Stomacher detail, 'The Wedding dress', The Duchess exhibition at Berrington Hall, April 1st - June 31st 2014
Berrington Hall

The Duchess at Berrington Hall

The Duchess at Berrington Hall, until June 30th 2014

In rural Herefordshire, amongst acres of field and farmland, Henry Holland’s perfectly formed and beautifully designed mansion, Berrington Hall, is deserving of its accolade ‘a Georgian gem’. Most would consider this an accurate description but some find the austere design in stark contrast with its elegant, jewel-like interiors. Almost everyone will agree that, of late, a little bit of Georgian glamour has been weaving its way through the house in the form of a few wonderful costume exhibitions; more recently the exhibition of costumes from the 2008 film The Duchess, on loan from COSPROP, have been stealing the show. The costumes currently on display at Berrington Hall were worn by Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley who played The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire respectively, in the 2008 motion picture directed by Saul Gibb. The costumes were designed by Michael O’Connor and earned the designer both the Academy award and BAFTA in 2009. It comes as no surprise as the costumes are breathtakingly beautiful and elegant and are more than fitting displayed against the elegant Georgian spaces within Berrington Hall. On the day of installation Costume Curator, Althea Mackenzie, and Conservation & Engagement Assistant, Chloe Reynolds, were on hand to dress the purpose-built mannequins as worn by Knightley in the 2008 film. In the gallery below you can see exactly how the shape has been built up on the mannequin and how no detail was spared by the costume design team.

 The Wedding Dress

This sack back dress, with folds at the back falling from the shoulders is an excellent illustration of formal dress of this time (1770s).  The 3 dimensional trimming, made from the same fabric as the body of the gown is typical as of course are the skirts held out horizontally by panniers or hooped petticoats. In the film The Duke is seen to cut the wedding dress from his new Duchess, not only was this scene evocative but also accurate, it would not be unusual to be sewn into your dress. Geogiana’s wedding took place in secret with only several guests to avoid throngs of curious onlookers. The costume reflects the understated simplicity of an 18th century wedding. It is cleam silk with a sack back and decorated stomacher, pinned to the corset beneath. It has a separate under skirt. “Diamonds” decorate the center front of the stomacher.

The Duchess Bath Park Day Dress

The Duchess of Devonshire was well known for her beauty, charisma and as a leader of fashion.  In the film the clothes illustrate the changing fashions of the times.  Starting with sack back and panniered dresses the style moves on to the polonaise style of this dress.  With its flounced petticoat and looped up robe this dress epitomises the style favoured around 1780. The move from heavy brocades to lighter silks like taffeta work well treated in this way The style is not only fashionable it is also practical lifting the hems up and away from dirt and dust on the ground. Notice also the frayed edges to the ruffles on the robe, this is also a style detail from this time many ruffles were finished this way or were pinked which gave a looser softer ‘Rococo’ look.

The Duchess at Berrington Hall, until June 30th 2014

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1880s-90s Bird Hat, on loan from the Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre
Hats & Bonnets

The Bird & Pearl

So here it is…my favorite hat in the exhibition. It feels a little sacrilegious to say this as this hat is actually on loan from the Hereford Museum and Learning Resource Centre (If I could do a second blog on the incredible costume collection housed there I would; Over 8000 items!). I do happen to have another firm favorite from the Snowshill collection but today I wanted to put the spotlight on this showstopper. Also, if I ever decide to renounce a career in heritage and open a lovely pub somewhere then I have to acknowledge that this hat has given me the inspiration for the name of my future establishment; the Bird & Pearl…keep an eye out for it tucked among the eateries in Mumbles, Swansea in a decades time ;)

What makes this hat even more special is that it tells a significant tale. When I asked Costume Curator, Althea Mackenzie, what information she had on this particular hat she responded that it was the fashion for killing birds for the purpose of adorning hats and clothes in the late 19th century that led to the creation of the RSPB. A reminder of the sobering and silent narratives woven into historical garments, no matter how spectacular or beautiful they may be.   

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1730 - 1780 Quilted Petticoat, 18th century Country Casuals at Berrington Hall, 2014
Berrington Hall

A Thousand Fancies at Berrington Hall 2014

A Thousand Fancies

Charles Paget Wade spoke of the power of objects to ‘inspire a thousand fancies.’ In 2014 Berrington Hall will showcase a series of costume exhibitions against the backdrop of its beautiful Georgian interiors to inspire a thousand fancies in our visitors.

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5 different Costume displays from the Charles Paget Wade collection, the Janet Arnold Prize winner, Costumes from the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice and the 2009 film The Duchess will also be on display at different times of the year throughout 2014.

Each week I will reveal more dates, events and exhibitions taking place at Berrington Hall. This week I am pleased to announce the dates for the 5 bimonthly Charles Paget Wade displays accompanying our Gorgeous Georgians at Berrington Hall. Diaries at the ready!

1st March – 30th April
Hats & Bonnets

“It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a head, you must wear the right sort of hat” ~ Kazantzakis

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A display of 18th – 20th century hats and bonnets from the Charles Paget Wade collection and Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre

1st May – 30th June
Wearing the Garden

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Georgian men were no wall flowers when it came to getting dressed! An extravagant display of waistcoats and accessories from the Charles Paget Wade collection and Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre

1st July – 31st August
Big Bottoms and Small Waists

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‘An unnatural Protuberance!’ Undergarments through the centuries from the Charles Paget Wade Costume Collection and Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre

1st September – 31st October
18th Century Country Casuals

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Traditional techniques and quilting explored in costume and accessories from the Charles Paget Wade collection at Berrington Hall and Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre

1st November – 23rd December
Classical Cool

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Opening the Regency wardrobe; Regency costume and accessories from the Charles Paget Wade and Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre

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1880s-90s Bird Hat, on loan from the Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre
Berrington Hall

What a week!

There has been many late nights and early starts of late but its all been for the most excellent of causes; the celebration of historical fashion! I hope the images below can give you an insight into how the past week at Berrington Hall has unfolded…and to David, Althea & Chloe…thank you :)

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20/20 design for CPW Display Room at Berrington Hall opening March 2014
Berrington Hall

Hats in March, Hoops in April…

March Events at Berrington Hall:

Hats & Bonnets

18th – 20th Century hats & bonnets from the Charles Paget Wade costume collection (On display until 30th April)

Gorgeous Georgians

A stunning display of star items from the Charles Paget Wade costume collection (Running throughout 2014)

Patterns of Fashion 2013 Finalist

The Polonaise, C1770-85, created by Grace Cheetham, Arts University Bournemouth, from the Janet Arnold pattern of the original Snowshill garment (On display until 30th April)

Changing Silhouettes

18th – 20th century replica garments created by NADFAS (On display until 30th April)

Dressing the 18th Century Lady

Saturday 29th & Sunday 30th Marchlive demonstrations from the talented Staymaker (see below for more information)

Hats in March, Hoops in April…

What a busy few weeks! Just recently the Costume Curator, Althea Mackenzie and the General Manager of Herefordshire, David Bailey and I met with design team 20/20 to discuss the new exhibition space at Berrington Hall. Here’s one of the sketches to illustrate how the space is going to be used to showcase our first of five (yes, five!) displays at Berrington Hall throughout 2014.

The first display, Hats & Bonnets, and will run from March 1st to April 30th. For more information about Hats & Bonnets, and future displays, please see the A Thousand Fancies blog post.

Within this space we shall also be talking about the incredible collector Charles Paget Wade and how his vision and understanding of the power of objects has enabled the survival of such wonderful garments. Check out this fabulous blog  The Wonderful World of Wade to see more of Wade’s incredible collection stored at Snowshill Manor.

Wade loved to dress up and try on costumes with his friends and in April the team at Berrington Hall shall be inviting visitors to do the same in the new Georgian Wardrobe space in the mansion. Here’s a sketch of how the space will look from the team at 20/20;

Speaking of which the very knowledgeable and talented Staymaker is currently very busy creating some fabulous hoops for our visitors to try on in our new Georgian Wardrobe Room! From April 1st we shall be encouraging visitors to walk through doorways and sit on chairs whilst retaining elegance and decorum…I wish you all the very best of  luck with that!

To see some more incredible undergarments created by The Staymaker (many of which can be worn at Berrington Hall from April 1st) please visit The Staymaker website.

Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th March – The Staymaker comes to Berrington Hall

The Staymaker is making an appearance at Berrington Hall! During the last weekend in March (dont forget your mums – its Mothering Sunday) The Staymaker shall be demonstrating to visitors the art of dressing, and undressing, the 18th century lady. Please see below a snippet of whats to come in The Staymakers own words…

Dressing the 18th Century Lady

Below are pictures showing the stages in dressing for an 18th century lady. This style of outfit would have been called an ‘undress’ since it is informal clothing that a woman might have worn around the home or amongst friends informally. Clothing suitable for social events would be described as ‘dress clothes’. For example ladies attending court would be told to appear ‘fully dressed’. The clothes shown would have been fashionable circa 1730 – 1750.

All women in the 18th century wore a ‘shift’ next to the skin to keep the upper layers of clothing clean from the body’s dirt. It was usually made from linen but could be made of cotton or ‘Scotch cloth’ – a fabric made from the fibres of nettles.

In the first image the lady is tying garters to hold up her stockings. Stockings had designs known as ‘clocks’ worked at the ankle, which can just be seen here in white on the lady’s left ankle. Her stays, pockets and a spare pair of garters lie close by.After tying her garters and putting on a short under petticoat – called a dickey in England – she is laced into her stays. To see more of these stays visit the stays page.

The lady is now tying a pair of pockets about her waist which will contain all she needs to carry about with her such as money, keys, fan, handkerchief, etc.

An English nursery rhyme mentions pockets:

Lucy Lockett lost her pocket
Kitty Fisher found it.
There was nothing in it
but a ribbon tied around it.

Because the pockets were simply tied about the waist the knot could come undone and the pockets fall to the floor, which is what happened to Lucy Lockett.

The pockets could be reached through slits left in each layer of petticoat. In the 18th century a woman’s skirts were referred to as petticoats. The word skirts usually only referred to the lower parts of a man’s waistcoat or coat.

Here the lady has put on her false rump or bum – a pad worn about the hips to give the skirt a fashionable shape. Over this she is wearing a quilted petticoat and then one of linen. A petticoat of stiff ribbed silk has now been put on, together with an apron and a half neck handkerchief. Later in the century the handkerchief was known as a fichu.

For normal day wear a handkerchief would be worn to fill in the neckline providing warmth and protection from the sun. A suntan was not fashionable in the 18th century and usually indicated that the person had to work outside for a living. For more dressy events in the evening it was normal to remove the handkerchief and show the cleavage.

To read the full article please visit The Staymaker or come and see the live event at Berrington Hall on Saturday 29th or Sunday 30th March 2014.

 

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Fashion plate by Le Clerc, 'polonaise' printed outdoor dress, 1786
Dresses

A Pretty Polonaise

What would the fashionable lady of the 1770′s wear to convey her fashion savvy? Enter the Polonaise…in my mind the most unusual silhouette of the 18th century; quite the accolade when you consider the variation in Georgian fashions.

The pretty cream silk polonaise on display at Berrington Hall (from March 1st) comprise a wide ribbed satin stripe fabric with brocaded floral sprays in red, pink, green, black, pale blue and yellow. The dress is dated 1775 – 80 but it has survived in the most remarkable condition as the images above testify. Both Bradfield and the Snowshill conservation record acknowledge that the bodice and sleeves have been enlarged under the arms and skirt and that the fabric of the petticoat has been used before ‘probably as [the] original petticoat with pieces removed to [the] dress.’

In her incredible tome, Costume In Detail, Nancy Bradfield points to several examples of the polonaise illustrated in portraits of the period but it is the fashion plates of the period that really convey the whimsical romance this style of dress exudes.

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Partial View of Riding Jacket, 1736-Partial View of Riding Jacket, 1736-40, Gorgeous Georgians at Berrington Hall 2014. From the Charles Paget Wade Collection stored at Berrington Hall.
Berrington Hall

A little taste of the feast to come…

 

A Thousand Fancies at Berrington Hall, 2014.

From February 15th Berrington Hall will be open from 11am to welcome the curious folk who want a slice of sumptuous Georgian grandeur. Against the backdrop of the jewel like interiors a small group has started to gather in one of the bedrooms upstairs; a cherry red sackback robe accompanies her glittering, sparkling companion who is in conversation with a pretty cream silk polonaise. They are admiring the tropical looking early 18th century jacket who is in turn envious of a waistcoat threatening to upstage her with all his purl, sequins and sparkle.

This gathering of Gorgeous Georgians is a small exhibition that will reside at Berrington Hall throughout 2014. From March 2014 this group will be competing for attention from our new exhibition space dedicated to displaying 5 bi-monthly themed exhibitions from the Charles Paget Wade collection until the end of the year…and did I mention the two exhibitions of Georgian & Regency costume from film and tv?…Maybe I should leave that until my next post! Until then please enjoy another gorgeous, sumptuous early eighteenth century delight from Berrington Hall…

The knock out Jacket

Isn’t this jacket simply gorgeous?? If this beautiful creation has not yet elicited a ‘wow’ from you then maybe this might; the brocade fabric has been dated 1736-40. Its condition, like many items in Wade’s collection, is remarkable given its age.

The conservation record describes the fabric as Begonia French pink silk. The flowering plants that come under the Begonia family are native to moist subtropical and tropical climates which is what gives this jacket its truly tropical look; in this respect the style is not too dissimilar from collections seen on the highstreet and in modern couture. H&M’s collaboration with Versace in 2011 springs to mind. People who wear the loud Versace prints are not normally regarded for their wall flower qualities and I think the same could be said for the Georgian wearer of this jacket! Whoever she was, she liked to be seen. If she were alive today I imagine Versace would be her brand.

This bodice of this jacket is lined with pale blue silk jacket. The construction of this close fitting bodice with ‘v’ neckline forms a low pointed waistline front and back. The back is in two panels with two whalebone inserts. The fan pleats on the side of the skirt create a short, flared skirt detail with a centre back vent with box pleats side back. The silhouette of this jacket is also defined by its large stiff winged cuffs. The fastenings comprise of three self-covered buttons on the lower centre front of the jacket for laces to fasten over the stomacher. On this particular example the remains of a fragment of the matching silk lace is wound discreetly around the top button to preserve it.

Thanks for reading and if you want to see more of this gorgeous collection keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for more information about the many costume exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations, reenactors and more at Berrington Hall throughout 2014.

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