1730-50s mustard yellow satin uppers and heel covers. Charles Paget Wade costume collection, stored at Berrington Hall
Shoes & Accessories

A Cinderella Moment…

I don’t subscribe to the female stereotype of adoring shoes but I challenge anyone not to be excited, or just a little bit intrigued, by the rows and row of boxes in the Costume Curator’s stores at Berrington Hall.

Women’s shoes in the 18th century were predominantly made of fabric. The material was often patterned dress silk although it was not usual to choose a gown and shoes in matching material. The fabric side straps (called latchets) would be pinned with a metal buckle (of which Charles Paget Wade collected many and I shall be blogging about shortly!).

It’s easy to see how the embellishment of a sparling buckle could enhance any shoe, take these mustard yellow satin shoes from the early 18th century (dated 1730s-50s). They are attention-catching regardless owing to the the popping acid colour that has not diminished in vibrancy over the centuries.

My favourite pair are these pink satin mules with silver metal embroidery. They are simply beautiful objects to behold…and not unfamiliar in shape to modern eyes. The best part of these shoes, and all costume in fact, is seeing the wear and tear that could only have been created by the shoe being worn and not, for once,  the usual agents of deterioration National Trust staff are used to.

On discovering a charming book (Selbie, Robert. The Anatomy of Costume, 1978) about costume the other day it amused me to discover the description of 18th century ladies approach to footwear;

‘Most fashionable women, who did not set foot out of doors unless they had to, had shoes of silk, velvet and satin…Madame du Barry…complained to her shoemaker that her shoes had worn out too quickly. He replied “But Madame, you must have walked on them!” ‘

I would take the anecdote and information with a pinch of salt as the Georgian’s had a clever solution to maintaining the delicate fabric of their footwear; leather clogs! A wonderful example exists in Killerton’s vast costume collection (see below).

A similar brocade shoe from roughly the same period (1730′s) exists in the Charles Paget Wade collection stored at Berrington Hall, sadly its matching clogs long gone.

Another interesting feature of Georgian footwear was the significance of the red leather heel. The red heel was indicative of aristocratic nobility in the French courts. The fashions were adopted in England during this period but Costume Curator Althea Mackenzie informs me it was much harder to police in Britain and eventually lost its kudos as a signifier of fashionable privilege…until Louboutin revived the tradition of course ;)

These raspberry silk heels are dated around the 1740s.

In clashing contrast the conservation record states that the emerald green damask silk has been dated by Natalie Rothstein around 1742-44.

And finally the prettiest but slightly anachronistic sets of Georgian ballet pumps that have been adapted for fancy dress…by Charles Paget Wade and friends? Who knows! The flat shoe of the late Georgian period is indicative of the impact the French Revolution, and the institution of the Reign of Terror, had on fashion. Although the flats pictured are of a later date, the fashion for flat shoes were adopted in the last decade of the eighteenth owing to their working class affiliations; they infer the necessity of walking as opposed to footwear indicative of those who could afford travel by carriage.

Berrington Hall

Wearing the garden

The Hidden Wardrobe:

The amazing NTtrasurehunt blog (nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com) putting the spotlight on some of Snowshill’s treasures stored/exhibited at Berrington Hall. Please check out Emile’s blog; it showcases the National Trusts incredible and varied collections across the country.

Originally posted on Treasure Hunt:

Damask waistcoat in 1770s style, using fabric from 1755. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349699. ©National Trust

Damask waistcoat in 1770s style, using fabric from 1755. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349699. ©National Trust

I just spotted these images of yet more gorgeous waistcoats from the Wade collection at Berrington Hall, on the well-illustrated Hidden Wardrobe blog. I have previously showed some of these exuberantly ‘pre-Brummell’ waistcoats here.

Cream satin waistcoat with copper-plate printed decoration, 1810-20. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349304. ©National Trust

Cream satin waistcoat with copper-plate printed decoration, 1810-20. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349304. ©National Trust

They are on show in an exhibition entitled ‘Wearing the Garden’, about the floral decoration on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century waistcoats. The exhibition is on view until 30 June – just an few days left.

1760s beryl blue satin waistcoat with snowdrops, daffodils and stylised leaves in silver gilt. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349008. ©National Trust

1760s beryl blue satin waistcoat with snowdrops, daffodils and stylised leaves in silver gilt. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349008. ©National Trust

I find it difficult to imagine how men could unselfconsiously wear such sumptuous and theatrical clothes – but they evidently did.

Early-nineteenth-century waistcoat decorated with embroidered flowers and spangles. Wade collections, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349300. ©National Trust Early-nineteenth-century…

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1750 - 60 Gold Silk Damask Waistcoat, 'Wearing the Garden' exhibition at Berrington Hall until June 30th. Snowshill Costume Collection.
18th Century Waistcoats

Wearing The Garden

Wearing the Garden; A post by Althea Mackenzie, Curator of Costume for the Charles Paget Wade Costume Collection

The history of the waistcoat goes back to the period of the Restoration when Charles II introduced it as part of ‘correct dress’. The style was derived from the Persian vests and in 1666 John Evelyn wrote: “To Court, it being the first time his Majesty put himself solemnly into the Eastern fashion of vest changing doublet, stiff collar, bands and cloak, into a comely dress after the Persian mode.” It is not known why the term ‘vest’ was replaced by the term ‘waistcoat’.  One idea was that the waistcoat was made from the remaining ‘waste’ pieces when tailoring a two piece suit! The waistcoats on display show how they changed in shape and style during the Georgian period (1692-1837), the period when the four Georges were on the throne.  In the early part of the century the waistcoat was long, with the emphasis on elaborate and striking decoration.  This was concentrated on the centre front and the pocket flaps.  It created a powerful sense of authority and status.  By the end of the 18th century the emphasis had changed and it was the waistcoat was very much a ‘uniform’.  The style was much shorter and the decoration lighter and delicate.

These changes in fashion reflected the social change that occurred during this period.  At the beginning of the century the aristocracy was still very much based on inherited position, they were confident and very much using their costume to represent their superior position within society.  As the century evolved the power of the aristocracy was increasingly challenged by a successful and aspiring middle class who made their money through trade and commerce.  This new ‘middle class’ wanted to emulate the fashion of the aristocracy and had the money to do so.  It became more and more difficult for the landed aristocracy to maintain their position and as more people became part of a wage based economy they had increasing opportunities to buy a wider range of fashionable goods.  One of the many laments of the period was that it was increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the master and the servant or mistress and maid.

The earliest waistcoats in the collection come from 1740-1750.  They are heavily embroidered with gilt lace and would have been highly expensive items.  They would have been made in a workshop.  The design would have been pricked and pounced onto fabric stretched on a frame.  This would then have been drawn out for the various young girls to embroider.  When finished the waistcoat would be made up to fit the client by the tailor. Later on in the period it became more possible to buy ready made items. Drizzling was the practice of pulling out gold and silver threads from brocades to sell back to the silver and gold lace maker for pin money.  It became all the rage of the ton – the fashionable set – not so much for the money as for the amusement it provided. It is said that Prince Leopold spent most of his leisure hours in drizzling using the drizzling tools that belonged to his wife.

Goldwork was originally developed in Asia and has been used for at least 2000 years. Its use reached a remarkable level of skill in the Middle Ages when a style called Opus Anglicanum was developed in England and used extensively in church vestments and hangings.  In the 18th century it was often used in decorating waistcoats, particularly those of the early part of the century.

Velvet is a material that immediately denotes wealth.  Its production was very labour intensive and skilled, a velvet weaver could take many weeks to set up the loom for a complex weave. Some of the most exquisite velvets are found in the 18th century from Italy and France and are created by combining cut and uncut velvet to produce sophisticated and vibrant designs.

The technique of tambouring was developed on the Indian sub-continent and was transported by the various European East India Trading companies to Europe.  The fabric to be embroidered is stretched over a frame and then embroidered from below using a tambour hook which creates a running chain stitch.  The effects were very popular in the 18th century and it was an activity done by many young ladies who could reveal the elegance of their hands whist tambouring.

The printing of textiles from engraved copperplates was first practiced in the United Kingdom by Thomas Bell in 1770.  The presses first used were of the ordinary letterpress type, the engraved plate being fixed in the place of the type. Later the cylinder press was employed – the plate was inked mechanically and cleaned off by passing under a sharp blade of steel; and the cloth, instead of being laid on the plate, was passed round the pressure cylinder. The plate was raised into frictional contact with the cylinder and in passing under it transferred its ink to the cloth.

The waistcoat above is cream silk embroidered with flowers in multicoloured silks with spangles interspersed. The foreparts are edged with gold and silver braids and black velvet and spangles, each surrounded with a ring of vellum. The pockets and collar are edged with gold and silver braids. It appears to be an earlier garment adapted to the changing fashion of the late 18th century.


Wearing the Garden‘ will be on display until 30th June. The next exhibition, ‘Big Bottoms & Small Waists‘ will be on display at Berrington Hall July 1st – August 31st.     


Originally posted on Textile and Dress Historian:

The power of objects to inspire a thousand fancies
Charles Paget Wade

Charles Paget Wade, a poet, architect, artist-craftsman and not forgetting keen collector of eclectic objects, to inspire.

This collection can be seen at Snowshill Manor, which Wade gave to the National Trust in 1951. The collection of course would not be complete without costume (2,200 items of 18th to 20th century to be precise) which is stored at Berrington Hall. The collection is cared for by Althea Mackenzie, Costume Curator.

This year Berrington Hall is bringing to life the Georgian interiors of the Hall by displaying costume, from The Charles Paget Wade Collection, Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre and COSPROP (costume from The Duchess and 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice).

The displays shall enchant visitors by taking them on a journey, peeping into the lives and fashion of Georgian society.

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Berrington Hall

A Thousand Fancies….

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

18th century, Queen Hortense Fan at Berrington Hall
Shoes & Accessories

Fabulous Fans


Fans are like hats…once a necessary accessory to an outfit but nowadays a rare sight for fashion purposes. Fans are more likely to be found in display cases in museums and the stores of specialist societies than worn, or rather used, by an individual in the street.

As object d’art they are beautiful to behold and often exude a skill and craftsmanship we sometimes overlook owing to their redundant functionality today; perhaps making it harder for those interested in dress history to get excited about. Everybody is able to relate to clothing but accessories are so subjective. That said, it is hard to overlook the incredible detail of this 18th century fan from the Boudoir at Berrington Hall below…

The conservation record simply states that the fan is;

’18th century painted with classical scene. Belonged to Queen Hortense of Holland, the Comte de Flahaut’s mistress. She was the daughter of Josephine de la Pagerie, who later became Napoleon’s brother Louis, King of Holland.’

If anyone has a specialism in this area or is able to provide further information on the fan I would be most grateful.

The fan can currently be viewed in the beautiful surroundings of the Boudoir at Berrington Hall.

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.