A Thousand Fancies….

The power of objects to inspire a thousand fancies
Charles Paget Wade

Charles Paget Wade, a poet, architect, artist-craftsman and not forgetting keen collector of eclectic objects, to inspire.

This collection can be seen at Snowshill Manor, which Wade gave to the National Trust in 1951. The collection of course would not be complete without costume (2,200 items of 18th to 20th century to be precise) which is stored at Berrington Hall. The collection is cared for by Althea Mackenzie, Costume Curator.

This year Berrington Hall is bringing to life the Georgian interiors of the Hall by displaying costume, from The Charles Paget Wade Collection, Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre and COSPROP (costume from The Duchess and 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice).

The displays shall enchant visitors by taking them on a journey, peeping into the lives and fashion of Georgian society.

Over the course of the year there will be an array of costume from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and costumes worn in Pride and Prejudice (1995) British television period drama and the film The Duchess (2008).

Pride and Prejudice was filmed at various locations including Lyme Park (exterior of Pemberley, Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire) and Sudbury Hall (interiors) both owned by the National Trust.

The Duchess was filmed at locations such as Chastworth House, Bath (including the Assembly Rooms and Royal Crescent) and Clandon Park.

The Duchess, a selected display of costumes from The Duchess (2008), includes the wedding dress worn by Keria Knightly on until 30th June 2014, costumes from COSPROP, Holloway Road.

‘Wearing The Garden’ looks at Georgian men’s fashion. The influence of gardens on fashion reveals an extravagant display of stunning waistcoats with embellished woven silk brocades. This exhibition will feature costumes from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and Hereford Museum Resources and Learning Centre on until 30th June 2014.

‘Big Bottoms and Small Waist’ reveals a display of undergarments through the centuries. This exhibition will feature undergarments from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and Hereford Museum Resources and Learning Centre on display from 1st July until 31st August 2014.

‘Pride and Prejudice’ a selection of costumes and accessories worn during filming of Pride and Prejudice in 1995. On display from 1st August until 31st October 2014, costumes from COSPROP, Holloway Road.

If you want to see if costume can inspire a thousand fancies, why not make a visit to Berrington Hall or see the blog featuring The Charles Paget Wade Collection written by Ellie Jones, Conservation and Engagement Manager.

I certainly felt inspired by my visit! What will inspire you today?

This post was written in collaboration with Ellie Jones, Conservation and Engagement Manager at Berrington Hall.  If you are interested in writing a post in collaboration with the author of Textile and Dress Historian please email textileanddresshistorian@gmail.com.

Be My Valentine

It is said that St. Valentine’s Day probably originates from a pagan fertility festival in pre-Roman times or it could be a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus? Where ever its origins may rest, the day appears to be associated with romance and love.

During the 15th century the occasion evolves by lovers expressing their affection for one another in the form of sending flowers, greeting cards “Valentines” and even confectionary – chocolate or sweets. Yet, it is interesting to see that since the 19th century the notion of a handwritten valentine’s card is sadly superseded by mass-production.

Valentine’s Day has become a commercial opportunity with the use of hearts, doves and the figure of the winged cupid to symbolise love.

We even see a tradition of chivalrous gentlemen sending a pair of gloves to their loved one as a proposal. He waits hopelessly hoping that his loved one will wear then to church on a Sunday in acceptance of his proposal.

Might you receive a pair of gloves this Valentine’s Day?

Sunday Best, In Vogue Dress or Made to Measure?


A trip to Brussels for my school friend’s wedding, consisting of many cultural traditions, got me thinking about the history of the white wedding dress.

A wedding is full of joy and happiness. There is the leading lady, a beautiful bride, supported by the gorgeous groom who is surrounded by family and friends. The groom waits with anticipation of a glimpse of his wife to be. The show stopping dress hidden from eye becomes a spectacle.

What to wear on your special day – Sunday best, in vogue dress or made to measure?

The white wedding dress has been credited to Queen Victoria, yet her dress wasn’t actually white at all. Victoria’s wedding to Albert was on the 10th February, 1840. She wore a bodice and skirt of plain cream silk with a spectacular lace veil and skirt flounce.

Queen Victoria and Albert
Queen Victoria and Albert

The official portrait (photograph) of Victoria and Albert on their wedding day, gave inspiration to many other brides to opt for a similar dress in honour of the Queen’s choice.

Prior to the Victorian era, a bride was married in any colour, black being especially popular in Scandinavia. Later, many people assumed that the colour white was intended to symbolize virginity, though this had not been the original intention. It was the colour blue that was connected to purity. The white gown is in fact a symbolic Christening gown.

Today, Western wedding dresses are usually white though “wedding white” includes creamy shades such as eggshell and ivory.

Wedding Gowns
Wedding Gowns

In accordance with the modest fashions of the time, early 19th century wedding dresses would always be floor length, and would often have long sleeves and a high neckline. The dress would often be a two-part outfit, with a separate skirt and bodice, especially for poorer brides who would want to be able to reuse their bridal dress for other formal occasions.

Wedding Dresses Through The Ages
Wedding Dresses Through The Ages

Up until the late 1930s, wedding dresses reflected the styles of the day. From that time onward, wedding dresses have traditionally been based on Victorian styles.

Adorned In Trimmings

Adornment is the egoistic element as such: it singles out its wearer, whose self-feeling it embodies and increases at the cost of others, for, the same adornment of all would no longer adorn the individual (Simmel 1997:207).


A small dainty bead or sequin can seem invisible or insignificant on its own, but when it is adjacent to a thousand others, in the context of a garment, it has meaning.

Throughout the history of fashion the use of trimming or ornamentation has changed dramatically. There are points in history, such as the era of Henry VIII, where men, more so than women, would have indulged in lavish trimmings which adorned their outfits. Yet, today trimmings are more commonly associated with women’s garments. Trimmings were used on women’s garments during the 1920-30s to the point of extravagance, as they indicate the look and style of this specific period extremely well.

Dress trimmings were at their most influential on evening wear and couture. The trimmings produced a sense of fun, luxury, and glamour, especially during the rise of jazz and dancing in the 1930s. Trimmings also allowed women to distinguish an outfit worn during the day from those worn during the afternoon or evening.

This is a detail of the embroidered design on the afternoon dress (Blaise Castle, Bristol)
This is a detail of the embroidered design on the afternoon dress
Blaise Castle, Bristol

Evening wear would be worn for cocktail parties or nightclubbing, although it was only available for those who could afford it.

Evening gown (National Trust, Killerton)
Evening Gown
National Trust, Killerton

The cartoon, below, by “Fish” depicts a fashionable woman in 1920 wearing an evening gown embellished with dress trimmings. Fish. 1922. Cartoon. Print on paper. Eve Pictorial in (Dorner, J. 1973:7)

Adam: “Good gracious, Eve! You aren’t really going out in the apology for a dress?”
Eve: “Sure thing , old top. One must be in the fashion or die”


Day-wear was considered for practical purposes and so called ‘sensible clothes’, hence it did not have any elaborate dress trimmings.

This is a Crepe de chine dress with long sleeves and Erie lace collar, c1925-1930 (Blaise Castle, Bristol)
This is a Crepe de chine dress with long sleeves and Erie lace collar, c1925-1930 Blaise Castle, Bristol

During this period trimmings would have been used by various people: dressmakers producing ready-to-wear fashion or couture outfits; and even mothers, daughters or sisters, venturing into home-sewing to save money just after the First World War (Burman 1999).

What are dress trimmings or dress ornaments?

How can a trimming or dress ornament be defined, and what does its use mean?

Dress trimming or dress ornaments are used on garments. The appearance of the trimmings or ornaments changes depending largely on the prevailing fashion.  In a general sense the term ‘trim’ has several meanings, in terms of dressmaking, ‘to trim’ suggests an item which had a ragged edge that has been cut away, trimming it into the desired shape, ‘trim those hanging threads dear and then the garment will be finished properly’.

A beaded dress trimming made of matt gold sequins and gold glass beads sewn onto cotton backing with cut outs, c1920-1939 (Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery, Georgian House, Bristol)
A beaded dress trimming made of matt gold sequins and gold glass beads sewn onto cotton backing with cut outs, c1920-1939
Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery, Georgian House, Bristol

‘Trim’ could also be a decorative finish applied to the edge of a garment, a collar, neckline, or the cuffs of a sleeve, as a form of dress ornamentation. It could take the form of beading or embroidery applied to the surface of a garment or worked onto ribbon which could be applied as a form of ‘trim’.

Yet, beading and embroidery are integrated into the structure of the garment as opposed to merely resting on the surface like lace or ribbon. Trim has various meanings when not associated with dressmaking for example: neat and spruce in appearance; trimming the hedge; or having your hair trimmed. It generally means ‘to make (something) neater by cutting it slightly without changing its basic shape. His white beard was neatly trimmed’ (Collins 2001:844). Trimming (something) is therefore a reaction, or implies that something appears untidy or unfinished to the eye and needs to be trimmed or enhanced to appear ordered or aesthetically pleasing.

Ornament, (Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery, Georgian House, Bristol)
Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery, Georgian House, Bristol

Dress Ornamentation is very similar to dress trimmings; however, ornamentation branches out to consist of decoration used on a garment or even a motif design scattered around the whole of the garment. Whereas, trimmings, as previously mentioned, consist of a small designated area, usually the edge of a garment in a form which has been embellished to give a sense of a garment being properly finished off.  It is clear that there is a definite distinction between decoration and ornament. They are both considered forms of trimmings yet, have a different method of application. ‘Decoration is distributed, to give balance as well as becomingness in the overall effect; ornament is concentrated, to give emphasis or individuality’ (Institute of Domestic Arts 1962:1).

What does it mean for the garment to be adorned in trimmings?

Could it be an ‘extra little something’ that finishes off an outfit, transforming a plain garment into an eye catching and spectacular one?  Trim seems to suggest other words which are closely linked or could be used in order to describe the style and specific type of trimming like: adorn, decorate, ornament, enhancement, appearance, beauty, emphasis, embellishment and distinction. It appears that the use of dress trimmings or dress ornaments merges into a paradox. Could a trimming be placed onto a garment with a pre-planned thought that it will enhance the garment, cover or conceal problems areas resulting from cut and construction?

It is possible that the use of trimmings may have a nascent concept in the form of adornment, enhancing characteristics of the wearer, expressing individuality with trimmings.

Are you adorned in trimmings?