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Fashion Museum, Bath

January 18, 2012

OK, time to get blogging and do a little catching-up before we proceed with 2012, so…back to September…and Bath!


After the Promenade and lunch, we joined the crowds at the Guildhall, where I bought myself a spencer pattern.  We met up with Scott and Jo again, and went for a wander up to some shops they wanted to visit, and from there up to the Fashion Museum. 

When  Robert saw how much admittance was he declined as we didn’t have enough money, and we left them hunting through their purse and wallet for their National Trust cards which would allow them free admittance.

Outside the Assembly Rooms

Tuesday arrived, and we headed back to Bath for the picnic on the grass in front of Royal Crescent…


The weather wasn’t the warmest, or the brightest, but at least it didn’t rain…until later.  After a while we were joined by Aurora and her friend Justin…Aurora was also in her Regency costume. 

When we’d taken everything back to the cars, we headed back up the hill to the Fashion Museum.  I was so looking forward to seeing all those beautiful 18th century and Regency-era gowns again, but I was to be disappointed. 

Since our last visit, things had changed to accomodate the latest exhibition of bridal gowns, which had taken over the area where all the eighteenth century gowns had previously been displayed. 

A couple of lovely gowns

These gowns were all beautiful, but they weren’t displayed in chronological order…just displayed all together.

More beautiful gowns

The beautiful seventeenth century silver tissue gown was now sans pretty mannequin with lace collar and accessories…

17th c gown

But we did get to play…


Then on to the costume displays that I had come to see, starting with some early accessories…


Disappointment was just around the corner…All the previously well displayed gowns and accessories had been crammed into glass-fronted alcoves and called ‘Behind the Scenes’.  Some were so dimly lit that it was impossible to see any of the beautiful embroidery or detailing on them!  😦

Poorly displayed gowns

Hem details

A very pretty gown




We even sat down and did some drawing…

Doodle time

Back upstairs, we decided to have a quick wander around the Assembly Rooms… 


We left the Assembly Rooms, to find that it was raining…and you will also find that the rest of the day is covered in another post…:-)

Lincolnshire Sunbonnets

November 18, 2011

Actually taken in the 1980s

My first introduction to sunbonnets came just before the 1983 Lincolnshire Show. 

I’d started a temporary job at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in May, and had only been there a few weeks, when one day I was called away from what I was doing.  Arriving at the staff room, Lesley handed me a long black skirt and told me to put it on and go outside where a sunbonnet was plonked onto my head and a big basket thrust into my hands. 

What on earth was going on?  All was soon revealed.  A couple of guys from the local rag were there to do a bit for the Lincolnshire Show supplement…and here I am (with Kevin) on the front page…

Lincs Show supplement 1983

 And the article inside…

The way we were

When the photoshoot was over, I was able to have a good look at my temporary headgear.  It was a delightful Lincolnshire sunbonnet, and I was fascinated! 

Later on, whilst working in the store-room, I came across three boxes of these sunbonnets.  All else was forgotten, as I went through each box in turn, inspecting every bonnet, and grabbing a sheet of paper, I did some sketches and worked out how they were constructed. 

That evening I found some scraps of fabric and attempted to make a small bonnet, just to see how it would turn out, and when I was happy with the mock-ups I went on to make my first proper Lincolnshire bonnet. 

I was quite pleased with the results, and taking it in to work, showed everyone.  The feedback was all positive, and I remember someone saying that I should make more in children’s sizes, then they could be sold in the shop. 

And that, my friends, is how it all began…! 

I made this!

Trying to find out more about sunbonnets in general has not been an easy task, as documentation is very sparse.  Usually all that is available are paintings of pastoral scenes, prior to the advent of photography.  A few old bonnets in museum collections, often without provenance,are all we have to go by, some with sketchy details like where it was worn and by whom,  

When did women begin to wear them for protection whilst working in the fields?  Where did the patterns come from?  Could an old fabric bonnet, such as the examples shown in Empire/Regency fashion plates, have been found in an old chest and worn and the design caught on?

Costume Parisien 1812

Or perhaps those old corded bonnets continued to be worn and gradually developed into the popular Victorian sunbonnet?  I guess we will never know, but it is interesting to speculate, isn’t it!

Etsy Success!

October 26, 2011

Having opened my Etsy shop in June, I started to add the bonnets that I had been making.  First to go on were the three Empire/Regency inspired bonnets…two in cream spot fabric, and one in green cotton.  The inspiration came from the Costume Parisien fashion plates…

Bonnets 1812 

Next, I decided to add the Lincolnshire sunbonnets that I had made previously.  This then required me to add categories…Empire/Regency, and Victorian.  Later, when I have produced a few more items, I may add 18th century and Miscellaneous too. 

Anyway, on checking my e-mails on Monday afternoon I discovered…that I’d sold a bonnet!!  Yay!  I was over the moon, as I thought that it would never happen. 

This is the bonnet that has now gone to a new home in Germany…

I do hope that the buyer is happy with it…!

I now have a small pile of fabrics before me, green cotton, white cotton, and a lovely chocolate-brown that will probably go with a pale beige and white stripe that I had started some years ago.   There is not enough to make a complete bonnet, and I have no idea what became of the rest of it…oh well, I am sure I can concoct a confection that I can post in Miscellaneous!

A Regency Picnic in Bath

October 8, 2011

One end of Royal Crescent

The other end of Royal Crescent

On the Tuesday after the Promenade, Robert and I headed back to Bath in costume to meet friends for a picnic, on the green in front of Royal Crescent.

Again, the weather was not very promising, with grey skies and a bit of a cool breeze, but at least it hadn’t rained yet!  We arrived, parked in the car park below Royal Avenue, and headed up to join Scott and Jo who were already there. 

Jo and Scott

As we wandered across the grass I noticed that Eileen had also come to meet us, as she said she might do during her lunch break.

Robert and Eileen

Eileen only stopped for a short while, but it was lovely to see her again after so long…it was the 2009 Promenade when we met Eileen, Rachel and Natalia for the first time in person…and I treasure special memories of that Promenade.

It was fun to watch people’s reactions to seeing us as usual, especially when we could see cameras pointed in our direction from some distance away.  Some people wandered over, unsure whether to ask if they could take photos, others just came over and spoke to us and posed with us.  Here’s a picture that Robert took by setting the timer…

Myself, Jo, Scott, and Robert

Just look at those clouds!!  It didn’t rain though.

After a while, Aurora and Justin joined us, and we had a very pleasant couple of hours…apart from the large group of school children who came tramping across the grass with their teachers, and settled down noisily right behind us!!  Oh well…

A few spots of rain began to fall, so we decided to pack up and take the picnic stuff back to the cars, before wandering up to the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum…more of that in the next blog.

Heading for the carpark

The few spots of rain were just that…a few spots.

When we emerged from the Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms, we saw that it was raining a bit more, so it was time to leave Bath.  Aurora and Justin left us at this point.

Scott and Jo were camping at a picturesque place that we had passed on several occasions, and people had mentioned their cream teas, so this was our next stop.  

Leaving Bath in the rain

We arrived at Stowford Manor Farm, and tip-toed through the puddles to the tea-rooms…what a loveley place it is…

Stowford Manor Farm

While we waited for our cream teas, we had a look around the room at the lovely old fireplace, the beams, the windows, and the items displayed therein including…a Wurlitzer jukebox!!

Isn't this cosy!

I do apologise for not taking any photos of the cream teas, but when they arrived we were too busy tucking in and enjoying them!!

We had a wonderful afternoon, despite the ‘iffy’ weather, and we hope that next year we can arrange to do more than just the promenade.  Scott has mentioned organising another picnic, but next time arranging it properly, well in advance, so that more people can join in.  We look forward to it!

Jane Austen Festival Promenade – Part Two

September 28, 2011

Promenaders in Royal Crescent

The promenaders arrived in Royal Crescent, and soon the whole place was full of Regency costumes.  If it wasn’t for the cars parked there, you could actually imagine yourself back in the Age of Elegance!

Crowded Royal Crescent

Scott and Joanna

Joanna, Aurora and friends

So many beautiful gowns, spencers, pelisses, and accessories, and it wasn’t just the ladies, even the gentlemen put on a show…

Although the weather was a bit cool and grey, the rain had held off, and we had actually seen a little bit of sunshine.  Then a few spots of rain turned into short, light showers, and umbrellas were required rather than parasols.

Most people had come to Bath equipped for the weather

An elegant lady and gentleman

After a while of walking, chatting, and watching the dancers (I was told that there was a different group of dancers this year, instead of Steps in Time, but I never got to see as there were far too many people…and I’m only little!), we began to wend our merry way back down the hill, via Gravel Walk.

It is usually when we get as far as Queen Square that people start breaking away to wander around town and do a bit of sight-seeing or shopping, as those with tickets head for the Guildhall for lunch.  Robert and I were with Scott and Joanna, and their friend Aurora, and they suggested going to a little place in Old King Street called Hall & Woodhouse ( ) for lunch.  And an excellent lunch it was, too!

We arrived at the Guildhall, and had our money ready to pay the £2 admittance, when the young lady asked if we had been in the Promenade earlier.  We replied that we had, and she let us in…no charge.  Bargain! 

A Guildhall chandelier

There was only one stall that I was desirous of seeing, and that was Nehelenia Patterns ( ) as there was a spencer pattern that I wanted to buy.  I didn’t realise that Past Patterns were also going to be there, or I would have made sure I had more cash on me in case they had one that I wanted, too.  In fact, I totally forgot to peruse the items on display there!  😦

After leaving the Guildhall, we went with Scott and Jo to some vintage shops that they knew about…oh, boy! was I wishing for a BIG lottery or scratchcard win!!  So many beautiful items, including a fine corded Victorian child’s bonnet for £50! 

We were heading back up the hill with the intention of visiting the Fashion Museum, but a shortage of cash put paid to that idea for us…

Rummaging for NT cards

So, leaving Scott and Jo, we headed back down the hill.  As we emerged from a shopping mall opposite the Guildhall, we saw a couple of ladies in costume and got a photo of them…

Then we noticed the market…and decided to have a quick wander round.  Here we discovered more people in costume, and they seemed to be swarming around one stall in particular, so I had to go and investigate.  Pretty shiny things!!  Jewellery and tiaras…oh boy!  Again I wished for a big lottery or scratchcard win! 

It was here that we got talking to a couple of ladies in beautiful costumes, and I would have chatted forever had not Robert remined me that we had to get back to the car.  

We had parked in the cricket ground car park, and as we strolled across the bridge and along North Parade Road we were once again getting those quizzical looks from people.  🙂

Oh dear!  A brilliant day was about to go horribly wrong!  Robert had left the lights on and the battery was flat!  He had to find someone who could get us going, so jump-leads in hand he went in search.  One good samaritan tried to help, but it turned out those leads were next to useless!

A phonecall to Scott to find out if they had left Bath yet…no.  Phew!  They arrived and another attempt was made…still no joy.  Then someone came over with BIG jump-leads and ‘hey presto!’ the engine roared into life! 

We finally left Bath…but despite the weather, and this little incident…we had a brilliant day!!  😀

Jane Austen Festival Promenade 2011 – Part One

September 25, 2011

All sewing was more or less finished by Friday evening, so we could retire to bed without worrying about what hadn’t been done…which was certainly not the case last year! 

Saturday morning, and the weather wasn’t looking too promising with dark grey clouds and a stiff breeze.  I had bought my old cane-handled umbrella as an accessory, but it wasn’t useable, as one of the spokes was broken and hanging off!  Instead, I was able to borrow a sweet little umbrella that did the trick. 

This year we took the car, rather than getting a lift, so we ended up being the first to arrive…I just love the looks on people’s faces as we strolled up the street in costume.  These range from those who try not to look at us, or look straight through us, those that walk past grinning as if we are the idiots (maybe they are not far wrong!), total bewilderment as they try to work out why we would be walking around in strange costumes, and those who approach us wreathed in smiles asking if there is a festival or something going on. 

The Abbey Courtyard was crawling with tourists with cameras, so it was inevitable that they would ask if they could take photos of us, which was fun…hmmm, we should have got some photos of them!!  😉 

We took a stroll around the block (ie Roman Baths and Pump Room), and when we got back there was just one young lady waiting by the entrance to the Pump Room, so we went over and joined her.  More tourists took more photos.  😀

One-by-one more arrived, including Paul and Michelle Connell, Martin Salter (from the Jane Austen Centre), Ian and Kelly Charlesworth (whose Regency wedding was on promenade day two years ago), so there was a lot of bowing and curtseying taking place.

Robert, two ladies, and Paul Connell

Paul and Michelle Connell

Kelly and Ian Charlesworth, and little me.

Martin Salter from the Jane Austen Centre

The 32nd Cornwall Regiment were there, as they are every year…

32nd Cornwall Regiment and lone rifleman of the 2/95th Rifles

Tiny Castle...and titch!

Soon the place was buzzing with excitement, and an hour of talking to people and catching up with friends went in the blink of an eye…

Promenaders gathering outside the Pump Room

John White, the Festival’s Master of Ceremonies, announced that the Promenade would begin at 11am, so all those taking part were to form a column.  The 32nd and Steps in Time, and other Jane Austen Centre personnel took their places at the front, and everyone else fell in behind.

At 11am we began our perambulation around the beautiful city of Bath…

Promenading up Stall Street

Promenaders in Milsom Street

Turning into George Street

Turning into George Street

The Circus

Scott, Aurora, Jo, Robert, and Rhiannon in The Circus

More promenaders in The Circus

Around The Circus we went, where I saw a lovely lantern above a door and got Robert to pose…

"Welcome to my humble abode..."

It turned out that the house was where Gainsborough once lived!

The lantern of Gainsborough's house

Into Brock Street and along to the Royal Crescent, which gets more crowded with each year…I can’t think why!  😉

Royal Crescent!

My New Regency Spencer

September 18, 2011

Mrs Gummidge and the lion

The Jane Austen Festival 2011 is almost upon us, and this year I am not going to promenade around Bath looking like Worzelina Gummidge!!! 

This year I will have a new one to go with my new bonnet and reticule…

Bonnet & Reticule

The toile (calico mock-up) has been completed, tried on and I am really happy with how it looks so far…but whilst trimming the pieces in order to transfer the pattern to paper, I discovered that the back panel is lop-sided.  Oh poo!!  I shall have to err on the side of generosity in order not to make it too small…it will be easier to take it in, then.

The pattern was transferred from calico to paper… 

Ready to go...

Fabric was cut out, darts and notches marked.  I am not too sure about historically correct construction methods at this stage in my ‘costume-making’ experience, but I do believe that sewing the top fabric and lining together is known as flat-lining, as opposed to making the garment and lining seperately then joining them together, as we do nowadays. 

This is what I was going to do, but then I ended up doing that with the back piece, but the side-back and front pieces were sewn together then the lining was sewn to these, so the seams were hidden.  The sleeves were made double thickness, then attached to the bodice.

The collar is going to be a small stand collar that merges with the bodice down the front, but I had been having problems acheiving the shape that I was happy with.  The shape was sorted, but I ended up with it going a bit crinkly.  😦

For the cuffs and around the collar and front of the bodice, I cut a scalloped frill with pinking shears, then changed my mind when I tacked it on.  I already had a frill that I’d taken off of an old linen pillowcase, so I used this instead.  (I didn’t have time to sew the cuff frills on though.

Yesterday was Promenade day, and the weather turned out to be not as good as previous years, so umbrellas were the order of the day rather than parasols!  But more of that later…

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815

September 4, 2011

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion 1795-1815 – Cristina Barreto and Martin Lancaster (ISBN 978-88-572-0650-9) 

What can I say about this amazing book?  If you love the fashions of the Empire/Regency, then this book is for you. 

The beautiful gowns and accessories are matched with Costume Parisien fashion plates, and this book is packed to the rafters with delectable photographs, fashion plates, and even satirical prints of the time.

We are taken on a journey of discovery, of excess and revolution, to the birth of a new nation, and how Napoleon built up the fashion industry, from fashion magazines to the manufacturing of textiles and accessories. 

The book also takes us through daywear, special occasions, and seasons…


And the men haven’t been forgotten either…

This is definitely my best book ever!

Jane Austen Festival Promenade Videos

September 3, 2011

As it is only two weeks until the Grand Regency Promenade in Bath, here are a couple of videos to help set the mood…the excitement is growing!!

Fashioning Fashion – European Dress in Detail 1700-1915

September 3, 2011


Fashioning Fashion – European Dress in Detail 1700-1915 – Sharon Sadako Takeda and Kaye Durland Spilker   (ISBN 9-783791-350622)

This book is a must for anyone interested in historical fashion, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s exhibition of the same name is well documented here in glorious detail. 

The abundance of photographs, many in extreme close-up, is just amazing!  Not only are some of  the beautiful embroideries and appliques shown in wonderful detail, but also the very fibres of the garment!

The chapters take us through a Timeline, showing us the changing shape of fashions for women and men, Textiles, Tailoring, and Trim, and explain why and how certain fashions came into being, whether it was practical,  political, economic, artistic, or just plain old one-upmanship!  

This book is informative, inspirational, and downright priceless!