In Georgian Style

30/05/2011

by Sarah Elwick

I began my research by looking widely into clothing and costume from the Georgian period; 1714-1837; the era in which Sir John Soane lived, and when Pitzhanger Manor House was built. I researched typical fashion details from this era; such as collars, cuffs, and necklines, and also the materials that were used, usually silk, cotton, muslin, wool worsted, or various combinations of these.

Research into Georgian cuff details (various), 'Historical Fashion Detail in the 17th & 18th century' Avril Hart & Susan North, 1998.

An example of such a combination is the beautiful white damask bedspread show in the bedroom of Pitzhanger Manor. This is a great textural reference starting point for me. I love the way the fabric is constructed purely from a combination of different white on white yarns, exploiting the play of light falling on the fabric. The pattern is therefore viewed in terms of the structure, rather than more typically from two colours. I am going to experiment with re-interpreting this 3D texture in terms of knitted structures such as jacquards, tuck stitches, and cabling.

Detail of white damask bedspread, from the main bedroom in Pitzhanger Manor.

My research into costume and fashion details from this period then led me to discover some really exciting inspiration on Georgian wigs; “By 1780 heads had reached the extremity of height and elaboration. As well as enormous plumes of every colour, ornaments of every description were added to the mass of powdered, curled, and frizzled hair. These included bunches of flowers, fruit, vegetables, ribbons, lace, jewelled pins, ornaments of blown glass, and in extreme cases such things as models of complete gardens, baskets of flowers, or plates of fruit.” (1)

Georgian wig inspiration and initial knitted samples attempting to re-create hair textures.

I discovered that “wigs were made not only of hair (human, horse’s, cow’s, and goat’s) but also textiles such as mohair and worsted; of copper and iron wire, and also of feathers, usually drakes or mallards. Hair powder, of starch, was white for dresswear, but blue and other colours were also used; the powder being applied by a blower, dredger, or powder puff.” (2)
I feel really excited about experimenting with interpreting these wonderful and flamboyant 3d structures, into knitted fabrics and 3D forms. I also want to investigate secondary processes I can apply to my fabrics, such as flocking, to interpret the powdered surfaces, to give a 21st century take on Georgian style.
1) Womens headdresses and hairstyles in England from AD600 to the present day; Georgine de Courtais, 1973.
2) The late Georgian Period, 1760-; Willett Cunningham.
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