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36 COVER STORY Runway brides Is the spectacle of a modern wedding romantic or ridiculous? Kate Brinton ponders the question. IIlustratedbyMarkLazenby,ArtDirectorofTheWorldofInteriors 38 COVER STORY Wedding breakfast A feast of fine fabrics, fascinators and fairy tale footwear. Our weddingtablewasphotographedbyKatyaDeGrunwald,seeissue33,pg20formoreofherwork 76 Taking flight Abigail Brown has a feather in her cap. Thisbuddingornithologistandtalented designerrevealswhypetsandnotpeopleprovidetheinspirationforherwork
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce
12 Young and fair Selvedge salutes the small and beautiful in a round-up of village and church hall craft fairs and we announce the first Selvedge Summer Fair. IllustrationbyCeliaLusted 17 How to Make love bird pillows. SaniaPeelgivesusapeakintoherbookTheHomemadeHome, instructionsareavailabletodownloadfromtheSelvedgewebsite 60 Now panic Industry insiders offer words of wisdom to guide the latest crop of textile graduates. IIlustrationandembroiderybyNaomiAvsec 67 Design File A case history of classic textiles: Lucienne Day. Mary Schoeser, Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Arts London, pays tribute to the timeless textiles of the late designer
ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives
30 COVER STORY Bright Star Jane Campion shines a light on a doomed love affair. Curatorandauthor DeirdreMcSharryadmirestheattentiontodetailinthisfilmaboutJohnKeatsandFannyBrawne 65 Guiding hand Collecting hatpins. AmericanMembershipSecretaryoftheHatPinSociety,Carla Walters,defendsherlongstandingfascinationwithrareandelaboratehatpins 73 Curator’s Choice Hélène Alexander’s highlights from the Fan Museum. A fan painted by CamdenTownGroupartistWalterSickertisjustoneofthemanytreasureshousedinGreenwich 96 COVER STORY Hope over experience Once every girl had chest filled with handmade linen, homewares and her dreams of wedded bliss. SelvedgeEditor,BethSmith,liftsthelidonaneglectedcustom
COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed
44 Black and white Emma Cassi’s simple approach to decoration. ClareLewisvisitstheJewellery designer’slace-ladenhome.PhotographybyKristinPerers
Paper work UNFOLDING ISABELLE DE BORCHGRAVE’S ILLUSIONS
Paper is a magical material. Its thousand faces have the power to attract and enchant us, to direct our lives and change their course, to teach us, to influence our opinion, and to mark our daily existence.
From our youngest years, paper helps us to create our individual versions of beauty – small, clumsy fingers transform sheets of coloured paper into trees, misshapen pieces of fruit or fantastical beasts. And by making paper into new shapes and covering its many surfaces with colours, drawings, numbers, letters and symbols, we finally learn how to master it.
Notepaper, newspaper, wallpaper, rice paper, and papier-mâché… Paper, born thousands of years ago of the papyrus plant, does not shy from pseudonyms, hiding behind such noms de plume as vellum, Holland, Indian, peau de cygne and parchment. Tucked into envelopes, it is paper that holds our most tender thoughts and fiery messages. It has taken the place of our ancestors' silver; paper stokes the greed of forgers, misers and conquerors of every stripe.
And while paper is pleasing to the eye, and proud of being useful, it is just as charming to the ear.
Runway brides IS THE SPECTACLE OF THE MODERN WEDDING ROMANTIC OR RIDICULOUS?
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It’s all about the dress. And it’s more than just something to wear... “it’s the embodiment of a dream.” At least that’s the conclusion of designer, and font of all bridal knowledge, Vera Wang.
Wang believes the wedding dress is a divine obsession: “In the fantasy of idealised happiness, the groom represents perfection.” But, she warns, “the instant a woman becomes engaged... all that energy and passion gets transferred to the dress.” Anyone who has spent time in the company of a bride-to-be, deep in the planning stages of her big day, will agree. The bride must be the envy of everyone, she must look, and feel, like a princess... and the wedding gown is the key.
Emotions run high over this once-in-a-lifetime frock – fights have broken out in bridal shops and wedding fairs. But when did we become so passionate about the dress? Was it when Queen Elizabeth's wedding was televised in 1947? When Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956? Or when Princess Diana carted that 20-foot train down the aisle? Perhaps it was much earlier? Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Textiles and Fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, points out that “In the 19th century women could read about the latest bridal fashions and what real women had actually worn in fashion periodicals. There are detailed reports of weddings in newspapers describing the bride's outfit, the service and the costumes of the principal guests; which encouraged many to emulate what they had read about. The introduction of photography too must have made women more aware of their appearance and determined to look their best.”
Even so Edwina stresses that a one-off dress, which had no use afterwards, would have been inconceivable at this time, 'No 19th-century bride expected to wear a dress for a single day and wedding dresses were either converted into evening wear or worn as formal day wear. This thriftiness continued into the 20th century.”
In a time when formal evening wear really did mean formal there was at least a chance that a wedding dress would remain wearable. In these lamentably informal times the gulf between a tight-bodiced white ball gown and the clothes for even our most celebratory events is far too wide to navigate. Where do all the acres of tulle end up? Vacuum-packed in plastic and shoved under beds? At the local bridal exchange?
The fashion industry would be deeply saddened if brides took a more frugal approach to the happiest day of their lives. It is believed the first wedding dress to close a designer catwalk show was by English designer Edward Molyneux in 1923 but the custom of the bridal dress as the grand finale to the catwalk show grew in popularity, reaching its zenith with Lacroix’s ‘Catholic Icon’ wedding dress, which closed his final haute couture show in 2009 like a prayer for resurrection.
Certainly some believe bridal finery will be the saviour of the industry. “Wedding gowns are the future of haute couture,” says Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad, “Prêt-à-porter covers everything else.” Murad, quoted in the Independent newspaper, explained, “You have outfits for dinner, cocktails, daytime... But a haute couture dress, that's our niche.” In saying so he echoes Christian Dior who once said “Couturiers are the last possessors of the wand of Cinderella’s fairy godmother.”
Designers can use a wedding dress to comment on marriage as an institution and challenge traditional ideas of femininity – Yohji Yamamoto had a bride and groom swap clothes in his S/S 1998 show – but irrespective of the concept the runway bridal dress demonstrates the skills and creativity of the house. And bridal wear is vital to designers in uncertain times as whatever the economic climate many women are still prepared to spend lavishly on their wedding dress.
Harriet Worsley author of The White Dress clearly has an affection for the extravagant spectacle of the modern wedding but admits that, “the bridal industry catches engaged women by the scruff of their necks, at a particularly vunerable time, and gives them the hard sell.” It is, she notes, “frighteningly more like theatre than real life”. In 1963 Jessica Mitford wrote an exposé of the funeral industry in the US, The American Way of Death, a book that argued that death had become too sentimental, commercial, and, above all, excessively expensive. Is there room on our shelves for a book called The Western Way of Wedding?
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Bright Star JANE CAMPION SHINES A LIGHT ON A DOOMED LOVE AFFAIR
Brightstar Brightstar!wouldIweresteadfastasthouartNotinlonesplendourhungaloftthenight, Andwatching,witheternallidsapart, LikeNature'spatientsleeplessEremite, Themovingwatersattheirpriestliketask Ofpureablutionroundearth'shumanshores, Orgazingonthenewsoftfallenmask OfsnowuponthemountainsandthemoorsNo-yetstillsteadfast,stillunchangeable, Pillow'duponmyfairlove'sripeningbreast, Tofeelforeveritssoftfallandswell, Awakeforeverinasweetunrest, Still,still tohearhertender-takenbreath, Andsoliveever-orelseswoontodeath. JohnKeats,1795–1821
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Hampstead in 1818, he is a 23-year-old poet in a threadbare jacket. She is a 19-year-old seamstress wearing ruffles and bonnets: “The well-stitched Miss Brawne,” is a comment of the poet's friend.
Bright Star is a portrait of love and loss. The title is taken from a poem written by John Keats for the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. Their two year love affair provides the plot. The story unreels like a spool of silk... suitably enough as the director,
Jane Campion embroiders and sews herself. She is known to make films that celebrate the female gaze. Bright is also the needle pushing through linen – a closeup image of the opening scene. This leads into the sunlit fields of Hampstead – then a village – where the protagonists walk between l ines of laundry drying in the breeze. Fabrics, sewing, style are threads that run though the story.
AfterthesuccessofthefirstSelvedgefilmnightwearepleased toannounceascreeningofBrightStar.Beforethefilmwewill have a discussion between Polly Leonard, editor-in-chief of
The film is told through female eyes. “It's a poem of praise for the creative process,” says Campion. Based on contemporary poet Andrew Motion's biography of Keats, in which he describes Fanny as a diligent student of fashion, Fanny is centre stage. He says: “She is a teenager who spends her time making fashionable clothes, not reading books.”
Courtesy of Pathé images
Keats, when he first met Fanny, described her as “beautiful, elegant, graceful, silly, fashionable and strange”. Dressing up for dances in the nearby army barracks would have been important to her; she is proud of designing and making her own clothes and kept a collection of fashion plates.
Keats falls under the spell of this vision and calls her “his minx-stress”. By turn she finds his poems difficult, while being confident of her own eye and her skills. “This is the first frock in Hampstead and Woolwich to have a triple-pleated mushroom collar,” she boasts in the film adding, “All I wear I've sewn and designed myself.”
Pleating, folding, stitching, wrapping, washing, making: the domestic arts inform the narrative and give meaning to every scene. This is no mere bonnets versus sonnets TV adaptation; it is a living, breathing picture of how women spin out their lives.
Keats House, where the poet John Keats lived from 1818 to 1820, is the setting that inspired some of his most memorable poetry. Here,
Keats wrote 'Ode to a Nightingale', and fell in lovewithFannyBrawne,thegirlnextdoor.And itwasfromthishousethathetravelledtoRome,
Recently reopened after major restoration,
the collection offers a glimpse of the clothes
Fanny Brawne wore through her collection of fashion plates. Fanny subscribed to fashion magazines such as Court Magazine, Le Voleur and Petit Courrier des Dames and exchanged her“books”withKeats’sister,alsocalledFanny.
Like most young ladies Fanny Brawne embroidered, sewed and knit. A fichu scarf in thecollectionshowsherhighlevelofskill.
Keats House, Keats Grove, Hampstead,
London NW3 2RR, T: +44 (0)20 7332 3868,
Pretty practical HOW COUNTRY SMOCKS HAD A DRESSING DOWN
In 1883 when Thomas Hardy wrote, ‘the genuine white smock frock… and the whitey brown one… are rarely now seen afield’ it was clear that the agricultural smock was destined to become another casualty of industrialisation.
Known regionally as a smock, smock-frock, slop or cow gown, the garment was the daily dress for most agricultural workers and labourers for over 200 years. One of the earliest references to it lies in the Purefoy Letters of 1741 which describe a ‘strange man’ from Lincolnshire wearing ‘a broad cloth coat and waist coat with a white frock over, buttoned at the hands like a shirt’. Obviously intrigued, five years later Purefoy asked his tailor to ‘bring the coachman a linen frock to put over his cloaths when hee rubs his horses down’.
Although the apron was an earlier garment, the smock provided a capacious, resilient, protective outer layer that could be worn over other clothing even whilst performing hard physical labour. It was made from as much as eight yards of fabric such as Holland, drabbet, or, as Gabriel wore in Far From The Madding Crowd, the heavy linen sail cloth ‘Russia duck’.
Its ‘pillow-case cut’ of squares or rectangles made economic use of fabric and the geometric pieces were perfect for smocking. The densely gathered and pleated sections across chest and shoulder provided extra padding and elasticity. The Round or True Smock was fully closed with a small opening at the neck above a large smocked area front and back. The Shirt Smock, a speciality of Surrey, had a buttoned opening at the front, smaller areas of smocking and embroidery front and back, and a narrow embroidered yoke. Often worn by shepherds, the Coat Smock was longer and heavier. Those made near the Welsh border had large winged collars and embroidered cape-like epaulettes excellent for repelling mist and rain. Reputedly, if soaked through in a downpour, a smock would be so stiff it could stand up by itself! To avoid this, they were sometimes soaked in boiled linseed oil in a process similar to the fisherman’s oilskins making them stiff, shiny, but exceptionally water repellent.
It was in the hands of the shepherd’s wife that the smock became a decorative item, and for many of the rural poor, the only garment presentable enough for church or the annual hiring fairs. Most work-a-day smocks were fawn or drab, but the ‘wedding smock’, made as a gift from the bride to her groom, was white with a design – often to represent his occupation – stitched in white thread. A shepherd was often buried in his wedding smock, and in rural communities the church kept a set of smocks to be worn by pallbearers. The 1830s-50s were the heyday for embroidered smocks when as Thomas Hardy records in Under The Greenwood Tree: ‘stalwart ruddy men and boys’ wore ‘snowy white smock frocks embroidered upon their shoulders and breasts in ornamental forms of hearts, daggers, zigzags.’
Designs were passed down through generations contributing to regional identity. But by the early 19th century the smock was in commercial production in small factories particularly in Newark, Nottinghamshire where a tough blue linen was used. The proximity of a woad mill accounted for the colour and swathes of blue cloth would be dried along the hedgerows. They were also decorated but with a simpler design of swirls printed during production, then embroidered by outworkers. Despite mass production these smocks – bought from drapers’ at nine shillings each – were expensive costing between one to two weeks wages for most agricultural workers.
When agricultural machinery was introduced in the 1870s and 1880s, the voluminous smock once so practical, became a dangerous liability. The fabric was so strong that someone caught in machinery would be dragged in and maimed before it could be cut to release them. The smock survived in rural communities until the 1920s and in a few cases beyond, but by 1891 when Thomas Hardy wrote Tess of the D’Urbervilles the smock was worn by ‘the most old fashioned of the labourers’. In the industrial world with the exodus from country to town almost complete, the smock – once a status symbol – had become the sign of a country bumpkin and was greeted in the city with sniggers of derision. Sarah Jane Downing
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Taking flight ABIGAIL BROWN HAS A FEATHER IN HER CAP
Did you have a favourite toy as a child? The most delightful thing I had was a puppet theatre made by my Dad. It had ‘Abigail’s puppet theatre’ written on the front and Mum made the curtains for it.
They bought me fairytale characters to go with it and my brother and I would make silly shows for the other kids in the street. What do you think makes a handcrafted toy special? Even at that young age I could feel how wonderful it was and was so proud my Dad had made it. It was something special that nobody else had. So much love had gone into making it. That’s what makes handmade objects more precious, someone’s thought, time and love. Did you teach yourself how to make your creatures or did you study textiles? The textiles degree I studied was more about printing. I didn’t make objects until after uni, inspired by my friend who’d been studying Decorative Artefacts. Until I saw what she was doing I had no idea that people made things and could sell and exhibit them. I just worked from my drawings to create things in 3D, just self taught I guess, making mistakes and amending them. Is there a reason you make animal creatures and not human figures? Several reasons for it; not having pets as a child and being obsessed with them,
the love of the many soft toys I had and the fact that animals can be a source of so much joy. How cute they are, the way they feel to hold and pet. Are you a bird watcher? The whole bird obsession came about accidentally after a friend asked me to make her one to go in an antique cage she’d been given. But my Dad’s always been a keen photographer and he started photographing birds. It’s been an area for us to share and through him I’ve become quite a little ornithologist! What is your favourite creature? On my first trip to the Natural History Museum I discovered an array of hilarious little creatures. There was a pygmy vole with long teeth, some kind of sand dwelling mouse with legs akin to those of a kangaroo and my favourite – the Dik Dik, a miniature deer like creature from Africa. I love the idea of a collection of animals with exaggerated features or mixing one animal’s long legs with another’s tiny body. I could create my own little mammal museum! It’s a series I’ll really spend some time on one of these days. If you could use the fabrics of any company or designer who would it be? I’d have to say the fabrics of the 1950’s would be a treat to use in my work. I just love the pattern design from that era. Lucienne Day’s fabrics would be wonderful.
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