english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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The Seamworker’s Guide to Fashion Museums

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

I have an article in the August issue of Seamwork, released today.

The article is a guide to some of the best fashion and textile museums around the world. I’ve visited some of these museums in person; others are on my to-see list. I did my best to squeeze in as many museums as I could within the article word count!

You can read the full article here, or download the magazine (for free) from the Seamwork website.

One of the museums included is the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, which is one of my favourites. Below are a few photos of their recent Liberty in Fashion exhibition which I visited back in January. I’m especially looking forward to their upcoming Jazz Age fashion and photography exhibition (23 September 2016 – 15 January 2017).

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

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Fashion & Textile Exhibitions in New York & Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Ancient Egyptian Dress at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As previously mentioned, while visiting New York and Boston in March, Phil and I managed to visit a number of textile-related exhibitions.

When I visit a new city, I always check for local fashion and textile exhibitions and put them near the top of my to-see list (to Phil’s chagrin).

Photos below from this trip.

American Quilts and Folk Art, at the Met

The Met, NYC

The Met, NYC

The Secret Life of Textiles: Plant Fibers, at the Met

The Met, NYC

The Met, NYC

The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936–1958, at The Museum at FIT

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 027

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 029

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 030

Denim: Fashion’s Frontier, at The Museum at FIT

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 036

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 040

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 045

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 053

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 057

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-15 042

Fairy Tale Fashion, at The Museum at FIT

FIT, NYC

FIT, NYC

FIT, NYC

FIT, NYC

FIT, NYC

FIT, NYC

FIT, NYC

#techstyle, at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

New York Iceland holiday 2016-03-18 021

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Kenneth Paul Block Illustrations, at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


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Coat Ogling

Max Mara Coats Book

It’s getting pretty cold here in the UK, and during January it’s Coat Month on IndieSew and Fancy Tiger Crafts are hosting a coat sew-along. Regardless, I’m resisting the urge to sew a coat as I don’t really need a new one (not that I normally let that interfere with my sewing plans), but that hasn’t stopped me from ogling outerwear.

I found this lovely book of Max Mara coats in the library at work. The book was published to accompany a travelling exhibition and features some gorgeous coats from Max Mara’s history, from its founding in the 50s until the 2000s.

If you’re also resisting coat making, one of these might just push you over the edge.

Max Mara Coats Book: F/W 1992-1993

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book


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Fashion at Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts

Berlin

A final post about my recent trip to Berlin, before it seems like a distant memory. One of the many museums we visited, and top of my list, was the Museum of Decorative Arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum). The museum has an extensive fashion collection, mostly housed in a dedicated Fashion Gallery, but with some pieces jotted around the rest of the museum.

The collection includes garments, accessories, shoes and lingerie. I photographed quite a few of these – photos below.

Berlin
Ball gown with stripes, England/France, 1865

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin
White summer outfit, France/England, 1866

Berlin
Walking Dress in silk taffeta with black velvet, England, 1855

Berlin

Berlin
Two piece evening gown, Madame Gres, Paris, 1973

Berlin
Cocktail dress ‘Ribcage’, Pierre Cardin, Paris, 1969 (front) / Hotpants, Paco Rabanne, Paris, 1974 (back)

Berlin

Berlin
Micro dress ‘Ready Made’, Paco Rabanne, Paris, 1970 (front) / Hotpants, Paco Rabanne, Paris, 1974 (back)

Berlin
Blue suit with blouse, Chanel, Paris, 1965 (right) / Dress suit Escale, Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior, Paris, 1958, owned by Olivia de Havilland (left)

Berlin
Cocktail dress in trapezoid line, Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior, Paris, 1958

Berlin
Evening gown of gold lame and beads, Jean Patou, Paris, 1937

Berlin

Berlin
Pistachio green evening dress, bias cut, Captain Edward Molyneux, Paris, 1932

Berlin
Evening gown with horse motif, Madeleine Vionnet, France/USE, 1921-4

Berlin
Dance gown with ray motif, embroidered with tambour work, sequins made of bakelite, France, 1925

Shoes

Berlin
England, 1821

Berlin
England, 1840

Berlin
England, 1820-40

Berlin
Printed ladies slippers, England, 1795

Berlin

Berlin
Shoes in Chinese style, England, 1785

Berlin
Shoes with paste brooch, France, 1770

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin
England, 1900

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Accessories

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin
Bust improver, 1910

Berlin

Berlin

Other museums in Berlin with some textile element which I visited:

Berlin’s Film and TV Museum (Museum für Film und Fernsehen) has a permanent Marlene Dietrich exhibition, including a number of her clothes.

Berlin

The Bauhaus Archive is fascinating, and includes a number of Bauhaus weavings and textiles.

Berlin

The DDR Museum is good fun, and includes a fashion section, including examples of East Berlin sewing pattern magazines.

Berlin

And, not at all craft related, but I really enjoyed the Computer Games Museum (Computerspielemuseum Berlin).

Berlin


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RTW Shirt Love & Elsewhere

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

It’s been a while since I got excited about RTW, but I’m madly in love with this shirt from The African Shirt Company. It’s from their Core Range, in print Blue Lagoon.

The African Shirt Company’s shirts are made in the village of Kiteghe in south-western Kenya. The company was designed to provide an alternative source of income for villagers, and has so far employed a small number of local women. The company also supports a local reforestation project, with a donation made with each sale.

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

The shirts are made by hand using foot pedalled sewing machines, without electricity or running water, and ironed using a charcoal iron.

The fabric used is kanga, a traditional East African fabric which dates back to the 19th century. The label attached to the shirt recommends dipping it in the ocean (or cold salt water) to set the colour!

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

As much as I love making as much as my clothing as possible, I also like making an exception for something as special as this shirt. Buying mass produced RTW from a mall, knowing that it has been produced unsustainably, isn’t exciting. But when you know where your clothing was produced and who made it it can be! I love knowing that this shirt has travelled to me from the village of  Kiteghe, and that it was constructed on a treadle sewing machine.

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

Having bought very little RTW clothing recently, I think I’m going to start buying more RTW, from sustainable companies. I strongly believe that you need to support and invest in the things you care about, and independent sustainable fashion and accessory companies need support if they are going to thrive.

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

Elsewhere

♥ I love the Purl Bee Gathered Skirt for all Ages tutorial.

♥ These Found Paper Memo Books are adorable – each book is made up of various pages of found paper. Plus they have scissors on the front;)

♥ The Spring WestKnits Scarf KAL is now in progress. 2-3 scarf patterns will be revealed each Friday, but I already know that I MUST knit Unicorn Parallelograms.

♥ The latest issue of Pom Pom Quarterly has just been released; I’m considering a subscription… They Pom Pom team also produce a Pomcast (podcast).

♥ There’s a cool event taking place in Hoxton, London on Saturday June 13th. #GRANDFEST2015 will feature a number of people over the age of 70 running free master classes in traditional skills like knitting, jam making, and brewing in cafes and shops around Hoxton Square.

♥ TRAID will be presenting & selling a collection by designer Alex Noble produced with refashioned textiles. The Traidremade collection will be on sale from a pop-up shop at 2 Berwick Street, SoHo, London between May 22 – June 14 2015. Profits will be used to fund the purchase of birth certificates for the children of Bangladeshi garment workers, allowing them to be recognised as citizens.

♥ The latest episode of BBC podcast In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg, focuses on the Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65. This followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain, leading to starvation, mass unemployment and migration. Dramatic stuff!


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Fashion & Fabric at Copenhagen Design Museum

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

While on holiday in Copenhagen, me and Phil visited the Danish Museum of Art & Design. Phil hadn’t realised beforehand that the museum has a permanent fashion and textiles exhibit;p

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

The exhibition includes an interesting mixture of clothing and accessories, from the 18th century to the present day, from the Museum’s permanent collection, with a focus on Danish fashion. I’ll leave you to enjoy some photos from the exhibition.

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark


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Fashion Designer Autobiographies

As a sewist, I’m fascinated by fashion designers. I’m fascinated by their designs, their design and production processes, and – simply because I’m nosy and love an autobiography – their lives.

I’ve read quite a few autobiographies by designers lately. Phil is in Liverpool for a football match so I thought I’d curl up with a cup of tea (or two, this is a long post) this Saturday and write a review post in case anyone else is looking for a new book and fancies some fashion related inspiration.

Dior by Dior book

Dior by Dior: The Autobiography of Christian Dior

If you’re interested in the personal life of Christian Dior then this isn’t the book for you. This is probably the least personal autobiography I’ve ever read; Dior gives nothing away. In fact he states at the very beginning of the book that this is an autobiography of Dior the couturier, not the private individual. What Dior does cover, in great detail, is the fashion industry of the 1940s and 50s. As a result the book can be a slightly dry read, although Dior has a nice turn of phrase. The book does give a real insight into the life of a couturier at that time, and is great on the terminology and intimate details of haute couture. The sections on the design process at the studio (which included a huge staff), on the role of the mannequins or models, the showing of the collection (including restrictions on the press, who were not allowed to make any drawings) and the fitting of wealthy clients, are all fascinating from a historical perspective.

It is also interesting in terms of understanding the system of fashion houses, where a designer has the financial backing to experiment and develop, and to focus on being a designer. This is in striking contrast to a couple of the books below, where self financed designers write about constantly struggling, and devoting huge amounts of time, to financing their next collections.

Overall, read this book if you’re interested in how, in the 40s and 50s, a dress went from a drawing by Dior to being fitted on a client. However, I would recommend reading it alongside a more prying biography of Dior, to give a sense of his personal life, and of how other people viewed him.

DVF The Woman I Wanted To Be book

The Woman I Wanted to be, Diane Von Furstenberg

This book is the exact opposite of the Dior book above, this is an especially personal autobiography. By that I mean that DVF doesn’t just tell you what happened, she also tells you how she felt, and devotes quite large sections of the book to talking about her emotions, relationships and mental state.

DVF has had a fascinating life, and in this book she comes across as an inspiring, talented, powerful woman. You get the sense from this book that you would love DVF if you knew her in person.

The book covers both DVF’s career and her personal life. In my opinion it chops and changes between the two a little too much. For example, DVF will write about a period in her life, focusing on her relationships at that time and her personal state of mind, and then, in a later chapter, she’ll write about the same time period, focusing on what was happening professionally. I would have preferred the book to have told a more liner story, with the personal and professional stories told at the same time, for a better balance. My only other criticism is that the book can be a little ‘luvvie’ (in the theatrical sense); It isn’t that the book is insincere, but DVF spends large sections of the book talking about how great life is / love is / how we should be thankful for what we have. Not that I’m disagreeing, but somewhere within these sections there will often be a mention of a private plane,weekly facials/massages at home, celebrity friends, multiple homes, boats, etc.

Don’t let that put you off though. DVF is an interesting and inspiring woman and, as well as being a good read, this book will motivate you.

DVF The Wrap Book

Diane Von Furstenberg: The Wrap, Andre Leon Talley

This is a tiny book. It contains a very short biography of DVF, followed by 27 photos. The biography is magazine article length, and isn’t especially revealing. The photos are a mixture of photos of Diane, and DVF catwalk or advertising photos (a number of which are also included in The Woman I Wanted To Be). Due to the tiny amount of content included I wouldn’t advise buying this book; I borrowed it from the library:)

Helen Storey Fighting Fashion book

Helen Storey Fighting Fashion book

Fighting Fashion, Helen Storey

Helen Storey is a British fashion designer who had her own label in the 1980s-90s. Helen now co-directs the Helen Storey Foundation, a London based not for profit arts organisation, which organises multi-disciplinary projects or exhibitions which bring together fashion, art and science. She also supports the development of young fashion designers as a Professor at University of the Arts, London.

Helen’s autobiography tells her story as a designer, first working for other fashion houses and then establishing and running her own label, until it eventually went into receivership. Helen’s illustrations and photographs which are included allow you to get a good sense of each of the collections Helen writes about designing. The title of Helen’s book is appropriate – this book is about the battle, and constant struggle to run your own label. Not just the struggle as a designer to innovate, develop and appeal to your audience. But the struggle to administer a multi-million pound business, while also being creative, and having a personal life. When every collection has to pay for the next, it places a huge pressure on the company and its staff, not only for the collection to be profitable, but also to receive the income as soon as possible as you are constantly short on funds to invest in the next collection.

Fighting Fashion is also a very honest account of supporting a partner through a long battle with an invasive cancer.

It’s a book about what training and support designers need, and how the British fashion industry needs to change in order for young designers to succeed.

It’s one woman’s account of all of the above, and well worth a read.

The Biba Experience book

From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki

(Photo from ‘The Biba Experience’, as I forgot to get a photo of ‘From A to Biba’)

Ok, I saved my favourite until last; I love this book. In the UK, Biba is a part of our consciousness. It’s the brand your mom tells you was on her wish list as a teenager, it’s the brand mentioned in any article or documentary about British fashion or London in the 1960s and 70s, and it’s one of the labels included on permanent display in the fashion gallery at the V&A.

Like Helen Storey, Hulanicki writes about the difficulty of financing a small business. Hulanicki tells great stories, such as desperately trying to locate pink gingham fabric, because Biba sold a huge volume of dresses via mail order before obtaining the fabric or anyone to produce the dress (because the potential number of orders was a total unknown and those mail order payments were needed to fund the fabric, and the production). Hulanicki conveys the atmosphere of being the ‘it’ store of the 1960s, patronised by celebrities and a favourite hang-out of teens. She tells the story of what it means to be a successful brand, and to keep identifying opportunities to expand – from the original mail-order company to Big Biba, a huge department store that was one of London’s most popular tourist attractions with up to a million visitors a week. And of the increased pressure this expansion places on a business, and the necessity of seeking outside funding, which eventually led to Hulanicki loosing control of Biba.

Reading From A to Biba will make you love Biba, it will make you wish you could shop at Big Biba, and it will send you to ebay to calculate the cost of purchasing a vintage Biba dress (p.s. not cheap).

Phew that was a long post, hopefully you’ve been inspired to visit the library or browse Amazon. When I’ve read a few more biographies I’ll let you know.

Disclaimer: Post contains affiliate links; all views expressed are my own.