Saturday 31 December 2011

Close to the Skin - Patterns & Petticoats - Snibston CPD

Apart from looking at the collections under my own steam and meeting with my Mentors Barber-Swindells, I was also able to select items from the Collections Resource Centre. I was keen to look at old shift patterns and the some of the petticoats that were supported by hoops or worn under / over the bottle cages. Sarah Nicol, Inspiring Collections Officer, Leicestershire County Council, Communities and Wellbeing was a wonderful guide through my chosen items and we had a wonderful time talking about the items she had brought to show me.
I was very taken with the layout instructions and have a feeling I'll be coming back to these in the near future, especially as I have a whole box of vintage Vogue patterns stashed away! As I don't have the figure for couture or faith in my pattern following abilities these elements these may just become part an image but there is something very tempting about these maps of the body.
I found the shapes, crumples and wrinkles fascinating and was very drawn to the colours an textures of the old cloth. There was something playful, joyful about the swing and swish these petticoats create when in motion. I was amazed at the many variations on a theme, I thought about the restriction, freedom and support these garments brought to the wearer and even though they had lost their crisp newness they still whispered of display and attraction, dance and drudgery.
It is hard to imagine just what this metal clasp 
must have felt like next to the skin
the metalwork and the rusting hoops were 
a strange reminder of the male and female.
There was also something very moving about the signs of wear and tear. The patches, darns and repairs encased beneath skirts, the bottle cages, bustles and padding all hidden extensions of the body. Shape shifters.
Then there was the surprising, joyous red flannel, offering protection from the cold but it was also believed that the colour itself offered protection from disease and could be used to draw out inflammation.
It is quite bewildering to think about the amount of time it must have taken to dress and curious that many items of clothing were either there to enhance shape or protect the fabric from the body.

I was only able to make the visit to view my chosen items two days before my proposal was due to be completed and I had to write something to send to Claire and Steve the day before this visit was to take place. I didn't feel ready, nothing was flowing and to compound my anxiety, my partner took a tumble down the stairs and had to be rushed to A&E. Thankfully he hadn't broken his shoulder, just partially dislocated it, but seeing him lying in a grey, forlorn heap at the foot of the stairs did fracture my powers of thought! Whilst trying to get my thoughts in order, I felt compelled to experiment with the notions of soft (wadding, fabric) and hard (machine stitches) as a way of sorting out the jumble of seams, shifts and pattern pieces living in my head! 
I enjoyed the raw edges and the flyaway threads, but I think Claire and Steve were a bit bemused by my strange samples and having seen their meticulous work, I'm not surprised!
However there are just some times when it's important  to follow your own processes and ways of working, these samples are fragments of thought, beginnings not finished ideas.

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