Feature Friday: The School of Historical Dress

This month’s feature is The School of Historical Dress!  Best known for their meticulous researched books, the School’s purpose is to “encourage new research into historical dress and introduce students to the tools needed for this, such as how to study an object, to identify its materials, cut, construction and historical context.” Their goal is “to promote the study of historical dress, including that of non-Western cultures, by using primary evidence, in particular surviving clothing and textiles,” and one of their main ways of achieving this is through publishing new works exploring extant garments.

This year the school has published a new and expanded color edition of Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1: The content, cut, construction and context of Englishwomen’s dress c.1720-1860. This new book updates the classic text with more historical context for each garment, full color photos, and tinted grided patterns. Seven new garment patterns have been added to the book, three of which were previously unpublished! The school is also currently working on updated editions for both Patterns of Fashion 2 and Patterns of Fashion 4 as well.

Their latest release, however, is even more exciting. Patterns of Fashion 6: The content, cut, construction and context of European Women’s Dress c.1695-1795 features new patterns for 28 gowns, 15 petticoats, 8 stomachers, 2 hats, and various other accessories. All patterns have full color images of the garments and colored scale patterns with both imperial and metric measurements.

If you are lucky enough to live in London or are visiting at the right time, the school offers courses where you can either learn specific historical construction techniques or expand your knowledge of extant garments in person. Some of their recent courses include detailed looks at 18th century stomacher decoration and 18th century quilted clothing and a class featuring extant garments from the school’s collection to put the patterns in Patterns of Fashion 1 into better context. The courses are offered periodically, so watch their website and social media pages for updates!  

In addition to publishing books and offering classes, the school often works with film and theater productions to create detailed and historically accurate costumes. Some of the school’s most recent projects include making costumes for Jude Law as Henry VIII in an upcoming movie, as well as a project in collaboration with “Refashioning the Renaissance” to research and construct an interpretation of a 17th century Italian water seller’s stamped black mockado doublet. The doublet, which was referenced in an inventory written at the seller’s death, was entirely hand stitched and the textiles for it handwoven.  

You can follow The School of Historical dress on Instagram @theschoolofhistoricaldress1 and Facebook at www.facebook.com/theschoolofhistoricaldress

And you can find more about the school as well as all their books and course listings on their website: theschoolofhistoricaldress.org.uk

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