A Symphony In White

Look where Berrington’s latest costume display has ended up…featured on the pages of the glossy and stylish September edition of Period Ideas Magazine! The article, features the exhibition ‘Symphony In White’ created by Professor Nancy Hills and currently on display at Berrington Hall.

‘Symphony In White’ is an exhibition of reproduction costume charting the chronology of fashionable silhouettes from the 1780’s until the 1940’s. All the costumes are based on original designs from the Snowshill Costume Collection and the Hereford Museum and Learning Resource Centre.  The exhibition is the result of the brilliant Professor Nancy Hills, Utah State University, who has been studying the construction of the original garments for several years.

Professor Nancy Hills and her creations for Berrington Hall's 'Symphony In White' exhibition running until December 23rd 2014.
Professor Nancy Hills and her dresses on models at Utah State University. ‘Symphony In White’ exhibition at Berrington Hall until December 23rd 2014.

The following is Professor Hills in her own words taking us through the process of creating a few of the dresses featured in ‘Symphony In White.’

Professor Nancy Hills on the dresses featured in ‘Symphony In White’ at Berrington Hall:



Hereford Museum

This Caraco worn is gathered at the waist, under the bust and at the center front neck. The sleeves are simple, slightly curved and end just above the wrist.  The skirt length of the Caraco sits over a simple petticoat.   The drawstrings that hold it closed could easily be adjusted to accommodate a growing abdomen during pregnancy. Down the front edges and around the skirt is a 3 ½ and a half inch two to one ruffle. The neck is finished in a large collar that is reminiscent of a fichu style scarf

1865, Military Inspired Suit,


Each skirt panel is flanked on one side with the selvage of the fabric and cut on the other side angled along the bias.  When a cut is sewed selvage to bias, the skirt is pulled to the back.   Also note the small delicate pattern reminiscent of the William Morris Tiles.  Uniforms from the Crimea War influenced the braided trim on this gown. The Peplum of the bodice is edged with fringe and two rows of velvet ribbon. Similar trim is along the cuff of the sleeves. Note the center front skirt and center back pieces are rectangles with the 10 wedges pulling the skirt to the back. Suit built by Michelle Bradford


1910, Cotton and Lace Day Dress,

Hereford Museum


This gown shows the softer lines of the influence of the far and near east on Western dress. This garment is softer and simpler than the gowns of 15 year earlier.  It has a combination of complicated lace details that seems to give a nod to the complexities of the past with a style relaxation of the modern era. This gown was by far the most complicated to pattern and construct. It was difficult to sort out how big the bodice piece was without the 18 tiny pin tucks or the lace triangles and ribboning. I need to sit down and figure out a way to translate it into modern thinking and sewing order. This is just a working pattern; I anticipate the final pattern will be deconstructed into much smaller bits. Gown built by Michelle Bradford.


1945, CC41 Crepe Rayon Day Dress

Hereford Museum

In the UK all Utility items were marked with a CC41 label which stood for “Controlled Commodity 1941”.   In the United Stated a similar law  was Limited Order L85.

The UK Government gave out pamphlets that encouraged women to recycle and mend everything they owned.  They even gave instruction on how to take apart a man’s suit (abandoned by many Military personal) and make into a woman’s suit or clothes for children.  Rationing, Utility, Austerity is epitomized in this CC41 rayon frock.

The original dress is a lovely rose color. The dress is made from Rayon Crepe. Almost all fabric was replaced with rayon, which imitated wool, silk, linen or cotton.  Dresses were restricted to two yards of fabric, 6 seams, two box pleats and 3 buttons and style lines were only in the front of the garment.  Toward the end of the war as the tide began to turn for the allies some clothing restrictions began to relax a bit.  This dress has 5 buttons and no more 6 than seams. One of the things I noticed was there was no interfacing in this dress.  This was completely in keeping with the austerity of the time.  By the end of the war only the style lines had become less restrictive not the inner structure.  This dress was built by Michelle Bradford.


Want to see it for youself? Visit A Thousand Fancies at Berrington Hall for more information.

If you Would like to see Nancy Hill’s TED presentation please click the link:  Nancy Hill TED talk Make Do and Mend.








2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ps Morgan enjoyed it to!


  2. fantastic as always.


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