Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Lady Macbeth

Macbeth is on the lips of everyone at the moment thanks to the latest cinematic incarnation of it. I saw it two weekends ago in London. It was incredibly beautiful and of course very blood thirsty. The costumes were astoundingly brilliant, and the windswept, bleak scenery had me lusting after wet and wild wintery walks. I thought that, given the title of my blog, it's a little odd that I've never explored my Scottish heritage on here. It is, after all, something I hold very dear to my heart (with a name like MacBeth it's hard not to). 

Lady Macbeth is an intriguing character. She is so often painted as a crazed woman, driven mad through her actions. The newest film paints her in a wholly new and rather more interesting light that I won't spoil for those of you who are yet to see it. 

Lady Macbeth has had many incarnations over the years. From mad eyes to long flowing locks and slightly questionable Celtic dress, these images all provided ample inspiration for my own foray into her psyche.

Leopolda Dostalova as Lady Macbeth, 1916
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Sarah Bernhardt as Lady MacBeth, 1884
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Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth is perhaps the most famous - and perhaps the least accurate Celtic costume! I do love her amazing plaits - I wish my hair was long and thick enough to make such magnificent plaits but sadly not quite yet! Singer Sargent's painting of her is wonderful, and I was so excited to read that the costume she wears in it has recently been restored by the National Trust. You can now see it in person at Terry's house, Smallhythe in Kent.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1888
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Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, John Singer Sargent, 1889
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The first thing that leaps to mind when Scottish heritage is mentioned is usually tartan. The MacBeth's do have a tartan all of their own:

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I don't actually own any MacBeth tartan but I do have this rather fetching tartan cape that I bought in a Bath charity shop a few years ago. It's a bit like wearing a blanket so it's perfect for misty, windy walks.  I perfected a deep intense stare because Lady Macbeth has to have one of those: dark, brooding and slightly terrifying.

 Whisky drinking is generally the second thing that comes to mind. Sadly I'm not a Scotch drinker, I prefer a gin cocktail. However, I couldn't turn down the chance to road test this beautiful hip flask from SWIG. I've always wanted a hip flask to call my own; I like the idea of having a little something to sip whilst tromping across the heathery moors. This SWIG one does the job very nicely, it's incased in a lovely orange leather case and  it feels like it'll stand the test of time extremely well. What have I got in my flask you may wonder? A snifter of Coole Swan; a delicious Irish whiskey (notice the different spelling of whisky!) cream that I discovered recently when a friend from Galway gifted my mum a bottle - I throughly recommend it! 

I'm off on a few long journeys over the next few weeks so I'm quite excited to have the opportunity to road test it further. I rarely ever accept freebees as I hate to have things badly matched with the themes of my blog posts (I'm such a control freak when it comes to aesthetics!) so I accepted this with a little trepidation but I was genuinely delighted with the parcel that popped through my letterbox. I think the orange case looks so lovely against my bejewelled hand...

    I hope you are all well and looking forward to Halloween. I know it's still a week away but I'm so excited! I love planning my costume. This year I'll be donning an ensemble inspired by the three witches from Macbeth. It'll be very spooky and not at all like the witches with pointed hats and warts (think more real witches). Don't worry I'll be sure to document it! What will you be dressing up as? 

Outfit Details

Smock made to a traditional English pattern, made by my mum from smocks in Worcester & Hereford museums

 Wool tartan cape,  charity shop in Bath

Hip flask, SWIG hip flasks *this item was kindly gifted to me

1930s red velvet cape, Oxfam

Bavarian hat, charity shop in Berlin

Red Hungarian folk dancing boots, car boot sale

Friday, 16 October 2015

Liberty in Fashion

I hardly ever write reviews of exhibitions on here which is strange as I visit a lot of exhibitions. I always have done. I really enjoy nothing more than an hour spent meandering around a quiet (or loud in the case of David Bowie at the V&A) space ogling carefully selected objects.  However, until the last few years it was tricky to find good fashion exhibitions. The displays were tired and the analysis was dowdy and old-fashioned. So many interesting opportunities for commentary were missed and more often than not I left them feeling frustrated. Thanks to the advent of the blockbuster exhibition and number of smaller more intriguing spaces have been set up in opposition. 

The Fashion and Textile Museum is one of them. Although it was founded in 2003 it's not until the last few years that they've really found their stride. I visited their most recent exhibition Liberty in Fashion last Sunday with a friend and I was blown away by both the display and exceptional curation. Liberty holds a special place in my heart; as a child we had a Collier Campbell for Liberty Bauhaus print tablecloth and a Cote d'Azure print bag, and now I always leap at Liberty prints in the chazzas. Having visited the Liberty archive during my BA and subsequently worked with the Liberty archivist, I can safely say this exhibition definitely does the history of Liberty justice.

Nearly all the garments are open display. It's so great when museums are brave enough to do this, it makes such a difference to viewing the objects: being able to see how they catch the light, what the stitching is like and probably most importantly both the front and back! It works particularly well with the Liberty garments as they are so reliant on print and embroidery, having them behind glass would really obscure the intricacies of each piece. Each display cluster also benefitted from having a wallpaper in a famous Liberty print hung behind. From Ianthe to Hera they all helped the clothes to sing. Liberty is known for it's opulent, pleasant grandeur it would have seemed such a waste to plonk the mannequins in a white cube! I love that the FTM always try to create a visually sensory space using every possible surface to tell the story of the exhibition, it really allows the visitor to completely immerse them self in the subject.

The exhibition starts at the very beginning of Liberty and goes right through to the 1970s. It was fascinating to see the ways in which the garments the prints were applied to changed and morphed to suit changing styles, and also how the prints were adapted and modernised.

I SO SO wanted to nab this Collier Campbell for Liberty skirt in the Bauhaus print but I restrained myself and just snapped a hundred pictures (by the way if anyone ever comes across this- or any other Collier Campbell print- please let me know I'm a nut for it!). My mum did come across a pair of Collier Campbell curtains at a boot sale a few months ago which now hang in her library.

 The same curtains were hung in the exhibition!

Having wandered around the exhibition I was truly delighted to find there was also a small display in the FTM's conference room put together by Sarah Campbell on her and her sister, Susan Collier's designs for Collier Campbell. I've been completely obsessed by their work for a long long time so it was a real treat to see it in the flesh. The displays were gorgeous wall mounted collages of their preparatory drawings and paintings, magazine clippings, textiles and garments. It was a true feast for any textile nerd (which I definitely count myself as) and I came away feeling inspired in a way that hasn't hit me for some time! 

Of course to view the exhibition I wore a Liberty print dress; a Tana Lawn 1970s frock in their Ianthe print. I sadly didn't manage to get a snap of myself in the dress whilst at the exhibition but here I am at home wearing the same ensemble (these were actually taken quite some time ago now and my hair is even longer!).

If you'd like to visit Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum. It's open 11-6 Tuesday- Saturday, 11-8 Thursday and 11-5 Sunday. The exhibition is on until 28th February 2016 and costs £9 for adults, £7 for concessions and £6 for students. There are also a number of great talks taking part during the course of the exhibition so keep an eye on their events calendar for details. 

I'll be visiting again over the coming weeks as I won tickets through the FTM twitter!

Outfit Details

1970s Liberty print dress in Ianthe Tana Lawn made by Origin via Oxfam

1970s blue and green cotton cravat from a car boot sale

Brown suede shoes from Etsy

1909 silver bracelet made by Smith & Pepper Ltd, originally my Grandma's

Tights from Primarni