the pleasure to be in the presence of. A Ladies waistcoat, dated 1710, with subtle flaring and two slits at the back to allow for the fullness of the skirt, this is just longer than hip length and the curve at the front would have also slightly flared out over the skirts. Gorgeous.
Similar to a Gentlemans waistcoat I have cut of the same period, I long to re-create it for myself! It is exquisitely quilted, with hand worked eyelets and genuinely has to be one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen in my life. They really could make fabric do things I think we have now forgotten- the neckline would have gently but oh so slightly turned back on itself when wearing, as would have the bottom hem line under the lacing. The combination of Quilting and Backstitch also interests me, and I think contributes to the Embroidered feel. Lovely. There are more Quilted Waistcoats out there, Killerton holds a particularly stunning one which has a slight contrast colour in the stitching.
I have a storage box stuffed full of similar images, and I shall start to sift through them and share the unusual (burnt and blackened Corsets found in a Chimney and Thatch, which was a slight trend amongst the Victorians’!), the beautiful (some hand painted silk with the stencil still showing) and more. I shan’t follow a time line, but pick and choose as I please!
I do hope you find this as lovely as I do… any collections suggestions? I shall be travelling across Europe later this year and would love suggestions any where!