Sunday 18 March 2012

Dress of Ordinary People Study Day at Bath

Yesterday I spent the day in Bath for the WECS study day the Dress of Ordinary People. The first speaker Barbara Painter explained the work and thought behind dressing the interpreters at the Weald and Downland Museum in the clothing of the 1620s and 1630s to fit with the two houses they are interpreting. The clothes have all been made by volunteers under the direction of Barbara, much of the cloth is also dyed on the site and the stockings knitted from wool spun on the site. Second speaker was Rachel Worth on rural dress in the novels of Thomas Hardy, interesting was his comment on the change in rural towns in the second half of the nineteenth century from the white and drab of the smock frock of the labourers to the grey and black of off the peg town suits, a visible sign of a changing life style. Our third speaker was Claire Watson of the Yorkshire Fashion Archive who have collected ordinary people’s dress, mainly from the second half of the twentieth century, together with their stories about the clothing. It’s an invaluable insight into social mores, as in the lady who talking about a photograph of herself at the seaside as a child, said they wore their school uniform because it was the only smart clothing they had. Our final speaker was Jennifer Thomsom on the Hodson Shop Collection at Walsall. Flora and Edith Hodson turned the front room of their house into a drapers and dress shop in the 1920s and traded from there until the early 1970s. On Flora’s death the collection came to the museum, and on first going into the house it was discovered that the sisters had never thrown anything away. The museum has over 3,000 items dresses, blouses, underwear, stocking, haberdashery and magazines covering the whole period, there is a searchable database with about 1,000 items having photographs, online at Black County History. A good day.

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