When Janene from ooobop! asked me if I'd like to join her at the Couture Inside Out workshop yesterday I nearly bit her hand off!
The event was at the London Fashion and Textile Museum and it was an absolute corker of an afternoon. Our charming curator - Dennis Nothdruft - talked us through the construction and history of couture pieces by Dior, Chanel and Balenciaga (amongst others). Not only did we get to see these beautiful, beautiful frocks up close, we were also allowed to touch them! Yes, we did have to wear cotton gloves to keep our grubby mitts off the fabric but that didn't stop us pawing over every painstaking, hand stitched detail.
Just look at all that hand stitching!
Sadly, my short term memory is hopeless and I had to keep scurrying into the corner to take notes (no pens allowed near couture darling). Janene however, appears to have remembered every single detail of the talk just by using her brain! If you'd like a bit more detail than my sorry attempt then have a look at her excellent account here. In the meantime, here are a few things I learnt from Dennis:
In French couture, garments are hand sewn to fit the wearer perfectly. If, on the odd occasion sewing machines had to be used, then the stitching was not allowed to be visible on the outside of the garment.
Christian Dior only actually designed for 10 years: from 1947 until his early death in 1957.
Genuine Dior couture dresses came as two pieces worn together: a corset top with an underskirt and a separate overskirt.
Dior corset with underskirt
And the details! For me it was the details that really made these garments so special. The chain sewn into the hem of a Chanel jacket so that it hangs perfectly...
A Pierre Balmain label sewn onto the garment with mitred corners so it doesn't catch against the skin...
Picture stolen from ooobop!
Garter belts built into the dress...!
Hand sewn rolled hems....
Absolutely perfect bound buttonholes...
And the one that blows me away, 44, yes 44 handworked hooks and eyes sewn onto this Bellville Sassoon embroidered coat.
That's one for every year of my life, which is probably how long it would take me to complete the same job!
I learnt a lot (Dennis really does know his stuff) and it was a real privilege to be allowed to see and touch these amazing couture pieces. Yes, there were some couture techniques I saw that were way out of my skill range, but I was surprised and pleased at how many were well within my capabilities.
We came out of the workshop feeling not only inspired, but really proud of our own modest handmade achievements. I think it's well worth keeping an eye out for when the next Couture Inside Out event is being held. If you can blag yourself an afternoon off to attend, then I heartily recommend it, it was a wonderful experience. I leave you with a picture of the lovely Dennis, flanked by Janene and Jane. Look how tall he is! And we were both wearing heels too! x