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Bluestockings MADE THE ESTABLISHMENT SEE RED...
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Bobbed, bespectacled, devoid of glamour and generally style-bypassed, the
Bluestocking is characterised by her inelegant roller skate stride and gawky
academicism. Yet this austere, buttoned-up literary female whose body is
rendered inarticulate by restrained passions was, in her original incarnation,
viewed as “an ornament to her sex and country”. So why, within one generation,
did she become the subject of vicious caricature, vilified to the extent that the poet
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “The longer I live, the more do I loathe in
stomach, and deprecate in Judgement, all, all Bluestockingism.” Lately there
have been moves to reclaim the label as a positive description for intellectually
active women but 'Bluestocking' has spent most of its existence as a term of
derision and remains a misogynistic put down.
Founded in the mid 18th century by three women of society and modelled on
the French 'salon', the 'Bluestocking Circle' was an attempt to bring the twin arts of
conversation and tea-drinking to the private social sphere. Weary of the endless
cycle of gaming, dancing and alcoholic consumption, Mistresses Elizabeth Montagu
(cousin of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, see pg 60), Elizabeth Vesey and Frances
Boscawen opened their homes, sharpened their wits and used their fine manners
to attract a selection of guests who could raise their status as intellectual beings.
There were, at the time, clubs which offered a space for discourse, debate and
the exchange of ideas but these were closed to women. Similarly, the French salon
required women only to attend and look gorgeous; there was no room for the female
voice, or mind. That is not to say that the bluestocking
salons were not attractive, both the settings and the
individuals who attended were known for their fashionable
taste and elegance. In 1775 writer Hannah More
described Montagu as “the finest lady I ever saw: she
lives in the highest style of magnificence...”.
'Bluestocking' began as a term of derision and misogynistic put down...
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To the letter REPORTS FROM THE EAST BY LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU
“I am now in my Turkish habit... I believe that you would be of my opinion that it is admirably becoming...”
Travel in the East,for women in the past, could
be alarming but liberating and emancipating.
No wonder so many strong women from Sophia
Lane Poole in the mid 19th-century to 20th
century writers Freya Stark and Lesley Blanche
(The Wilder Shoes of Love), found Eastern dress
empowering when travelling. No one more so
than Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 17th-century
commentator, diplomat and Blue Stocking
before the phrase was even minted.
Lady Mary’s Turkish Embassy Letters
are a vivid account of her life as wife of the
British Ambassador in the early 18th century.
Her fashion reports on what women wore in the
seraglio, in the streets and at the hamam, and
her emancipated views on the status of Ottoman
women who, perforce, lived in seclusion and
were veiled when in public, are illuminating.
The letters – the literary form of choice for
aristocrats who did not wish to see their names
in print – were published after her death and
became a best seller – the Virago imprint is
never out of print.
Lady Mary wrote unsentimentally about the
Ottoman world as she saw it: and with none of
the condescension that the Arab writer Edward
Said complained was endemic in Western views
of the East, so often presented as exotic - but
The prevalence of the veil did not trouble
her – she felt it gave the Turkish woman freedom
to move about unmolested and unrecognised.
“(they are perhaps) freer than any ladys in the
universe ….they go abroad when and where
they please.' She herself wore the veil, and
found it liberating.
Writing to her sister, Lady Mary explained, “I
am now in my Turkish habit though I believe that
you would be of my opinion that it is admirably
becoming... The first piece is my drawers, very
full, that reach to my shoes, and conceal the
legs more modestly than petticoat.”
When she was invited to visit the ladies in
the bagnio - the Turkish baths - she was moved
by their grace and by their natural attitude to
being nude and the tactful way they urged her
to disrobe. ''I was in my travelling habit and
certainly appeared very extraordinary to them,
yet there was not one of them that shewed the
least surprize or impertinent curiosity, but
received me with all obliging civility possible.”
When her stays were loosened, the women
in the baths were shocked by her corset and
seemed to believe that she was “...locked up in
that machine and that it was not in my power to
open it - which contrivance they attributed to my
husband.” It was a meeting of mutual
fascination and an example of how women can
communicate - in the language of clothes
across the cultural divide.
The life of well-born Turkish women
gossiping, embroidering, listening to poetry and
music in their courts - and the freedom, as she
saw it, to ‘go abroad', became Lady Mary’s ideal
of how life might be lived. In an age of change,
Oriental dress became the clothing of choice,
the emancipated dress, for many women of the
late 18th century, and it still holds sway with
thinking women today. ••• Deidre McSharry
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, from an original miniature, in the possession of the Earl of Harrington, 1844, Jos. Brown, S.C.
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The power to tell the futureis not always popular. Banned by States and damned by churches, fortune tellers are uneasy outsiders. But though we are afraid we long to know what will happen next. It’s part of our nature to seek reassurance, to be told it’s all going to be all right and we demand omniscience from our politicians, our
parents and our priests.
In fashion the closest we come to all-seeing, all knowing is Li Edelkoort who has ‘been forecasting the future all her life’. Edelkoort absorbs the moods and minutiae of life – the things most of us stride by without noticing. In the preface to her current exhibition (the first retrospective to map and analyse the lifestyles and trends of the last 20 years) she is described as an archaeologist, delving into her surroundings “collecting fragments of our time, a piece of textile, a ceramic form, a design concept, food for thought, a scientific innovation – nothing escapes her radar”.
Born in The Netherlands in 1950, Edelkoort studied fashion and design at the School of Fine Arts in Arnhem. After graduating she became a trend forecaster at the leading Dutch department store, De Bijenkorf. By 1975 she
was living and working in Paris where her sphere of influence continued to grow until, with the founding of Trend Union and the launch of her trend forecasting publications, it became truly global.
Edelkoort’s best-known publications, View on Colourand Bloom demonstrate how she conveys her predictions. Wordy explanations
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New boy network THE ‘GIRLS ONLY’ NATURE OF TEXTILES IS CHANGING
Instead of a mere token man this year the Royal College of Art have nine in their graduating class. Has textiles finally become an equal opportunities subject? Professor Clare Johnston, Head of Textiles at the RCA, believes the rise reflects the department’s collaborations with the predominantly male disciplines of vehicle, industrial design and architecture. "There’s a shift in the perception of textiles as a discipline,” says Clare, adding, “the mix of genders this year has brought different perspectives and an enriched experience for all." 1. Updesh Gautam 2. James Randall 3. Luke Trybula 4. Liam Jefferies 5. Justin Smith 6.Keith Gray 7. Kyu Seon Lee 8. Stephen Ellison 9. William Stone
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TH E A E S TH E T IC
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An artist’s palette THE TEXTILES OF CHARLESTON FARMHOUSE
Charleston provides a rare opportunityto see textiles
by Bloomsbury group artists, Vanessa Bell and Duncan
Grant, in their original setting. It was the artists' Sussex
home from 1916 until Duncan Grant's death in 1978.
The interiors are preserved almost exactly as they were
in Bloomsbury's hey-day when Maynard Keynes, Roger
Fry, and Vanessa Bell's sister, Virginia Woolf, were
frequent visitors to the unconventional household.
The Bloomsbury group was a famous and
influential circle of artists, writers, and intellectuals who
gathered around Vanessa Bell’s London home.
Although they had no formal manifesto and worked
across many creative fields their theories on art, life,
literature and economics changed the shape of British
cultural life and society. Charleston, their summer
retreat, is now a museum, with exacting environmental
conditions, but there are no labels or information panels
- it still has a lived-in feel.
Quite aside from their reputations as painters,
Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were among the
most fashionable designers in Britain in the 1920s and
'30s. Their interiors were featured in Vogueand their
decorated ceramics, manufactured by Clarice Cliff and
Foley, were previewed at Harrods.
Charleston is the most complete surviving
example of their decorative work. Pelmets are
decorated with loops of woollen rope; armchairs are
Contents INDULGEtextiles to buy, collect or simply admire 18 The right to relax Treats for a long weekend 76Selvedge drygoods Visit our delightful toy department
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce 13 Miscellany Textile terms are woven into our everyday language... 22 New boy network Graduates from the Royal College of Art 71 Shop talk Joss Graham’s storehouse of wonders
ANECDOTEtextiles that touch our lives 34 To the letterReports from the East by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 56 COVER STORYBluestockingsMade the establishment see red 96 Feeling blueGoethe’s Young Werther had clothes to die for...
CONCEPTtextiles in fine art 36 The future perfectLi Edelkoort’s high expectations 40 Go with the flowBradley Quinn introduces Florence Manlik 44 The writer’s craftHow Tracy Chevalier spins a yarn
ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends 60 Birthday girl Designers celebrate as Barbie turns 50
COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed 48 COVER STORYAn artist’s paletteThe textiles of Charleston Farmhouse
GLOBAL travel destinations and ethnographic textiles 29 COVER STORYJohn Rocha & IrelandA mutual admiration society
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INFORMthe latest news, reviews and exhibition listings
04 bias/contributors 05 correspondence 07 news 11 sustain ethical ideas 15 how to... bind a book 73 readers offers 75 preview Dates for your diary 86 international listings Exhibitions, fairs, events 84 read
Hats, The Empire’s New Clothes 88 view Fashioning Felt, Hussein Chalayan, Rozanna Hawksley, Polish Papercuts 92 resources 80 subscription offers People Tree voucher, Balineum towels, New Designers tickets 81SUBSCRIBE TO SELVEDGE
83 Selvedge event Join us for a presentation by renowned trend forecaster and editor of Bloom, Li Edelkoort 82SALE back issues - 4 for 3 Take the chance to complete your collection while stock lasts. 95 coming next Le numéro Français: Textiles par excellence
SELVEDGE('selnid 3) n. 1. finished differently 2. the nonfraying edge of a length of woven fabric. [: from SELF + EDGE]
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