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ContentsINDULGEtextilestobuy,collectorsimply admire 13 Sitting pretty Can you ever have too many cushions? In her shopping suggestions Polly Leonardplumpsforscreenprintsandsimplesackdesigns15TheSelvedgeAutumnFairAroundupofthesomeofourfavouritedesignersexhibitingattheSelvedgeFairon17September...Ifyoucan’tjoinusonthedaythenvisittheirwebsites76MakingWavesIllustratorClaireFletcherdoeslovetobebesidetheseasideAninterviewwithnewSelvedgedrygoodsdesignerClaireFletcher.JoinherworkshopattheV&AinNovember
CONCEPT textiles in fine art 30 COVER STORY Art institution Arthur Bispo do Rosário Found freedom through making Curator MartinBarlowlooksattheworkandtroubledlifeofthisBrazilianoutsiderartist
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce 17 Building Bridges The struggle to save America’s industrial textile heritage PhotographerRusty TagliarenidocumentsthelastremainingsilkmillintheUnitedStates 37 Death by design Textile related crime mysteries Phil Thomascontributes four casestudies of designersorindividualsconnectedtothetextileindustrywhoselivescametoanintriguingend 42 Idle hands Prison charity Fine Cell Work won’t tolerate waste BethSmithfindsoutmoreabout atextilecharitywhoimprovethelivesofprisonersbyemployingthemtoembroider
66 COVER STORY The Triangle Fire The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire PrimroseTrickerlookback atthelegacyofthistextiletragedyonits100thanniversary
GLOBAL 28 First Class Style Bruce Peter travels back in style on the Orient Express GlasgowSchoolofArt ProfessorandHistorianBrucePetersadmiresthedesignofthisiconicmethodoftransport 73 Design File A Case History of Classic Textiles: Beryl Dean A history of Beryl’s working life researchedandwrittenbyBibiBerki 75 Curator’s Choice 17th century white leather gloves RosemaryHardentracesthehistoryofthe embroidered‘JonahandtheWhale’glovesfromthecollectionattheFashionMuseuminBath
COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed 96 COVER STORY The Rajah Quilt The work of unknown female convicts Deborah Ward unravelsthestoryofwomenwhoproduced whilstonboardtheRajahship
ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends 24 COVER STORY Stylish sleuths From Sherlock Holmes to Nancy Drew, Beth Smith points out that fictional detectives are anything but plain clothed. illustratedbyChristyMcCafferty 46 COVER STORY All rise The evolution of legal dress HavelockJohnTeaguetakesustocourtand sharesevidenceofthehistoryofdresswornbytheranksofthebar,illustratedbySusyPilgrimWaters
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City sights From metres of fabric to feathered creations: London Design Festival highlights
The London Design Festival, now in its ninth year, just gets bigger and to mark this seemingly endless expansion the V&A are creating installations on a impressively large scale. During the city-wide event the Cromwell Street entrance to the museum will be dominated by a three-dimensional latticework spiral called ‘Timber Wave’ by award winning architectural firm, Amanda Levete Architects.
While inside the museum renowned milliner Stephen Jones has re-imagined, using computer scanning technology, a reproduction of the Museum's 1827 bust of Lady Belhaven, adding, of course, a contemporary hat.
Elsewhere visitors might struggle to choose which events to add to their itinerary although those with a predilection for textiles might take note that The Finnish Institute in London is presenting the UK premiere of REDDRESS. Designed by Aamu Song, co founder of Helsinki based design studio ‘Company’, the work is more than simply a dress; created with 550 metres of fabric, designed to accommodate 238 people, 20 metres in diameter and three metres high it provides an intimate space for performances and discussions.
In Regent’s Street Timorous Beasties will take over one of Liberty’s windows with a scheme featuring the ‘Liberty Bell’. There will be a moth trail through the store up to an installation on the 4th floor where the Bell Moth motif fabric will be sold by the meter as well as on a product line of cushions and lampshades.
Cole & Son will be launching its autumn 2011 collection, Geometric which revives ‘Op Art’ with geometry and explorations of colour, line, movement and illusion. Manufacturing wallpaper since 1853, Cole & Son will also host tea and a tour at its North London factory on Saturday 24 September. In the nine days of the festival it’s impossible to see everything but turn the page for further textile highlights... London Design Festival, 17-25 September 2011, 150 venues across the city, T: +44(0)20 7734 6444, www.londondesignfestival.com
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Art Institution ARTHUR BISPO DO ROSARIO FOUND FREEDOM THROUGH MAKING
The descendant of cane-farming slaves in one of the poorest parts of Brazil, Arthur Bispo do Rosário (1909?89) was at various times a marine, a boxer and a naval signaller, spending eight years in the Brazilian Navy. On 22 December 1938 he had a vision of Christ and seven angels, claiming they had entrusted him with the task of making an inventory of everything and everybody worth redeeming on the impending Day of Judgment.
He presented himself at a monastery and from there was sent to a hospital, where he was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia. Eventually he was permanently interned in a psychiatric hospital colony outside Rio de Janeiro, and spent the last fifty years of his life there, sleeping only a few hours each night and spending the rest of his time producing the huge body of work he eventually left as his legacy.
Although knowing nothing of contemporary artistic movements and trends beyond what he might have gleaned from reading newspapers and magazines in the hospital library, the self-taught Bispo spontaneously produced a treasury that has been described as “part Surrealist, part Magic Realist and part Conceptual.” With the help of fellow patients, hospital staff, visitors, and others, he searched in cupboards, storerooms and dustbins and collected scraps of newspaper, wood, fabric, string, buttons, coins, bottles, shoes and countless other objects. He labelled, dated, and sorted every one according to complicated rules and colour schemes. From them he made sculptural models of everything from boats and cars to hand tools and a boxing ring, as well as showcase-like assemblages of this all-encompassing array of materials and objects.
These trademark assemblages of objects are
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Idle hands PRISON CHARITY FINE CELL WORK WON’T TOLERATE WASTE
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Practical, adjective: 1. Of or concerned with use of something. 2. Likely to succeed or be effective.
Ideals are wonderful things but without action they have a tendency to mutate into mere wishful thinking. It takes a certain type to person to turn an ideal into an organisation that has a real and direct impact on other people’s lives. Being too precious about methods, too careful of feelings or respectful of authority is a surefire way to get nowhere fast. Fortunately Lady Anne Tree, founder of Fine Cell Work, a registered charity that trains and pays inmates to produce fine embroidery and soft furnishings in prison, wasn’t burdened by such niceties. “One must fight dirty to do good,” the indomitable 82 year old told Peter Stanford in his interview with her for The Independent a year before her death in 2010.
It is fitting that a social iconoclast chose to champion those who had broken its rules but it wasn’t shared experience that prompted Lady Anne to work to improve the lot of prisoners. As second daughter of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Mary GascoyneCecil, Mistress of the Robes, hers was a privileged upbringing. Undoubtedly her position and connections served their purpose – it would have been wasteful not to use them – but that doesn’t mean Fine Cell Work was an overnight success. A sustained campaign – hours of letter writing and lobbying ministers – to be allowed access to prisons in the UK looked like it might end in failure when permission was suddenly granted in 1991.
When she was finally allowed in Lady Anne knew what to expect. It was her role as a prison visitor for four decades that made her realise she had a ‘calling’ to try and stem the tide of boredom and waste that is the human tragedy of prison.
Katy Emck, CEO of Fine Cell Work, began work with the charity 14 years ago. At the time she spent just one day a week on the ‘mad’ brainchild of Lady Anne Tree, assisting her and Robert Oakshot as they sought to establish the charity. She saw first hand the resistance to the cause. The thought of prisoners, particularly male ones, sewing was an odd one but the idea that they would earn money for their work was even more unpopular – there was a surprising level of prejudice.
Victorian notions of the ‘undeserving poor’ (in today’s terms ‘the underclass’) hampered efforts to promote the charity although its potential was clear. In an early experiment two ‘lifers’ in Holloway Prison stitched a needlepoint carpet which sold in New York for thousands of pounds. Yet the idea of the incarcerated being financially rewarded was disturbing. Today, when rehabilitation is often cited, the need for punishment remains. “The crux of the problem is the twin goals of punishment and rehabilitation are fundamentally at odds,” Says Emck. “Some argue prison is doomed to failure yet at the same time society has to be protected.”
Just when the debate threatens to become theoretical, pragmatism, the backbone of Fine Cell Work, reasserts itself. “For Lady Anne it was clear,” Emck recalls. “Diminishing the individual is counter productive and the cost to society is high. The sense of failure is crushing, even a strong person would struggle and many of the prisoners are not strong mentally. Most people now accept that 70% of the prison population have mental problems.”
The financial reward is virtually symbolic. “It’s not a fortune,” confirms Emck, “you couldn’t live on the income in the real world but it makes a crucial difference to the prisoners. Lady Anne did have a privileged background but she still understood the value of money, she saw that the prisoners need to earn something.”
Inmates can make up to £20 a week if they work up to 60 hours on a project for Fine Cell Work. “I’m a fast stitcher, so I reckon I can make £8 a week, so £500 a year…” explains one quoted in the charity’s “Stitching a Future” report. Participants use their money in three main ways; to send home, save and buy necessities (and luxuries) in prison.
The choice of embroidery as the means to effect change in the prison system makes it seem as though Lady Anne had Mahatma Gandhi’s “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” quote in mind. People do snigger at the idea of 4
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The Triangle Fire THE TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST COMPANY FACTORY FIRE
141 Men and Girls Die in Waist Factory Fire; Trapped High Up in Washington Place Building; Street Strewn with Bodies; Piles of Dead Inside. New York Times, March 26, 1911 It’s a memorable headline by any standard and one hundred years later the Triangle fire is still remembered – for both the horror of the event and its legacy of workplace reform.
At the turn of the 20th century the Triangle Company factory made women’s blouses, and occupied the top three floors of a ten storey building in Greenwich Village, New York. Most employees were ‘greenhorns’ – recent female immigrants of Jewish or European descent, aged between sixteen and twenty-three. According to the New York Times report “Almost all were the main support of their hard-working families”. It was common practice for factories to exploit newly arrived women. They spoke little English and were unlikely to join groups such as the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) or the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) who fought for better working conditions and protective legislation. In cramped sweatshop conditions they stitched for hours for little money.
On the 25th March 1911 workers were coming to the end of a seven-hour shift when a fire broke out, probably in a fabric scrap bin, although theories about the cause of the fire range from a discarded cigarette to over-heating machines. Whatever the cause the fire spread rapidly – within 18 minutes 146 people were dead, 129 women and 17 men. Cornell University houses original documents on the Triangle Fire. Firsthand accounts by survivors are part of their expansive online exhibit and they reveal the catalogue of errors, oversights and deliberate neglect that led to the disaster.
The fire spread through the eighth floor and up to the ninth. Workers on this floor had the slimmest chance of survival: the fire escape was not worthy of the name and leading nowhere it buckled under the weight of workers. Those who crowded by windows watched as the firefighters ladders stopped several stories too short. Many decided to jump – down lift shafts and from windows rather than suffocate or burn. Passers by would never forget the bewildering sight of billowing skirts and the unspeakable sound as the young women hit the pavement. Why couldn’t workers leave by the doors? Because they were locked in.
After the fire, the factory owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were put on trial for manslaughter. Trial transcripts reveal the arrogance of the defence team. On 11 December 1911 Anna Gullo testified that the door to the Washington Place stairwell was locked. When also asked if during the period she was employed were there any fire drills in the factory the answer was a simple “No, Sir”. Seconds later the defence leapt up declaring the
question “incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial”.
The defence secured the factory owners’ acquittal by arguing they had no prior knowledge that the doors to the stairs and exits were locked. In terms of compensation, it took two years for a few families to win, in today’s money, $268 each from Blanck and Harris, who in turn had been paid $1,430 per casualty by insurance. The Literary Digest published a rebuking editorial entitled 147 Dead, Nobody Guilty, in which the author is frustrated by the lack of action on the part of the authorities and the wider national press… “There are no guilty,” rails the journalist, “there are only the dead, and the authorities will forget the case as speedily as possible… Capital can commit no crime when it is in pursuit of profits.”
The case was never reopened, in spite of Blanck being arrested and fined a meagre $20 (roughly $70 today) for locking the doors to another factory in 1913.
Though the men responsible for the tragedy were not held accountable, New York state enacted almost 40 labor laws in the following three years. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) was founded, it was the first of its kind and still exists today. New York State also instigated the Factory Investigating Committee, which drew up a report in 1915 that modernised the state’s labour laws to the point where they were recognised as some of the most progressive in the USA. In 1935, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act to ease union formation and protect collective bargaining and the rights of striking workers.
As it says on the Cornell website, the fire and its horrors “epitomize the extremes of industrialism”. Interest has not abated: HBO aired a documentary, two days before the one hundredth anniversary of the blaze. It would be nice to think that in the last century we have eliminated the possiblity of such tragedies. But even the simplest internet search yields pages of results documenting the shocking conditions under which people are still forced to work. Last year The Observer reported cases of people in India working eight hours of forced overtime a day, for 25p per hour. These factories produced clothes for Next, Gap, and M&S.
There are policies, laws, and procedures put into place to prevent this happening, like the global Ethical Trading Initiative. In the media these are constantly referred to as ‘violated’, ‘disregarded’ and ‘breached’.
It would be foolish to assume that the atrocities of current sweatshops are confined to developing countries. The progressive laws put in place in 1915 as a result of the Triangle fire helped to significantly reduce their presence, but did not eradicate them. Laws covering employment, wage, and working hours are broken every day across the globe. Primrose Tricker www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire ies
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All rise THE EVOLUTION OF LEGAL DRESS
In few places are ancient sumptuary laws more evident today than at the English Bar. In 21st century London legal dress is still strictly regulated according to the rank of the wearer. The court and ceremonial habits of barristers and judges still reflect distinctions that have their origins in more ancient times.
Within the profession it is only a select few skilled or lucky advocates that are invited to ‘take silk’ and discard the questionable blend of fibres comprising the ‘stuff’ of the utter (junior) barrister’s gown.
From the ranks of the inner bar (and, increasingly, from amongst junior barristers and the roll of solicitors too) a select few are then promoted to the bench. These cast off the demure lawyer’s habits altogether and don bright judicial robes of mauve, scarlet or gold. Whilst the history and development of legal dress is fascinating, it is its continued relevance that is, to the observer, most startling and, to the cloth fetishist, most satisfying.
Robes owe their origin to garments worn by the first religious scholars. Centres of religion became seats of learning, and it was the literate students of the church that became the learned men of law. The early robes of the lawyer were indistinguishable from that of the clergy – notable for their sobriety and resistance to the passing fancies of fashion, see Selvedge issue 40. The anklelength closed tunic – a ubiquitous article of apparel in medieval England – was the overall of the cleric, the academic and the lawyer alike for hundreds of years.
Some of the earliest contemporary illustrations of legal professionals demonstrate clearly that the robes worn by lawyers were distinct from laymen, and that there were distinctions within the profession itself.
The tunic would endure at the bar until the early part of the 16th century. Modification was scant, and the robes, whilst becoming open and stylised, still owed more to medieval fashion than they did to the close-cut coats of Tudor England. The medieval tunic was worn together with a hood, a separate fitted garment with a cape covering the shoulders, a cowl for the head and a liripipe (scarf) hanging down from the cowl. The hood was already being modified as a fashion in the 14th century, but was retained by judges and Serjeants-atLaw in the original style as part of their distinctive dress.
But lawyers were not impervious to change, and there is evidence that the changing fashion for wearing the hood had crept into the law courts too and that it was a practice on the bench to roll up the hood and wear it on the head, like a turban. Another fashion, adopted more readily by the bar, was to grasp the hood’s liripipe and to cast the folded hood over the shoulder.
Since it was no longer important that the hood could be worn to cover the head and shoulders, or to keep the wearer dry or warm in any meaningful way, it became stylised. It is from the stylised cast hood that the tippet (sash) has evolved. On judicial robes the tippet sits across the wearer’s tunic from shoulder to hip. This same tippet can be seen worn over the junior barrister’s robe as a black strap hanging straight down the wearer’s front, and a flap hanging back over the left shoulder.
This black tippet was part of the garb (along with the black robes) customarily worn during periods of court mourning. Scholars differ in their accreditation, but the bar’s permanent adoption of this style of robe and tippet was precipitated by the death of either King Charles II (1685), Queen Mary II (1694) or Queen Anne (1714).
Myths concerning the barrister’s hood have entered the tour guide’s repertoire and many at the bar believe that it is into this flap that their fees should be placed or brief kept safe. Like many believable falsehoods these explanations are plausible – one can imagine the advocate’s client reaching forward to slip a groat or two into this pouch if he felt his counsel need an ‘incentive’.
Whilst the junior (utter or outer) bar was restricted to coarse woollen fabrics, for King’s Counsel silk was prescribed. Not only does the fabric differ, but also the cut. Today’s Queen’s Counsel, like his Tudor forebears, can cast off the bulky gathered robe, and opt for a more ‘modern’ 16th century style robe – slim-fitting with wide, turned-back facings and hanging sleeves.
It is this robe that we recognise as the distinctive dress of the senior lawyer, although it has been through changes over the last four or five hundred years. The high watermark came during the reign of Charles II, when, in the spirit of the Restoration, King’s Counsel were robed in silk trimmed with tufts and velvet. Robes reminiscent of this style can still be seen worn by officers of the household of the Lord Mayor of London, and by
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ILLUSTRATIONS BY CHRISTY MCCAFFREY
THESE ARE NOT PLAIN CLOTHED DETECTIVES
They claim crime doesn’t pay but it often looks a million dollars. The glamour of the rebel is well documented, at least in Hollywood where Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch a Thief’, Faye Dunaway in ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and the whole film noir genre epitomize the stylish side of a sinful life. But mobsters don’t have a monopoly on fashion: for a group of people who should be keen to keep a low profile, detectives, at least fictional ones, are a surprisingly flamboyant bunch.
English author, intellectual and son of a wealthy linen merchant, Thomas De Quincey, was one of the first to make a link between crime and style. His essay Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, 1827, claimed that “more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed – a knife – a purse – and a dark Lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry, sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature.” He doesn’t actually mention fashion but it’s a natural addition to the list. A stylish murder needs a stylish sleuth, and the most memorable detectives are distinctive in both their methods of deduction and their manner of dress.
Sherlock Holmes is a character so recognisable a mere silhouette will suffice but his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t actually provide much detail about his clothes. And Holmes himself, though acutely aware of the clues hidden in other peoples garments – In A Case of Identity he chastises Watson “I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves... My first glance is always at a woman’s sleeve. In a man it is perhaps better first to take the knee of the trouser.” – he is relatively cavalier about his own attire (unless it is a disguise).
Victorian artist Sidney Paget is credited with giving Holmes his signature deerstalker cap and Inverness cape in his illustrations for the Strand magazine (American actor William Gillette added the curved pipe) – the accessories were never actually mentioned in Conan Doyle's writing. The closest was a description of a “ear-flapped travelling cap” but whatever its origin the Holmes inspired ‘gentleman detective’ is a look frequently found on the catwalk. In one of his last collections before his fall from grace, John Galliano presented menswear for A/W 2010/11 accessorised with capes, magnifying glasses and smoking pipes. Bowler-hatted ‘Watsons’ followed in three-piece suits and tailored overcoats.
Also known for his personal appearance, though perhaps less emulated, is Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot – the little Belgian, with ‘enormous moustaches’ and an egg shaped head. Poirot’s fastidious attention to detail extends from his hair pommade to his patent leather shoes but it’s not a look that ever caught on. Despite being more at home on an
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Older women had to be more creative in their ruses and it was not uncommon for those who could to make themselves look respectable and motherly to lure well dressed children away from their nannies to a secluded spot to ‘skin’ them. Thankfully, not as bloodthirsty as it sounds, the children were stripped down to their ‘skin’, as boots and even underclothes could easily be sold on. In wig-wearing centuries, children’s soft hair, especially natural blonde, was worth an absolute premium and children were also lured away and shorn of their hair. Hopefully the terrified children were found quickly.
Begging could be quite profitable if played right.
‘Gegors’ or professional beggars cultivated suppurating wounds which they would display by slowly unravelling a swathe of filthy bandage as they told their sob story to any kindly-looking lady. Utterly repulsed, she would get her purse out as quickly as possible!
Knowing that it was easier to get old clothes than cash, more theatrical beggars would ‘work the shallow’ going from house to house even in moderate neighbourhoods. Wearing next to nothing and wracked with a graveyard cough or shivering like a wet dog they would appear at the back door asking for a crust of bread. They could be reasonably sure that as well as food, the housekeeper would dig out an article of clothing, even old boots which they could sell on.
Scams were concocted to take advantage of popular causes. When the Nottingham lacemakers were put out of work by lacemaking machines, bands of beggars or confidence tricksters banded together to take advantage. They claimed that in order to raise the fare to emigrate to Australia, they were forced to sell the last examples of their own fine lace. The charitable ladies who bought it at a knock down price thought they had got an incredible bargain, not realising that they had actually paid well over the odds for cheap machine lace.
From the late 18th century cleanliness had become a virtue next to godliness, but it also provided an opportunity for crime. No longer was it enough for a gentleman to display his status with a neatly tied neck cloth, it also had to be clean! Beau Brummell made cleanliness fashionable, he sent his linen to be laundered and aired on Hampstead Heath which was still fragrant countryside at the time. The busy laundress usually sent a boy to collect the linen, but on the often lengthy return journey he was in danger of being ‘snowed’ for the clean laundry. Usually two or more older boys or men would lie in wait in a convenient alley, ready to attack him, being careful not to dirty the linen which would fetch a premium at the second-hand market.
Sometimes small children had the criminal advantage. During the 18th century, at the height of the ‘bloody code’, there were more than 200 crimes that could earn a death sentence but the under sevens were usually spared. Small, light children were groomed to become ‘hat snatchers’. Hoisted into a baker’s basket they crouched concealed and were carried through the crowded city at head height ready to swipe attractive or expensive hats as they passed! Sometimes they would be doubly lucky and manage to get the wig as well – a fine bonus as fashionable wigs were valuable. Images Mary Evans P
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Known as the ‘Gentlemen of the Road’, highwaymen first began to appear on British highways during the second half of the 17th century. The unrest of the English Civil War caused many noblemen to lose their estates. Penniless and disillusioned, more than a few took to the road, cutting a dash in their gentlemen’s apparel with black silk masquerade mask redeployed for crime rather than romantic intrigue.
Always a favourite with the ladies, they built their reputations on being chivalrous and charming even as they robbed. Claude Du Vall even danced a ‘courant’ on Hounslow Heath with a pretty lady before insisting that her husband hand over £100 for the privilege.
Although chiefly interested in money and jewellery, highwaymen were more than happy to take items of fashion for themselves, their girlfriends or to sell. After she hung up her mask, one lady of the road, Moll Cutpurse opened a second-hand shop on Fleet Street in London which she stocked almost exclusively with highway plunder. Highwaymen knew that she would give a fair price, as did the hapless victims who went to her hoping to buy back their treasured possessions.
Many highwaymen gained glamorous notoriety from pamphlets which recounted their exploits in lurid detail. But folk hero status couldn’t save them from the gibbet and didn’t deter their admirers from gathering in their thousands to see them take ‘the long drop’. The condemned would dress in his finest for his last journey from Newgate to Tyburn with crowds lining the route, keen to see that he ‘died game’ – exhibiting the same swagger and bravado that had got him there.
Jonathan Swift's 1727 poem Clever Tom Clinch Going To Be Hanged tells of Tom going to the gallows wearing waistcoat, stockings and breeches all in white with a new cherry ribbon jaunty in his hat. He bowed deeply to the crowd before making a final speech and kicked the hangman in the stomach when he knelt to ask for his pardon. The hangman probably didn’t mind too much as one of his perks was to keep the victim’s clothes and such a display would increase the value.
There was an avid market for souvenirs – portions of the noose were coveted as superstition decreed it held mysterious powers. Determined that the hangman would not profit from her execution, Hannah Dagoe fought off a furious hangman, removed her clothes and threw them into the appreciative crowd. Finally the guards restrained her and she was hung naked.
At the execution of John Briant in 1797 a riot broke out between his female relatives who wanted his body for burial and a group determined to claim his clothes for their imagined therapeutic value. In the ensuing fracas they managed to rip off his legs, arms and head.
The indignities did not always end with death. Many highwaymen were ‘gibbeted’ near the site of their crimes as a deterrent. Their bodies, soaked in tar as a preservative, were hung in chains until all that remained was a skeleton in rags perhaps with a wig in place.
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The Dressmaker’s Doll AGATHA CHRISTIE’S STRANGE TALE
Corace by Jen
There was not much light in the room; the London skies were dark. In the gentle, greyish-green gloom, the sage-green coverings and the curtains and the rugs all blended with each other. The doll blended, too. She lay long and limp and sprawled in her green-velvet clothes and her velvet cap and the painted mask of her face. She was not a doll as children understand dolls. She was the Puppet Doll, the whim of Rich Women, the doll who lolls beside the telephone, or among the cushions of the divan. She sprawled there, eternally limp and yet strangely alive. She looked a decadent product of the 20th century.
Sybil Fox, hurrying in with some patterns and a sketch, looked at the doll with a faint feeling of surprise and bewilderment. She wondered—but whatever she wondered did not get to the front of her mind. Instead, she thought to herself, “Now, what’s happened to the pattern of the blue velvet? Wherever have I put it? I’m sure I had it here just now.” She went out on the landing and called up to the workroom. “Elspeth. Elspeth, have you the blue pattern up there? Mrs. FellowsBrown will be here any minute now.”
She went in again, switching on the lights. Again she glanced at the doll. “Now where on earth – ah, there it is,” She picked the pattern up from where it had fallen from her hand. There was the usual creak outside on the landing as the elevator came to a halt and in a minute or two Mrs. Fellows-Brown, accompanied by her Pekinese, came puffing into the room rather like a fussy local train arriving at a wayside station.
“It’s going to pour,” she said, “simply pour!” She threw off gloves and a fur. Alicia Coombe came in. She didn’t always come in nowadays, only when special customers arrived, and Mrs. Fellows-Brown was such a customer.
Elspeth, the forewoman of the workroom, came down with the frock and Sybil pulled it over Mrs. Fellows-Brown’s head. “There,” she said. “It really does suit you. It’s a lovely colour, isn’t it?” Alicia Coombe sat back a little in her chair, studying it. “Yes,” she said, “I think it’s good. Yes, it’s definitely a success.”
Mrs. Fellows-Brown turned sideways and looked in the mirror. “I must say,” she said, “your clothes do do something to my behind.” “You're much thinner than you were three months ago,” Sybil assured her. “I’m really not,” said Mrs. Fellows-Brown, “though I must say I look it in this. There's something about the way you cut, it really does minimize my behind. I almost look as though I hadn't got one – I mean only the usual kind that most people have.”
She sighed and gingerly smoothed the troublesome portion of her anatomy. “It’s always been a bit of a trial to me,” she said. “Of course, for years I could pull it in, you know, by sticking out my front. Well, I can't do that any longer because I've got a stomach now as well as a behind. And I mean—well, you can’t pull it in both ways, can you?”
Alicia Coombe said, “You should see some of my customers!” Mrs. FellowsBrown experimented to and fro. “A stomach is worse than a behind,” she said. “It shows more. Or perhaps you think it does, because, I mean, when you’re talking to people you’re facing them and that’s the moment, they can’t see your behind but they can notice your stomach. Anyway, I’ve made it a rule to pull in my stomach and let my behind look after itself.” She craned her neck round still farther, then said suddenly, “Oh, that doll of yours! She gives me the creeps. How long have you had her?”
Sybil glanced uncertainly at Alicia Coombe who looked puzzled but vaguely distressed. “I don’t know exactly... some time I think – I never can remember things. It’s awful nowadays – I simply cannot remember. Sybil, how long have we had her?” Sybil said shortly, “I don't know.” “Well,” said Mrs. Fellows-Brown, “she gives me the creeps. Uncanny! She looks, you know, as though she was watching us all, and perhaps laughing in that velvet sleeve of hers. I’d get rid of her if I were you.” She gave a little shiver. Then she plunged once more into dressmaking details. Should she or should she not have the sleeves an inch shorter? And what about the length? When all these important points were settled satisfactorily, Mrs. Fellows-Brown resumed her own garments and prepared to leave. As she passed the doll, she turned her head again. “No,” she said, “I don't like that doll. She looks too much as though she belonged here. It isn’t healthy.”
“Now what did she mean by that?” demanded Sybil, as Mrs. Fellows-Brown departed down the stairs. Before Alicia Coombe could answer, Mrs. FellowsBrown returned, poking her head round the door. “Good gracious, I forgot all about Fou-Ling. Where are you, ducksie? Well I never!” She stared and the other two women stared, too. The Pekinese was sitting by the green-velvet chair, staring up at the limp doll sprawled on it. There was no expression, either of pleasure or resentment, on his small popeyed face. He was merely looking.
“Come along, mum’s darling,” said Mrs. Fellows-Brown. Mum’s darling paid no attention whatever. “He gets more disobedient every day,” said Mrs. FellowsBrown, with the air of one cataloguing a virtue. “Come on, Fou-Ling. Dindins. Luffly liver.” Fou-Ling turned his head about an inch and a half toward his mistress, then with disdain resumed his appraisal of the doll.
“She certainly made an impression on him,” said Mrs. Fellows-Brown. “I don’t think he’s ever noticed her before. I haven’t either. Was she here last time I came?” The two other women looked at each other. Sybil now had a frown on her face, and Alicia Coombe said, wrinkling up her forehead, “I told you – I simply can’t remember anything nowadays. How long have we had her, Sybil?”
“Where did she come from?” demanded Mrs. Fellows-Brown. “Did you buy her?” “Oh, no.” Somehow Alicia Coombe was shocked at the idea. “Oh no. I suppose – I suppose someone gave her to me.” She shook her head. “Maddening!” she exclaimed. “Absolutely maddening, when everything goes out of your head the very moment after it’s happened.”
“Now don’t be stupid, Fou-Ling,” said Mrs. Fellows-Brown sharply. “Come on. I’ll have to pick you up.” She picked him up. Fou-Ling uttered a short bark of agonized protest. They went out of the room with Fou-Ling’s popeyed face turned over his fluffy shoulder, still staring with enormous attention at the doll on the chair
“That there doll,” said Mrs. Groves, “fair gives me the creeps, it does.” Mrs. Groves was the cleaner. She had just finished a crablike progress backward along the floor. Now she was standing up and working slowly round the room with a duster. “Funny thing,” said Mrs. Groves, “never noticed it really until yesterday. And then it hit me all of a sudden, as you might say.”
“You don’t like it?” asked Sybil. “I tell you, Mrs. Fox, it gives me the creeps,” said the cleaning woman. “It ain’t natural, if you know what I mean. All those long hanging legs and the way she’s slouched down there and the cunning look she has in her eye. It doesn’t look healthy, that’s what I say.” “You've never said anything about her before,” said Sybil. “I tell you, I never noticed her – not till this morning... Of course I know she’s been here some time but–” She stopped and a puzzled expression flitted across her face. “Sort of thing you might dream of at night,” she said, and gathering up various cleaning implements she departed from the fitting room and walked across the landing to the room on the other side.
Sybil stared at the relaxed doll. An expression of bewilderment was growing on her face. Alicia Coombe entered and Sybil turned sharply. “Miss Coombe, how long have you had this creature?” “What, the doll? My dear, you know I can't remember things. Yesterday – why, it's too silly! I was going out to that lecture and I hadn’t gone halfway down the street when I suddenly found I couldn't remember where I was going. I thought and I thought. Finally I told myself it must be Fortnums. I knew there was something I wanted to get at Fortnums. Well, you won’t believe me, it wasn’t till I actually got home and was having some tea that I remembered about the lecture. Of course, I’ve always heard that people go gaga as they get on in life, but it’s happening to me much too fast. I’ve forgotten now where I’ve put my handbag – and my spectacles, too. Where did I put those spectacles? I had them just now – I was reading something in the Times.”
“The spectacles are on the mantelpiece here,” said Sybil, handing them to her. “How did you get the doll? Who gave her to you?” “That's a blank, too,” said Alicia Coombe. “Somebody gave her to me or sent her to me, I suppose... However she does seem to match the room very well, doesn’t she?”
“Rather too well, I think,” said Sybil. "Funny thing is, I can’t remember when I first noticed her here.” “Now don't you get the same way as I am,” Alicia Coombe admonished her. “After all, you’re young still.” “But really, Miss Coombe,
lge indu selv edge.org in Hastings Old Town, over six years ago. Five of us run the shop, selling our own work and other work made locally. Are your musical instruments decorative or can children play them? I prefer children – and adults – to play them. The painting sinks into the skin and is fairly durable. Anyway I love the patina of old, loved objects. Did you have a favourite toy as a child? I had a lamb toy made of real sheepskin. It didn’t really look like a sheep – I think it must have been handmade... I’ve still got him. What is your favourite fairy tale? Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I’ve been painting my version recently. What is your favourite animal? Polar Bears and Fox Terriers are amongst my favourites but I’d have to say elephants, which I’ve been painting this week. If you could illustrate any book what would it be? A book of sea shanties or sea myths and legends would be fun! Do you think illustrators have any distinctive personality traits? I am happiest when I have no distractions and can really concentrate on my latest project. I have become quite used to my own company. What do you choose to do when you’re not working? I love going to boot fairs and junk shops, camping and spending time at the beach hut – when I get there I immediately start to wind down.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you like to be? I’d like to be a good musician, or work in a lovely environment like a theatre or in a travelling circus like Giffords (see Selvedge issue 41). Your work is pretty, does it come more naturally to paint for girls? It does for me, especially as I have a daughter. It’s something I’m aware of and find a challenge – I’ve painted a skeleton drum which would probably appeal to boys! Do you have any projects or new products planned? I am preparing for my open studio show where I’m showing my new Circus inspired paintings and products. Later on, we are exhibiting work at our beach hut for the Coastal Currents Arts Festival. There are lots of ideas for products, but not enough time as usual. If you were making a toy that represented Selvedge, what would it be? It would be a Christmas tree fairy with a crazy patchwork skirt, with flowers in her hair and freckles, or a hand turned and painted Knitting Nancy Doll. Claire Fletcher’s hand painted tambourines and angels from £38, Selvedge Drygoods, T: +44 (0)20 8341 9721, www.selvedge.org, www.clairefletcherart.com. Textile Tales: Claire Fletcher’s angel making workshop at the V&A in collaboration with Selvedge, 14-16 November 2011, 10.30-4.30, Art Studio, V&A, £189, concessions £151.50 (includes all materials). Selvedge readers receive 10% discount. To book please call T:+44 (0)20 7942 2211 and quote ‘Selvedge’, www.vam.ac.uk/whatson
ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives 53 COVER STORY Crimes of fashion The seamy side of crime SarahJaneDowninggivesevidence abouttextilerelatedcrimeandpunishmentinVictorianBritain 75 Fabric swatch No 6: Bombazine Asnippetofthehistoryofasomber,funerealfabric,illustrated byAlyssaNassner 60 COVER STORY The Dressmaker’s Doll A seamstress is plagued by strange occurrences in Agatha Christie’s spooky short story illustratedbyJenCorace
EVENTS The Battle of the blues An indigo and woad study day At Fenton House Hampstead, Tuesday 6th September, 1.30-5.30pm, including lectures from Jenny Balfour Paul and Bess Nielson, a screeningofthedocumentaryfilmBlueAlchemyandpracticaldemonstrationsfromWoadinc 14 The 4th Selvedge Autumn Fair The fourth installment of Selvedge’s own fair... Add 17th September to your diary and we’ll look forward to seeing you there
WIN 83 Prizes and offers this month include... A handmade leather travel bag from the Devon based workshop of Tony and Jenny Piper, Susan Crawford’s latest knitting book and a set of John Arbon’s co-ordinating yarns for three readers, Tickets to Origin and 10% off at Fine Cell Work. Enjoy in f o r m
INFORM the latest news, reviews and exhibition listings
03 bias /contributors A letter from the editor in chief and our contributors share their Halloween tales... 07 news A look at the installations and work at this year’s London Design Festival including REDDRESS, Textile Field an installation by brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, supported by Kvadrat. Susie MacMurray’s site specific installation, Stratum at Islington Mill. Maxine Greer, Sarah Morpeth and Claire Brewer at Origin, Liberty rocks, Le Baiser:
tapestry by Picasso, Zero Lubin at the Macclesfield Silk Museum 9 need to know The Marian Hangings embroidered by Mary Queen of Scots during her 19 years of captivity 80 subscription offers This issue, a fragrant lavender bag from Volga Linen for every new subscriber and renewal and free access to the digital edition 81 subscribe Complete the form or visit the selvedge website 84 listings Exhibitions, fairs, and events not to be missed taking place around the world in September and October 86 books Less is More Minimalism & Fashion, Pomp & Poverty - A History of Silk in Ireland 88 view Maurizio Anzeri, Stitch in time: A story of patchwork, Tommy Nutter: Rebel on the Row, Power of Making 93 resources Websites, reading lists and sources for those who want to find out more about the Intrigue Issue 95 coming next The Peace issue... Beautiful textiles to contemplate this Christmas
SELVEDGE ('selnid3 ) n. 1. finished di fferently 2. the non-fraying edge of a length of woven fabric. [: from SELF + EDGE]
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