More things that come to mind...
Oh, everything. None of this is going to be in any knid of chronological order - it's not like my mind has any such level of sophisticated organization, so it comes as it comes. I just wanted to talk some more about my favourite jacket.
(Image source. Platt Hall, Manchester Galleries. This image is for private use only, and will not be used on my web site. Please do not copy this image without visiting the original web page to read the conditions of use. Seriously, putting this image permanently on a web site without getting the licensing agreement is bad form, and I cannot show you any of the photos I took, either. But enjoy!)
This is really my favouritest jacket ever - more than the polychrome ones dripping with gilt and spangles, more than the Maidstone jacket, more than anything. It is an unusual and delicate piece, using a design motif more like the Wadham shift, with lines of vines alternating with individual floral motifs arranged in lines, all deliniated with stemwork, to create an elegant jacket with a striking overall effect.
I got to take lots and lots and lots of photos of it, and I think there may come a time when I reproduce it, just because I love it so much. Not until the current jacket is done, however!
(BTW, for those of you following vikingsparrow's blog, I am the spangle hog - I am going to order probably about as many again, since the final estimate for the jacket is 8,000 spangles, and I got about half that (give or take). I also have an order for 21 feet of gold bullion fringe, since the petticoat will have the proper fringe on the bottom. It's going to be fabulous, and expensive.)
But back to the jacket above. It, like most of the others of its kind, is steadily turning to dust, as the iron used as a darkening agent for the (usually) indigo dye is corrosive, steadily eating through the fibers, like iron-based ink eats through paper, literally causing a chemical burn. The level of corrosion in the threads is such that it you breathe too heavily on the jacket, a little more thread turns to dust. There was a delicate circle of that dust around the jacket, and the instructions on the box (yes I read the box) said that it must not be touched, let alone moved, that two people must carry the box at all times, that a ladder must be used to get it off the shelf (to prevent tipping and shifting), and that it was EXTREMELY DELICATE, DO NOT TOUCH. It is so sad that this beautiful object is too delicate to ever be put on display again, but I am deeply grateful to the Manchester Galleries for making sure that the piece has been photographed for their on-line collections so that everyone can enjoy it.
(Pssst... they take donations.)
The fabulous thing about these jackets is actually the lack of complexity in their construction - they really are simply made, using seam shaping and gussets to create the fit, and no darts or interior architecture. Close examination of a number of the jackets does show small pleats where the sleeve is eased into the armhole, so small pleats are okay (but try to stay away from giant Victorian puffs, as you'll look silly). Also, they're all cut and set differently, from the sleeve construction to the number of skirt gussets, to the shape and size of the collars and cuffs, including none at all. The Janet Arnold redaction of the Laton jacket is one style, but there are plenty of others. My current project jacket will have a low round neckline, like the 1620s style.
Coming back to the delicacy and... fragility of the jackets, if you ever get the chance to see them, do, but please, please, don't wear perfume. It's a small thing, but the heat of one's body aerosolizes the perfume oils, and they become airborne, landing on the embroideries, and causing microscopic harm. It's only now, fifty years later, that the jacket in the Museum of London that used to be on display with the blackworked skirt (it's photographed in Mary Gostelow's Embroidery Book, if you want to see it how it used to be displayed; it actualy looks rather hilarious) is starting to show the microscopic damage to the fibers caused by dust, oxyen, and light at the macroscopic level.
In the same way, someone once spilled apple cider down one of my white outfits and my green gown (with the white couching), and it took several years for me to realize that I had not gotten all of the cider out, even though I thought I had thoroughly cleaned it, as it eventually turned brown. Oils from perfume, skin oils, dust, pollution, and light cause damage less spectacularly, but no less irrevocably. Once the damage is done, it can't be undone.
Alas, even with the best care, right now there is nothing that can be done to arrest the slow destruction of the black silk on the Platt Hall jacket. It can be slowed, but only at the cost of very limited exposure to low light and air, and storage in acid-free materials.
Perhaps the way to preserve the legacy of these pieces is to make reproductions of them - certainly, it can't hurt, as a good reproduction can provide much of the same pleasure as the original, while preserving the original for serious scholarly research only. These garments are real treasures, and should be protected, but they are also treasures of our shared past, and should be seen. The wonderful thing about making these marvelous objects available to be seen on this tour is that the embroiderers who saw them can now carry their knowledge forward in their own creations, allowing many more people the opportunity to experience their beauty for themselves.
And with that somewhat messianic thought, I'm off.