Our Latest Visit to the V&A Museum

One of the high points of any trip to London is spending a little time visiting the V&A Museum and this past visit was no exception. What was a real stand-out for us this time was viewing some textiles and garments from South Asia. Here’s just a few examples:

This one is a chintz dating from the 18th Century which was essentially a glazed cotton print fabric that was originally made in India. This fabric was exported to England in quantity and it quickly caught on as a fashion fabric to the point where manufacturers in England was producing cheap knock-offs. The fabric was used to make this waistcoat from circa 1770-1775:

Waistcoat, c. 1770-1775; V&A Museum (IS.20-1976)

And here’s a close-up of one of the buttonholes:

This mantle/cape was also interesting:

Unfortunately, we were unable to find out more about it- there wasn’t any sort of card explaining it (or we might have just missed it). Here’s another interesting dress:

Unfortunately, all I could get was the side profile. Here are some other views I obtained from the V&A Museum website:

Gown, c. 1770s, reworked 1790s; V&A Museum (IS.3-1948)

Most of these fabrics were prints, although there was also a few that were embroidered such as this one:

And of course, we visited the regular costume collection… 🙂 In particular, the this Salvador Dali-inspired dress by Schiaparelli caught our eye:

And of course, we had to hit the bookstore:

This barely scratched the surface of what’s there at the V&A and we learn something new every time we go. For a little more, check out this post and this post.  If you’re in London, the V&A is definitely worth a visit. 🙂

Boxing Day In The UK

Boxing Day traditionally comes the after Christmas and is a major holiday in itself in the UK. After the relative quiet of Christmas Day when London almost completely shuts down, we decided to brave the crowds and head out to Liberty London.

Here I am examining some of Liberty’s recent releases…below are just a couple:

Afterwards, we decided to take a walk down Carnaby Street to take in the sights:

The crowds were HUGE, something we’re not used to in LA. 😀 Well, that’s all for now, stay tuned!

Another Take On Wedding Gowns…

In contrast to today, the term “wedding gown” was far more flexible in the late 19th Century than it is today. When we think of a wedding gown, we invariably think of some sort of dress that’s in some shade of white or ivory that’s only worn once on the wedding day and then stored away forever, unless a descendant chooses to wear the dress for their wedding. However, in recent scholarship, it’s been noted that the concept of the “white wedding” with its one-use wedding gown is a fairly recent development, as much a product of merchandising as social convention.

As discussed in a previous post, during the late 19th Century, a wedding dress was typically a woman’s “best dress,” often enhanced by netting, lace, and flowers (especially orange blossoms). The dress was definitely meant to be worn long after the wedding and in fact, the idea of having a dress for that’s only worn once and then stored away forever was considered the height of wastefulness. With that said, here’s just one example of what a wedding dress could be, at least if we accept the Walsall Museums’ description:

Day Dress c. 1885

Day Dress, c. 1885; Walsall Museums (WASMG : 1976.0832)

Day Dress c. 1885

Side Profile

Unfortunately the photography is not the best…style-wise this is mid-1880s with a defined train/bustle and is constructed from a silver-gray silk satin for the overskirt and bodice combined with a silk brocade floral pattern for the underskirt, under bodice and sleeve cuffs. The bodice is constructed to create the effect of a jacket over a vest (although these were usually made as a single unit) and the red flowers on the silk brocade provide pops of red that add richness and variety to what would otherwise be a somewhat dull monochromatic silver-gray dress.

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of front bodice.

And here’s a nice close-up of the silk brocade fabric:

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of fashion fabric.

Here’s a couple of more pictures (although the color is a bit off):

Day Dress c. 1885

Three-Quarter rear view.

Day Dress c. 1885

The red flowers on the silk brocade panels definitely draws the eye up and fixes the viewer’s eyes (As should be the case with all bridal dresses!). Of course, as with much of fashion history, there’s rarely any absolutes and this was the case with using “regular” colors versus the more bridal colors of white and ivory during the 1880s. However, in the end, it’s important to realize that the dividing lines between “bridal” and non-bridal were not as rigid was we tend to view them today (although that’s changing). This was just a brief glimpse into the world of bridal dresses during the 1880s and that there are alternatives to the “traditional” when it comes to bridal dresses. 🙂

In The UK- Part 3

Today we took a train trip out into the English countryside and met up with some friends and visited Waddeston Manor. Located close to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, the house was built between 1874 and 1889 by the Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898) as a weekend retreat for entertaining plus as a venue to house his art collection. The architectural style is a Neo-Renaissance (or Renaissance Revival style) and is quite elaborate and not the usual Victorian style that one normally sees in England.

To get an idea of the scale of the house, here’s an overhead view:

 Aerial view of Waddesdon from the north

And from the front:

The above images are borrowed from Wikipedia since my cell phone camera just wasn’t working right that day. And here’s mine:

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And now for a few interior views:

The Red Drawing Room:

 

Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor

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And there was quite an extensive collection of chinaware of all kinds…

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And then, unexpectedly, there were some Elizabethan era portraits by Nicholas Hilliard:

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And here are some close-up views of the portraiture. First, there Queen Elizabeth:

Sir Amias Paulet:

Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester:

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It was an interesting tour and the crowds weren’t too bad (it was a weekday). Style-wise, the house was mostly decorated in 18th Century style- Rothschild had acquired a large amount of furniture, decorate elements, paintings, et al., mostly from France a la William Randolph Hearst but with much better taste. What also amazing is that the Waddesdon Manor was much more than just a big house, it was a whole self-contained community complete with it’s own workshops and even a power plant- basically, the manor was one of the largest employers in the area and the work was steady even during the Depression of 1893.

One newly-reopened area of the manor were the wine cellars and they were amazing:

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And yes, they offer wine tastings on a periodic basis…. 🙂

For us, touring Waddesdon Manor was an amazing experience and it exposed us to a lot of things that we normally just see in pictures or in museums, devoid of context. The richness of colors were very inspiring and it reinforced our current leaning towards saturated colors and jewel tones- it’s such a contrast to Southern California. We’re still thinking about this marvelous place and we’ll be commenting on it in future posts.

After our visit, we retired to a local pub for dinner and then caught a late train for London…

(To be continued…)