I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview of Hereford Museum's new Exhibition: Shades of White: the changing shape of women.
I brought back a vast number of pictures and I'm indulging myself a bit here. Be warned. This post will be long!
Nancy Hills, Head of Theatre Costume Design, Caine College, Utah State University has led the project which recreates real costumes from the Hereford and Berrington Hall collections (with the assistance of their costume curator, Althea Mackenzie) All the replicas are in shades of white so that the intricacies of cut and construction can be seen; the workmanship is fantastic. What's more, visitors can be up close and personal with the replica costumes. It's like being in a sweet shop. Wonderful.
|1750 riding habit|
The costumes in the exhibition range from 1750 to World War II but there's more than enough early ones to suit fans of Georgian and Regency historicals. There's a replica of this 1750 pink riding habit, for example.
|1780 polonaise front|
|1780 polonaise back|
I loved the 1780 polonaise, partly because I used a similar gown for my heroine to wear at the masked ball in His Cavalry Lady
and I based it on the very same gown that is now shown as a white replica in this exhibition.
The polonaise is so clever. The elegant ruching is achieved by simple ties underneath and the height can be adjusted to suit the occasion.
|1780 caraco replica worn by model|
The caraco is a fascinating gown, Lots of gathering in ways that can be altered easily, such as when the wearer is pregnant. You can see some of the detail on the close-up of the back, below. Then just look at the complexity of the pattern cutting. And all to be sewn by hand, as well.
|1780 caraco replica, back|
|1780 caraco pattern pieces|
The Regency gowns are much simpler, as we know. On the left is the replica, in white, of a simple gown made of border-print cotton, dating from 1815. When you see it in plain white, there really isn't much to it at all. And the pattern, by contrast with the caraco, looks pretty straightforward.
On the right is a picture of the original, border print cotton of the gown. It must have been a challenge to determine how much cloth to buy. Easy to work out how wide the bottom hem was, but how much do you allow for bodice and sleeves?
Still, the pattern was simple, as you can see below.
|1815 border print dress pattern|
Things got more complicated later, of course. While not strictly Regency, I'm including a gown from 1825. It's a day dress made from cotton gauze and with beautifully ornate sleeves. When you're up close with the replica, it's easy to see just how much work went into fashioning something like this. And then you look at the picture of the original and see how stunning it was (and is).
|1825 day dress replica, sleeve detail|
|1825 day dress original|
Finally, and absolutely not our period at all, I couldn't resist including a few pictures to show the military influences on costume that continued throughout the century. The last one reminds me very much of the dress uniform worn by the Russian cavalry officers in His Cavalry Lady,
complete with fur-edged pelisse over left shoulder. So, even though it's almost a century too late, I have to include it.
|1850 day dress replica, military detail|
|1860 cream silk original with purple military detail|
|1898 wool and fur suit replica, military detail|
Do visit this exhibition if you have a chance. It's fantastic! Details below.
Shades of White: the changing shape of women
opens on Valentine's Day and runs until 25 April, Opening hours 11.00 -- 16.00, Wednesday to Saturday. Admission Free!
Labels: 18th century costume, Hereford costume collection, Hereford Museum, His Cavalry Lady, Regency costume