Costume & History in Europe 2009 by Kay Inverarity.
The Costume Society Symposium in Greater Malvern.
This year for two and a half months from July to September I had the chance to visit Europe. As history and especially costume are my obsession I sought it out wherever I could. The first place I headed for was a quaint little town in the English midlands called Malvern where the English costume society was holding its annual symposium entitled “Virtue and Vice: Morality in Fashion” here I attended a diverse set of lectures ranging from corsetry; that gratifyingly confirmed much of what I had said for years, to a lecture on Venetian nuns in the 16th century, where I learnt just how unruly these women were, being a thorn in the side of the papacy for many years. It seems that most Venetian nuns were the daughters of wealthy families dumped in the nunneries because the family did not want to fork out for their dowries. As most of these women did not want to be there and held no particular vocation they saw no reason not to follow fashion in their dress and regularly flouted convent rules. We also attended a number of local museums and where able to view some of the costumes held in store, these included Hartlebury castle, the bishop of Worcester’s palace, the Hereford museum store housed in the resource and learning center and Berrington Hall the national trust house that is the home to the Wade costume collection known to many of us through Nancy Bradfield’s book Costume in Detail 1730-1930. The palace has a small but eclectic collection of costume ranging from 18th century men’s waistcoats to nineteenth century fashion dolls. The Hereford collection is much more substantial, it comprises of a wide range of costume and accessories dating from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries all housed in a new state of the art store. The museum also holds a wide range of 19th century coloured fashion plates. The curator is very approachable and is eager to share the collection with interested groups and individuals; however an appointment needs to be made prior to visiting. Our visit was very short so we only saw a glimpse of the stored collection; draw after draw revealed magnificent 18th century brocades, 19th century bonnets, shoes, uniforms etc. each was opened briefly and photos taken in a few seconds. I have included some of my photos here however I must apologize for their quality as I could not use a flash and had no time to set the camera up for a time lapse photo. This was a wonderful weekend of like minded souls both professional and amateur all eager to learn about the many different aspects of costume.
Fig.1. Late 1860s to early 1870s shoes from the Hartlebury collection.
Fig.2. An 18th century corset busk in carved wood (Hartlebury collection).
Fig.3. A gentleman’s waistcoat with sleeves, brocaded in silk and metal thread dating from the first half of the 18th century, the area under the pocket flap reveals the original colours of the garment (Hereford museum).
Fig.4. A late 18th century gentleman’s waistcoat embroidered in fine polychrome silk thread (Hereford museum).
Fig.5 Shoes in the Hereford museum collection.
Fig.6. Detail of an 18th century silk brocade dating from about 1730 to 1760, the pattern is very similar to an example painted by Jean François de Troy, in his painting “Declaration of Love”, dated 1731 (Hereford museum).
Fig.7. An 1820s bonnet in the store at Hereford museum.