Friday 13 July 2012

After Janet Arnold: researching and reconstructing historical clothes in the 21st century, report on a talk by Jenny Tirimani

Last weekend I was at a Costume Society study day in Bath and one of the speakers was Jenny Tirimani, who gave a talk with the title above. Jenny for those who don’t know her was designer at the Globe until 2005, was heavily involved with Patterns of Fashion 4 and edited Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns, the second volume of which is due out shortly. She is an inspiring speaker with an obvious great love for her subject.

Jenny started by talking about what books are around that have usable patterns taken from surviving clothing, far fewer than you would think. As well as Norah Waugh’s two books on the Cut of Women’s Clothes and the Cut of Men’s Clothes, and Janet Arnold’s four Patterns of Fashion, Jenny mentioned, Sharon Ann Burnston’s Fitting and Proper: 18th century clothing from the collection of the Chester County Historical Society (USA), Linda Baumgarten’s Costume close-up: clothing construction and pattern, 1750-1790 (Williamsburg) and Johannes Piestch’s patterns taken from the Hupsch collection in the Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt  and published by Abegg in 2008 (his PhD thesis on the subject is available online at

Jenny mentioned that she is a director of The School of Historical Dress, which is launching fully in October. The School has access to Janet Arnold’s archive, including probably over half a million slides, and all the material that Janet so sadly left unfinished at her death. Jenny said that there is probably enough material for another two volumes of Patterns of Fashion and showed us a highly detailed unpublished pattern of a c.1620 man’s suit in the Livrustkammaren Stockholm; I think from the description this one .

Jenny spoke about pattern books that were available in the 16th and 17th centuries. The work book of a Milanese tailor dating c.1550-80, here Jenny pointed out that many of the shapes were based on parts of a circle or compounds thereof, and that this was the difference between the tailor and the seamstress.  The Masterbuch von Enns dating to c.1590, I think that is this one. The Libro de geometria (Tailor's pattern book) by Juan de Alcega 1589. The Martin de Anduxar, Geometria y tragus pertinecientes al oficio de sastres, published in Madrid in 1640, and Le Tailleur Sincere of 1671 by Benoist Boullay. I was interested to see that this last book has a pattern for a coat for a poor man. A list of what is available electronically is here.

Jenny was responsible for the fantastic outfits for the Metropolitan Opera’s 2011 production of Anna Bolena, and spoke about the difficulties of researching what was for her a less well known period, most of her work for the Globe being 1590s. She spoke about the 1530s outfit of Maurice, Elector of Saxony, in the Staatlichen Kunstammlungen Dresden, more information is available here, and the Abegg Stiftung publication of their work on the garments is Das Prunkkleid des Kurfürsten Moritz von Sachsen (1521-1553) in der Dresdner Rüstkammer: Dokumentation - Restaurierung – Konservierung, by Bettina Niekamp and Agnieszka Wos Jucker.  Jenny also mentioned some very early Hungarian material, about c1515, which I think is in the Hungarian National Museum, but I cannot find it on their website.

Jenny finished her talk by speaking about the new production of Richard III that she is currently involved with for the Globe, sounds exciting.

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