Book: The Fashion Chronicles

A couple of weeks ago I decided to treat myself to Amber Butchart’s new book, The Fashion Chronicles. I really enjoyed her series recreating outfits from paintings and I would like to know more about the history of fashion (which will help with my Hundred Years Wardrobe project).

This is the perfect book for dipping in and out of, reading one or two sections at a time. The book takes you through ‘the style stories of history’s best dressed’, starting with Eve and going right through history to Beyonce.

I can remember doing a project on Egypt and specifically Tutankhamun at primary school, so it’s cool that he’s in the book.

And one of the outfits they recreated on the series – this was was particularly amazing I think.

And here’s another outfit from the series, with ALL THE BUTTONS.

I guess no book on the history of style and fashion would be complete without mentioning Marie Antoinette….

….or Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

I also remember a segment on one of the episodes of the Sewing Bee on Beau Brummell and how he essentially invented the style of jacket he’s wearing and the idea of the dandy. (This is to the best of my recollection from probably years ago so forgive me if I’m wrong, I haven’t read his chapter of this book yet)

I love, love, love William Morris’s designs.

I like how Butchart has included some people who are influential for a specific garment, like Jules Léotard.

I’ve always loved Oscar Wilde so I’m thrilled that he has made it into the book. Also I’ve just realised that so far most of the people I’ve picked out of the book are men – before I looked through the book I assumed it would be mostly women, but it is a good mixture.

I love that she has included women who transgressed gender norms, both on the stage as Vesta Tilley, above, did or in their every day lives like Radclyffe Hall. I might have to recreate a Radclyffe Hall-style outfit for my 1920s Hundred Years Wardrobe project.

And it would be great to recreate my namesake Amelia Earhart’s outfit for the 1930s. She looks so effortlessly cool – and was, obviously, a complete trailblazer.

I didn’t manage to make it to the V & A to go to the recent Frida Kahlo exhibition, but it’s undeniable that her clothes and the way she presented herself, both in her art and in person, are an integral part of her identity – and the reason people are drawn to her.

I have a deep love for Liberace’s flamboyant style – I had one of those pop out outfit books for some of Liberace’s iconic looks which you could dress him in – it was as amazing and weird as I think you must be imagining!

I still kind of want to recreate this outfit of Bowie’s.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who really fancies Prince, especially in the 80s. I’m sure I also wasn’t the only one who was gutted and shocked when he died 2 years ago.

Who doesn’t love Drag Race!? It’s interesting to look a RuPaul’s style evolution from the 80s to now.

I love that Butchart writes about men and women, through multiple centuries and from all around the world – I definitely think I’ll learn a lot about all different kinds of fashion and style once I’ve read the whole book.

Have you got this book? Are you tempted to get it if not?

The Hundred Years Wardrobe Project

Since I’ve been sewing for a while I’ve decided to try to challenge myself to expand my skills and to sew garments and with fabrics that are outside of my comfort zone. And so was born my idea for the Hundred Years Wardrobe Project.

I’m going to sew one thing from each decade of the 20th Century. There is no time limit for this as I want it to be a fun exercise and deadlines are often where stress lies for me.

I’m going to also try to do some posts about my research for each decade and share some of my inspiration. A while ago I did write some posts about fashion history but I ran out of steam with them – hopefully with a garment to relate the history to I will have more to say and more to share. Some of the makes will be inspired by fashion and some will be from films – either made at the time or set in the past.

I would love it if anyone else wants to join in with this project – I’m calling it a project rather than a challenge as there is no deadline and there will be no prizes, just the pride in having made something cool!

Spoiler alert: I already have my first make made and ready to blog soon!

Style Crush: Kerry Washington

Last month I decided to start watching Scandal, which is all on Amazon Prime, to see what all the fuss was about, and because I love Joshua Malina on The West Wing Weekly podcast. I can’t decide if Scandal is good or not – it feels like a soap with a bigger budget, which is fine but not what I thought it was. Anyway I’ve decided I’m a bit in love with Kerry Washington. She is so so beautiful! And I love her style, so I thought I would share some of my favourite looks with you, in no particular order.

I really love the simplicity of the silhouette of this dress, coupled with the graduating colour of the sequins. If I had an exciting party to go to, I might make a copy of this!


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This dress looks like a pretty good idea for this hot Summer weather we’re having. It’s a bit Halston to me, and coupled with her more natural hair, it looks really effortless.

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This is another of my absolute favourite looks – I know she was styled for Elle magazine here, so they’re not necessarily her clothes, but I really want to copy this outfit. I love the proportions and the colour, and the tunic/dress could be worn on its own, which would give you a 60s vibe. I also really want to get a pair of those shoes!


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I like the silhouette of this outfit and the use of the reverse of the fabric on the top compared to the dress underneath.


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You know how much I like yellow. Nuff said!


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She seems to be so good at choosing simple but chic outfits for the red carpet, and this Lanvin (I think) dress is no different. The fit is so impeccable and I love the bow detail on the shoulder.


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I really love the bedazzled lips, matchsticks and jewels on this blush pink colour.


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This pink is perfect on her and I really love the panelling on the skirt. More inspiration to copy for next year’s Dressmaker’s Ball?


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This might be my absolute favourite look I’ve found.  It definitely has a 70s vibe, especially with the clogs and I love her hair here. Definitely inspiration for a cute denim Summer dress, and I love how the topstitching adds an extra layer of detail.


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More sequined dress inspiration! I love the neckline and shoulders on this. I reckon I could recreate it using the Tilly and the Buttons Martha Dress, which I have but haven’t made yet.


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Not sure about the 60s beehive but I love the dress – the fabric having the squares pattern on makes it more interesting.

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I love how she wears maybe more grown up looks and then younger looks like this dress, which is definitely made cooler with the booties and the loose up-do.


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And I couldn’t resist sharing this look – I love the sculptural style of the dress and how the white patches look almost like a lapel. And I love the blunt hair with the straight lines of the dress.


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Have you watched Scandal? Do you love Kerry Washington as much as I do?

 

 

Fashioned From Nature Exhibition

A couple of weekends ago I went to the Fashioned From Nature exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s on until January next year and if you are able to, I would really recommend you try to make it to see it. It’s in the same place as the Balenciaga exhibition but for some reason I thought it would be smaller, but I was really amazed at the scaled of the exhibits and the accompanying information. I think we took longer to look around this one than the Balenciaga one!

Fair warning, this post is very photo-heavy!

The first half of the exhibition was a little depressing if I’m honest – it was about how we have exploited the world throughout history to make clothes. The first dress had a whole map and explanation about where all the different components came from.

There was a section and garments relating to each thing used to make clothes which came from/comes from animals, like silk.

This lace was truly a wonder to behold, given that it was all made by hand – some of it by bobbins and some of it with needles!

I’ve always kind of liked whales, I think since I did a project on them for a Brownie or Guide badge so it makes me sad that they were used in clothing and accessories, as much as I can admire the carving of this walking stick.

I love how the x-ray of this corset shows the whalebone inside.

Even hats had whalebone in, to keep their shape.

The things made of fur were also a bit sad. It’s a tricky thing because it makes sense that in the past people didn’t have synthetic alternatives (which come with other problems) to enable them to keep warm, but of course suddenly killing lots of the same animal means there will eventually be a lot fewer of them.

Wool seems like one of the less evil things we’ve made clothes from – at least the sheep is still alive once it’s been sheared.

It’s amazing that these colours have lasted as long as they have, given that the book is over 200 years old!

I couldn’t believe how tiny the coat on the left was! I can only assume it was for a teenage girl.

Cotton obviously has been responsible for a lot of evils in the past, but it must be one of the most used fibres ever for clothes.

Cotton opened up a whole load of possibilities of colours, and designs.

I love how even in the 1780s people refashioned clothes to make them last longer or make them more up to date with the changing fashions.

These hand made buttons were teeny tiny – I don’t even know how someone would make them!


I love the combination of patterns on this dress – there are 2 different designs of flowers on the different parts of the dress.

I think I found the feathers possibly the most upsetting because there were multiple things with whole dead birds on, which is just creepy – I don’t know how it was ever fashionable to wear a whole dead bird as earrings or on a hat.

I love this photo of a group of men protesting against the killing of so many egrets for fashion. Not to stereotype, but they don’t look like a group of radical protesters!

Also I found out that ‘mad as a hatter’ as a phrase came from the fact that milliners used mercury and actually went a bit mad.

With the advent of synthetic dyes, a whole new world of possibilities opened up in terms of colours, but then, as now, the impact on the people and the environment was less than perfect.

I loved this diagram of how the below dress was assembled.

A slightly nicer part of the exhibition was the part about how the Victorians got all into nature and so painted/embroidered images of the natural world on their clothes.

I’m sure it was on an episode of No Such Thing As A Fish (a brilliant podcast) where they talked about the Victorians’ obsession with ferns, and that was definitely in evidence in the clothing in the exhibition.

These are silk flowers!

 

I like how even in the past, people experimented with using unusual fibres to make clothes, like this dress made from pineapples.

This dress, rather creepily, is decorated with beetle shells.

One thing I didn’t really consider as coming from animals was mother of pearl, but of course it comes from the inside of shells.

All of the below things are made from spun glass, which somehow was woven into fabric. I don’t know how strong it is, but it’s pretty impressive!

The second part of the exhibition (upstairs) was much more hopeful that the first half – it was all about new developments in sustainability and designers looking for better ways of making still beautiful garments.

This dress was one of my favourites in the whole exhibition. It’s made from strips of cellulose acetate stitched into silk and decorated with artificial pearls. And it’s from 1936! It looks like it was made last year!


This dress from 1920s Paris is made from Bemberg silk, which is made from cellulose.

This 1980s dress is designed to stretch over people of any size, which means the manufacturer doesn’t have to make multiple sizes, which means less waste from the sizes which remain unsold.

I love this ‘suitcase’ made from a suit – I should have had this idea during The Refashioners! I like how they’ve retained the look of the original sleeve and pockets.

This dress was stunning – it looked like a leopard skin draped on the front of it, but it’s all made from beads!

I love that the depiction of nature is still a thing that is done now.

I love the underwater scene on this Zac Posen gown.

 

Since I found the real feather so creepy, I really liked the simplicity of the fake feathers on this dress.

I was very excited to see No Patterns Needed and a shout out to the growing group of people who make their own clothes.

I’m not totally sold on this look but I can see the merit of the idea of using parts of crochet that no-one wanted to create a new garment.

Apparently John Malkovich is a fashion designer, who uses flax as his preferred fibre, as it uses less water than other fabrics.

I was quite excited to see this outfit that Emma Watson wore to the Met Gala a couple of years ago as you will already know I love her style. And I remember her wearing this outfit, which is made from 3 different components so she could wear them again in different outfits. The fabric was also made from recycled materials – I like how she uses her very high profile to shout about sustainability and to support movements like the Green Carpet Challenge.

I found it really interesting to see that the stitching on the ties was white and not black. It was quite difficult to see how the outfit was assembled as it was a little dark.

I enjoyed the exhibition so much I treated myself to the book, which I will get around to reading (and maybe reviewing) at some point in the future, when I magically have loads of spare time!

This exhibition really inspired me, along with the Love To Sew Podcast episodes on sustainability to be more mindful about my consumption of fabric and the kinds of fibres I use. I always look in charity shops for fabric but they never seem to have anything good, but I’ll keep looking. I also want to try to buy fabrics that are a bit less evil for the environment and the people who live where they are produced.

Do you think you’ll make it to the exhibition?

 

 

Style Crush: Miss Fisher

I’ve just started watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries again – I think this is the third time (at least) that I’ve watched it. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch it – it’s on Netflix in the UK and probably other countries too. If you like a cosy crime show like Poirot then you’ll love Miss Fisher. And her clothes are amazing! There’s a great article on Vanity Fair that says the costume designer tries to be as authentic as possible by using fabrics that would have been around in the 20s and pattern cutting that was actually used at the time, such as using panels instead of darts.

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As well as amazing clothes, Miss Fisher has an excellent line in hats.

This voile coat with, I think, embroidered panels is amazing! I kind of want to recreate it.

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This dress was made for dancing in – which is lucky because that’s what she does in it!

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Her nightwear is particularly elegant – I think I definitely need a silk robe in my life. My current dressing gown is the one I made as part of my Doc Brown costume – nowhere near as glamourous!

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I remember reading an article a while ago where the costumer designer, Marion Boyce, lobbied for a tennis episode as tennis was a huge sport an an influence on fashion in the 20s and she finally got her way in (I think) series 3. Word of warning, though, this episode features a rather nasty spider!

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I. Want. The. Parasol.

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Yellow and white is a great combo – you probably know by now how much I love yellow and maybe for the Summer I’ll find some white things too and sort of copy this look.

 

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This velvet coat is amazing!

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I also really like the character of Dr Mac who shows another side to 20s fashion – the acceptance of queer identity and gender bending dressing. I’ve seen some documentaries on tv (though I can’t remember exactly which ones) which mention that the 20s were much more a time of ‘anything goes’ than any other decade in the first half of the 20th century. She also has excellent hats.

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I’ll leave you with this picture of Jack in a wet bathing suit because of reasons.

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Have you watched Miss Fisher yet? Are you tempted to, if only for the beautiful costumes?