In The Quantocks…

Casual day on the Quantocks, 1880s version.

 



Off To The UK

Traveling can be a lot of fun but there’s a lot of planning involved and calculation that goes into it and our most recent trip is no exception. So what motivated our trip to the UK? Well, besides a basic desire to get out and see the world again now that the threat of COVID was diminishing, we’ve always had a soft spot for the UK, its rich history, and a wide variety of historical sites. But even more importantly, we’d been invited by some good friends to participate in their ten-year wedding anniversary celebration with a late 19th Century theme. We simply couldn’t say no and thus began the months-long planning process for us. 😄

Up until our departure date, there were a lot of tasks that needed to be accomplished and while the process could be exhausting, the end result was well worth it.


After a very smooth flight on a half-empty Virgin Atlantic airliner, we arrived at Heathrow rested and raring to go. We felt confident enough driving on English roads (which can be very challenging for foreigners such as us) and this would afford us the opportunity to take in a lot of remote sites off the normal tourist paths.

Anticipation…

And we were greeted by these wonderful views of London…this was the closest we got to London on this trip (visiting London itself will have to wait until another trip).

After enduring the various immigration formalities and collecting our baggage, it was off to the West Country…

Fortunately, our trip started down the M-4 Motorway so our re-acquaintance with English roads was a gradual one…

Stay tuned for more…



A Trip To Whitchurch Silk Mill

In contrast to the blogging of our prior trips, we’re going to blog our recent trip to England one somewhat out of order but it should still make sense (hopefully). So sit back and relax… 😄

At Whitchurch Silk Mill

 


While we were in England, we had a chance to visit the Whitchurch Silk Mill. Located in the town of Whitchurch in Hampshire, the mill was constructed from 1813 through 1815 by Henry Hayter on a plot of land called Frog Island. Taking advantage of the nearby River Test, the mill’s looms were powered by a waterwheel (today, the looms are run off of electric motors).

The River Test Looking Away From The Mill

Part of the River Test passes below the mill, providing force for the waterwheel.

Since its initial construction in the early 1800s, the mill has had a number of owners and today it’s a public site managed by the Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust. Interestingly enough, silk is still produced here by commission, mostly for film and television productions. Below are some pictures of the machinery:

Skeins of silk thread.

Bobbins on a winding machine.

We couldn’t get any good pictures of the looms themselves so we found some images online:

One of the most interesting aspects of the mill were the looms and they even had two small ones that were set up for visitors such as ourselves to try out 😄:

Here I am giving the loom a try…

The most compelling thing about the mill was that we were able to see how a typical silk mill might have looked (the looms you see date from the 1890s and later). Moreover, looking at the looms, one can instantly understand why the selvage widths of period fabrics were narrow- older looms simply were not as big as the massive ones now commonly used.1Admittedly an “Oh wow!” moment for us. We’re still processing the whole experience but the one major takeaway is that we have a deeper appreciation of how silk fabric was manufactured.



And We’re Back! 😄

We’re back from England and recovering from the jet lag. 😄 While it was a fun near-two weeks, we’re glad to be home- it’s probably the longest time we’ve been away from the atelier in a long time. We apologize for the long silence here on the blog but the WordPress App on the mobile phone is difficult to use and error-prone so things have had to wait. 😄

Waiting to leave Heathrow for LAX.

Overall, it was an amazing trip and we visited all manner of interesting places and learned some new things- it’s been some 20 months since we were last in the UK and it was a relief to be able to return there and visit with our friends. We’ll be posting updates as we sort through all the pictures we took as well as others that our friends sent us- please bear with us as we slowly get caught up. 😄



Something Blue- A Reception Dress From the 70s…

Just when we thought we’d seen it all when it comes to 1870s style, there’s always something new to us that grabs our attention and in this case, an interesting circa 1876 reception dress from the Centraal Museum in Utrecht:

Reception Dress, c. 1876; Centraal Museum, Utrecht (4468/001-002

This dress features a dual solid/patterned fabric combination characteristic of 1870s style with the skirt and undertrain constructed of what appears to be a bright blue silk taffeta silk combined with a floral patterned silk brocade bodice and train. The bodice front features a narrow plastron of the same blue silk taffeta found in the dress and undertrain. The neckline is relatively modest, combined with a high Mandarin-like collar. The sleeves are three-quarter and are trimmed with ivory/champagne-colored lace.

The dress silhouette is interesting in that combines elements of both Early and Middle Bustle Eras. First, the bodice is suggestive of an early pannier polonaise style, a style that was to come into its own by 1880. However, note that the bodice is a separate entity from the pannier draping. At the same time, the bodice rear extends into a full train that style-wise is more characteristic of an earlier bustle era style.  Also, it’s interesting to note that while there’s a fully developed train going on, it’s more suggestive of later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles but nevertheless, some form of bustle was utilized and it’s especially a good candidate for a cage style bustle. Finally, we’d like to note the use of two horizontal rows of loose gathering on the dress front along with the loosely pleated hem serve to give the dress front more fullness.

The above picture provides a good view of the train and it’s clear that the bustle that would have been used with this dress would have emphasized the fullness of the train on the vertical plane. Now, let’s take a closer look at the bodice:

The high Mandarin collar and cut-out neckline are very angular and geometric and the theme is carried on further down the bodice front with the plastron that features a faux diamond cut-out below the neckline that reveals the pleated blue plaston.

The plastron’s vertical knife pleats draw the eye upwards towards the neckline, emphasizing the silhouette’s slender vertical lines, a style characteristic found in later Mid-Bustle/Natural Form styles. The overall effect is further emphasized with the minimal use of trim.

In the above picture, one can get a good idea of what the silk brocade looks like- note the bright blue velvet flowers outlined in gold on a background of striated blue and gold fabric. The excellent condition of the colors and the fabrics are simply amazing and it’s obvious that this dress was stored well, away from light. Below are some more close-ups from various parts of the dress:

 

Below is a nice view of one of the cuffs:

Finally, here’s a couple more full views of the dress from different angles:

The pictures above and below really give a good view of the dresse’s fullness in the front which nicely combines with the fullness of the train.

Below is a another nice view of the train.

For us, this is a very interesting dress in its transitional nature, combining earlier and later style elements and a fairly harmonious manner (although some could argue that the effect is somewhat clumsy but we beg to differ). It also shows that often, dresses are difficult to pigeon-hole in terms of style and only shows that fashion history is always full of unique surprises.