A diamond in the ruff: In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion

I had come across the ad for the exhibition, In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, advertised on the side of a bus stop and was intrigued. I like going back into the past and thinking about what life was like in the past with the aristocracy and enjoyed looking at the clothes that were worn back then.

The exhibition was held in The Queen’s Gallery at Palace of Holyrood House and on the second last day, my friend and fellow blogger, Heather, of yankeedoodles, decided to attend the exhibition where London-based fashion designer Gareth Pugh talks to exhibition curator and author Anna Reynolds of the book by the same title, In fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion.


The Children gallery of the exhibition, The Queen’s Gallery at The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh

What I found most interesting in Anna’s live discussion/interview with Gareth about the Tudor and Stewart styles in the past is how this is now considered modern haute couture. In the past, there was no modern machinery to help milliners, tailors and seamstresses sew their wares or show off their designs. Instead of runway models, they relied on the aristocracy who could afford the latest fashions to display their latest creations in a bid to attract other aristrocrats to their establishments. As can be seen in apparel and accessories that are set down the runways, most premiere designers take great care in selecting their choice of fabrics to decide how best to display their designs but also to let the properties of the fabric itself shine through. For example, to show the luxurious drape and movement of a dress, a designer would choose silk over velvet which would be an extravagant yet heavier choice of fabric more suited to winter when the thicker and warmer weave would be more suited.

The interesting concept Gareth also touched upon that was the abstract idea of using air for movement in fabric. No matter what material or fabric you use, the shape of your final design has a big impact on how it moves. Air can either be static or flowing, and having an A-line skirt using leather in the garment or lightweight cotton can achieve the same effect of movement when the wearer is in motion. This is one of my favourite things about designing my own dresses. Not only do I choose styles that emphasise the waist, but I also like how an A-line skirt flatters every woman’s lower half, while at the same time creating movement without much effort.

Concepts of empowerment and strength garnered through the choice of clothing is no stranger to the modern man or woman. Individuals in higher positions can afford to wear tailored clothing to suit and flatter their body shape. It also enhances their position by portraying power and wealth. The middle class are also aware how wearing certain choices of clothing can give the person feelings of power or strength. To each their own, each person feels powerful or strength through a different choice of clothing or accessory. Like wearing a suit to an all-important interview, wearing your favourite dress or outfit to feel more positive about your day, or even carrying your favourite ‘lucky’ bag to bring on happy emotions.

Modern style is in some way, influenced by the styles of the past and it’s fascinating to see how the use of silks and furs as well as jewels are still favoured by all today. Between the 1500s and 1600s, it is evident how style slowly changes over time and starts to bring back certain styles which were popular. Through the pieces displayed at the exhibition, it is possible to see that fashion is not a modern concept; the ever changing styles and what’s considered ‘in fashion’ are concepts that have been around for centuries.

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To see Gareth’s Fall 2014 Ready To Wear runway designshere or to see more articles and photos of his other runway shows, click here.

If you’d like to purchase Anna Reynolds’ book In fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, this is currently available from Amazon UK for £29.25.

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