Friday, June 17, 2011

Everything's Better with a Little Bling!

Collections:  On my last textile tour to London in 1997, we had the good fortune to visit the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace.  This school was established by one of Queen Victoria's daughters in the later half of the 19th century and is dedicated to the teaching of the needle arts.  Embroidery, beading and lace making to bespoke orders along with services in cleaning, packing and the conservation of heirloom textiles.  Many of their commissions come from the House of Windsor and they are the workrooms that created the lace on Kate Middleton's wedding gown.  They have also created the embellished work on the coronation robes over the past century.
Tapestry Conservation

Gold filgree

Their tours range in length from 1.5 to 2 hours and allow access to the conservation areas and demonstrations by students of a variety of techniques.  If you appreciate these art forms, then you really must put this on your list of things to do in London.  It will certainly be on my list for my tour in the Spring of 2012.

Embroidery can trace its origins back thousands of years, certainly pre-dating any written records.  It seems that people have been particularly keen to adorn themselves and their surroundings in surface ornament.  Perhaps the greatest period in living memory has been the decade of the 1950's.  Next to the Edwardian age, it is most certainly my favorite.  In England, Hartnell on behalf of the royal family, created sumptuous beaded works in his atelier.  The coronation dress above and the princess Elizabeth's wedding gown would have been his two most important commissions.

In France designers such as Dior would have employed firms like Lesage to execute their embroideries. Or, more likely, have purchased from existing designs extracting promises of exclusivity from the firm.  Today, the house of Lesage offers courses in Paris much like the Royal School of Needlework.  Even the shoes were beautiful.
"Venus" by Dior, 1947

"Venus" and "Junon", MET collection
detail of Embroidery

Lesage for Pierre Balmain

Hartnell, state gown for Queen Elizabeth II


Roger Vivier

Recollections:  Several years ago a friend of mine was emptying out her mother's house.  She gave me access to her mom's closet before the contents were to go to auction.  Can you imagine!  Her mother was quite involved with a number of charity events in the late 1950's and early '60's.  Unfortunately the dresses were stored in an area under the eaves of the house.  Water damage over a period of nearly 60 years ruined many garments, but I was still able to walk away with about 12-15 dresses.  They make up the bulk of my collection for this period of design history.  This dress even came with the original newspaper clipping!

Globe & Mail, 1957
Embroidery Detail (machine embroidery)

Ambitions:  Yesterday, I ran a workshop on embellishment techniques.  The focus was primarily for quilters.  Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to really dig into the subject, but we will over the next few months.

Perhaps one day I will try my hand at creating an embellished '50's gown.  The patterns exist so half the work is done.  Now, I need to find the supplies!

Vogue Vintage pattern 

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