The Costume Collection

Among the hundreds of boxes, drawers and shelves, the Costume Collection had been left unexplored within the Archive Collection.

Ashley-family-foundationOn-going research, conservation and cataloguing has revealed a wonderfully rich and important group of flat textiles, paper designs and fragments which create this previously unseen collection. With over 500 items identified, and more to be uncovered, this project will continue through 2013. With support from the Ashley Family Foundation, the Archive is working to improve accessibility to this significant historic collection.


Collections care and labelling

With the help of skilled volunteers, we have had a successful start to the Costume Collection conservation project. With re-labelling and the stabilisation of these delicate fabrics, items are being individually assessed and accordingly preserved within the Archive Store. Records show that the Costume Collection grew as part of Warner & Sons’ archive, with many pieces produced by the company for shoes, scarves ties and clothing, and historical and contemporary samples purchased by Warner & Sons from around the world for inspiration. Samples include 18th century French hand-printed cottons, embroidered prayer caps from Africa, paper designs for woven ribbons, shawls and point paper designs for woven silks. Although comprising a few complete garments and accessories, the majority of the fabrics are pieces from dresses or accessories, such as sleeves, bodice sections, dress panels, collars and tambour decoration.

 Examples from the Costume Collection

18th century

The Warner Textile Archive holds many original and internationally important pieces and Document 632 is a rare example of a toile de Jouy, printed in Jouy en Josas under the direction of Christophe Philippe Oberkampf, the pioneer of toile de Jouy in the 18th century.

Doc-632Document 632
‘Arabesque et Trophées’ (Arabesque and Trophies)
Seven colour block print on Siamoise (linen warp and cotton weft)
Pattern repeat 40cm x 38cm

Featuring floral bunches, baskets, trophies, bows, swags, musical instruments & horns, Document 632 is a good example of Louis XVI style.
The two main trends in French design at Jouy en Josas (1760 to 1843) were inspired by Indian design or influenced by the French Decorative Arts movement. Originally, these Empire Style arabesques were only used for furnishing fabrics, but these exotic designs became so popular that Jouy started to print them on lighter-weight cotton for dresses, and often quilted for petticoats.

The Toile de Jouy cloths were printed in 21 metre lengths between 80 centimetres and one metre wide – a dress à la Française took nearly nine metres of fabric to make.

skirt-image-for-18th-cThe fabric was first printed using carved wooden pattern blocks with a mordant, and the whole cloth was then soaked in a bath of madder dye. The madder would adhere itself to the area of fabric that the mordant was printed on, and different colours were achieved by using different mordants.

Doc-632-detailThe whole piece would have a pink hue and so would be staked out in the sun, printed pattern side down, and sprinkled with water six times a day for six days. This would bleach the background to white and leave the madder printed pattern strong.

Mordants were made from aluminium, iron or ferrous salts, and were thickened with gum to allow the mixture to be applied evenly with the printing blocks. Mordants were colourless and so a small amount of Brazil wood was added to provide the printer with the ability to monitor the repeat pattern process.

Doc-1008Document 1008
Spitalfields silk
1743 – 1752

An old 18th century term a Sprig’d tissue with a figured ground describes this beautiful hand-woven silk, produced in Spitalfields, London, between 1743 and 1752.Doc 1008 detail.

Doc-1008-detail-283x300Part of a silk dress panel, these expensive fabrics would have been handed down as family heirlooms. The dress styles were designed around the narrow widths of these hand-woven panels so that the fabric would require fewer cuts.

On a cream silk background, the coloured florals of the pattern were created by introducing each colour by hand through the weft, changing shuttles every time a new colour was required. The shuttles were not thrown across the whole width of the fabric, but only used where the floral motif occurred. This was a much more economical use of the hand-dyed and expensive coloured silk.

19th Century

Doc-961-g-e1363370606999Document 961g

It was during the 19th century that the tambour hook, originally used only for thread work, was first used in the application of beads.

Tambour work, also known as French embroidery beading, uses the small bent tip of the hook to pull the continuous thread to the front of the base fabric to attach beads and create patterns or embellishments.

Doc-961-g-detail-300x276This piece of 19th century tambour work was designed as part of a set of panels, which, due to the weight of the beads, would most likely have been sewn on to a lady’s dress coat.

With hand-sewn glass beads on fine netting and stitched on leather, this beautiful panel would have been used during a recognised mourning period, but also years later when black became fashionable as day wear. Designed as bodice panels, collars, cuffs and skirt panels, these decorations could be unstitched and re-sewn on to another garment.
Many of these mourning items were commercially produced and sold in shops, but Document 961g is carefully handcrafted, and was probably commissioned or created by a highly-skilled craftsperson at home.

20th Century

Doc-1194-270x300Document 1194

Rayon, or viscose rayon, was used extensively in clothing from 1904 until the 1930s, when production of rayon allowed for it to imitate the feel and texture of silk, cotton, linen and wool.

Using a continuous filament created from wood, this extremely versatile fibre is easy to dye and more economical to produce than most natural yarns.

Document 1194 is a sample of dress or skirt fabric from the 1930s.  A printed rayon multi-coloured stripe reflects the fashion for silk-inspired fabrics during this period.

Kindly supported by the Ashley Family Foundation.

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