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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Antique Threads: Miss Firbank's Pink Linen Cuff (Victoria and Albert Fashion Gallery)

One hundred of
Miss Heather Firbank's
garments can by found by
searching the V&A collection
In the Enchanted by Sewing Podcast for July, I took my listeners on an audio tour of London's Victoria and Albert Fashion Gallery. There I described numerous historic garments, as I encountered them. (You can listen to this podcast on line, or download it to your iPhone, Android or other mobile device http://www.enchantedbysewing.blogspot.com) You'll recall that several of the fashions I mentioned in the show, were from the wardrobe of Miss Heather Firbank (daughter of M.P. Sir Thomas Firbank and sister of the novelist Ronald Firbank). She wore them in the early part of the twentieth century (Edwardian  Era 1910-1920).

Well of course that bodice lace is
gorgeous. And we always get a kick from
the s-shaped bodice that made fashionable
gals look like pouter pigeons.
One of Miss Firbank's garments was a beautiful pink linen day dress. It's got a very Gibson Girl look, and reminds me of several of the photos from Agatha Christie's autobiography. You can read more about this dress yourself, by following this link to the V&A collection . That link also brings up other views of the dress and more about the garment. Don't get me started on the pouter pigeon/S-Shaped look and the kind of corset a woman had to wear to create that shape under her clothes. Let's just say that her inner organs were possibly affected and leave it at that.

What most struck me, other than fact that I am particularly
Love the way the round shape of the
self-fabric covered button
draws attention to the squared off tabs
and rounded half circle rising up to meet it.
The lace is pretty,
but don't you think it distracts from
the cuff?
partial to pastel shades of linen, was the cuff.   I'm glad I snapped some detail showing the cuff, because whoever took this part of the collection photograph for the V&A, went mainly for the whole-garment, with some images of the stand-out bodice as well. I know that photographer's not a sewist because he/she didn't include a special photo of the cool cuff.

Don't you love those tabs, cut whole as part of the cuff? And how about those big self-fabric covered buttons and the topstitched edge? Hey, we're sewists! Could we not recreate that? You betcha!
Yes, I do like the waistband too
Don't even get me started on that!

I'm envisioning a loose linen jacket, maybe duster-style, something like what Miss Heather would have worn motoring, except mine would be mid-thigh length and I'd wear it over trousers (no I don't think this fashion forward lady would have been shocked). I'd make my sleeves 3/4 length, like I do my shirts. Because otherwise I always just roll my sleeves up and the beautiful cuff would be lost. I'd love to make a cuff like this up in a shell pink or pale lavender linen. The lace is pretty, but I think it distracts from the shape of those tabs and the nice big buttons. I'd scrap the lace.

Might it also work in a mid-weight dark blue wool jacket or coat, with a red silk lining or piping that just peeked out from behind? I'd cut the cuff lining just slightly bigger than the outside part of the cuff so that it brought up an edge to highlight the tabs. And definitely the topstitching would add the right kind of finish. But blue or red topstitching.... not sure. Would need to test that out. I'm sure I'd find some beautiful buttons to draw attention to the cuffs too - metal maybe...

Or how about one of those polyester (or real silk) brocades that have the pretty wrong side in contrasting colors? Again, cutting the lining side a big longer - and making the wrong side be the right side for the lining - would draw attention to those tabs. And of course then I'd cover the buttons with that wrong side of the fabric too.

Dreaming about how I might incorporate ideas from this gorgeous antique cuff keeps me... enchanted by sewing.

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I highly recommend the lovely, and informative, book, Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. It's a lovely read about what  Marie Antoinette actually did wear to masquerades (like our modern day Halloween), grand balls, or just toddling around Le Petit Trianon with the dear little daughter, she nicknamed Mousseline, a fun allusion to the fashions that Marie herself made popular at the time. 

Since I like to keep my iPad happy, I bought the Kindle version of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution.

BTW, I recently purchased the Victoria and Albert collection-based book, Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries, and can't stop leafing through to enjoy all the wonderful details, dear to a sewist's heart.

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