Following our Outfits from a Bygone Era diary entry at the beginning of February, we had a large number of people contact us about it. We have decided to produce this special focusing on the outfits to provide additional information about what we found and even more photos.
Although we knew the costumes were in the drawer in the East Front bedroom, we did not know their age or importance. It was great to have historic costumes expert, Pauline Loven, here to assist us. She helped us to carefully remove them and lay them out on one of the beds. The next step was to look at the cut and the stitching, the fabric and the design before offering an initial opinion on what we had in the collection.
Possibly the best find in the collection was a yellow silk sleeved waistcoat which is beautifully decorated. It is richly embroidered with silver thread and it dates to around 1730. Pauline believed this was worn at royal court. Unfortunately, it did have some wear and tear to it unlike the other three silk waistcoats in the collection. These were likely to date to the later part of the eighteenth century and were immaculate, possible even unworn. The detailed embroidery on them was so accurate, it looked like it has been done by a machine as it was that fine and intricate.
In the collection, there were two gowns that were possibly made of brightly coloured furnishing fabric. Pauline felt that these corseted and petticoated dresses, whilst old, were typical of Victorian fancy dress costumes. It certainly looked like an amalgamation of styles combining elements of that era with those of the past too. There were quite of few books published about fancy dress around the 1880s, so it would seem that we may well have some party clothes in our collection.
The most exciting of all the items was a mid-1920s long-sleeved dress in cream, silk chiffon. This dress is decorated with silver embroidery and seed pearls, a metallic lace skirt and delightful buttoning at the cuff. There is even a matching petticoat which has a scalloped-edged hem. When we saw it, it reminded us of the description and photograph in the newspaper article that featured Margaret Schilizzi’s marriage to Godfrey Massingberd-Mundy in 1925. This dress was so similar but slightly longer, so it left us a little confused until Pauline explained that such a dress would have been altered to become a party dress at a later date.
We all had to wear gloves to protect the clothes when we were handling them, and Pauline brought some special non-acidic tissue paper to wrap them in to preserve them for the future. Pauline also moulded the tissue into pillows to support the fabric, so it prevents folds and creases.