Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trip to England - Part 4

First off, sorry about the lack of posting yesterday, but our internet provider is to blame. For a week, the connection has been finicky, but yesterday it refused to work longer than 1 minute every hour. We'll see if it will cooperate long enough for me to actually publish this one!

Monday started off with our group's trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Most of my pictures turned out blurry (imagine that!), but we have better pictures from one of the ladies coming. When we get them, I'll be sure to update this post to include more dresses and better pictures of the ones here, so check back!

When we arrived, Suzi took us to the Fashion gallery, but on the way we stopped by the South Asia gallery. They have several gowns from the late 1700s-early 1800s on display because they are made from Indian fabrics. Here are some of the lovelies we saw in the Fashion gallery:

1780-90 stays (I love the detailed underarm leather strip; I had never noticed a zig-zagged edge like that, but a pair of stays in the Museum of London's collection was identical in that regard)

c. 1836-40 Day dress (I love the line of this dress and all the details- including the contrast piping, too bad this is such a very bad picture!)

1775-85 Court Mantua

Yes, I know this is a '70s dress, but the bodice detail is really neat!

Embroidered shoe c. 1730-50

c. 1860 shoe with appliqued ribbons and rosette

Stenciled leather shoe c. 1800 (I just love the pointy shoes of the early Regency and the color combination on these is so striking!)

I will say that the Fashion gallery disappointed me. I assumed that it would all be historical clothing, after all, everyone thinks that fashion beyond the 1950s is ugly! Right?!? ;-) The reality of the gallery was that about half of the garments displayed were 1970s- present! Really, as if you can't look in an average attic and find that kind of thing! *sigh* As I was taking photos of dresses, the main group left for the Textiles gallery, so I went off to find them. When I got there, there was no one in site, but Mom turned up shortly thereafter. We dug right in to the study room which was amazing! Just imagine, a long room with tons of removable slides containing embroidered coifs, medieval tapestry pieces, fabric samples, blackwork, redwork, reticules, etc., etc., etc.! And the room is deserted, so you don't have to worry about working around other people! After taking out and photographing 4 slides, we soon realized that our limited time frame would never allow for taking as much time as we wanted. Sometime, when I have a week to spare, I'll go back and look at them all! :-) Here are a few (i.e. the non-blurry ones!):

Late 16th cen. child's shirt sleeve (can you imagine going to all the work to make the lace and embroider that sleeve, just to put it on your child and hope they don't ruin it?!?)

Late 16th cen. embroidered coif

Just around the corner, we discovered the Medieval Tapestry room. Wow!! I wish we had taken a picture of the whole room, because it was awe-inspiring! Lots of GIANT tapestries with still-brilliant colors and very few holes. And all out in the open, with no glass!

Since the group still hadn't made it to the Textile gallery (we later found out they made a detour through the British galleries), we continued walking through, oohing and ahhing over all the priceless exhibits! Once we met up with the group, they told us they'd be going to the cafe for lunch in half an hour. We decided to skip lunch and instead explore the British galleries. (remember what I mentioned about the way we travel? ;-) )

All my pictures of clothing in the British galleries are so blurry I thought they didn't deserve the publicity, but on our way back, we swung by the South Asia gallery again to take some more pictures of the exquisite gowns on display there. Thank you so much Suzi for taking us there, I never would have thought to look in an Asian gallery for 18th cen. clothing!

c. 1780 dress

The fabric looks printed, but is actually very finely embroidered! Insane!

I will never cease to be amazed at how much they pieced their clothing- the blatant disregard for even matching the pattern is one thing I find very difficult to allow myself to do! The weirdest thing about it is that from a distance, you don't even notice!

c. 1770-80 caraco and petticoat (this caraco is so lovely and reminded me of one we saw in the William Wallace Museum in Williamsburg, but I can't find any of those pictures! :-( )

Notice the sleeve detail- I love the idea, now I'll just have to make a caraco and have sleeves like those... ;-) Hmm, I even have a block-printed Indian muslin waiting for inspiration...

Silk-embroidered cotton dress c. 1795 (that date seems too early to me, but I guess I'm not the expert!)
Delicate sleeve detail

More of the amazing tambour embroidery! This dress is begging to be recreated, but I will definitely have to work on my embroidery skills before I attempt it!

After whizzing through those galleries, we met up with the group. Half of us went with Suzi to her house to see some of her historical clothing goodies. On the way out of the museum, we went through the gift shop. Ah, wonderful! We didn't have any time to look, so maybe next time.... ;-) On the way to the bus stop, we went through Piccadilly Circus.

I really should have included this picture in Sunday's post, as this is the area we were in. Oh well!

Suzi very generously opened her house to us, let us touch and look at some of her historical clothing and recreations and served us tea and scones! :-) Then we headed out to Shakespeare's Globe again, this time for a performance of "As You Like It"! After getting a much-desired supper :-), we went out to sit and wait in line for an hour, to get the best "seats".

Celeste, Kristin, us, and Elizabeth

For all performances in the Globe, the audience has a choice of paying a lot or not as much. Er, I mean they have a choice of being a "groundling" and standing (a Globe tradition dating back to the original) or sitting on wooden benches. We (along with most of the group) were groundlings and were able to get in line soon enough to stand near the front of the stage. This is most definitely the best place to be! Mom had originally planned on skipping the performance because she didn't think her feet would be happy after standing for 3 hours, but there ended up being an extra ticket, so she gave it a try. She didn't leave, and said it was better that expected, so I think that's a good review. The actors are all in period clothing, and we recognized a few from various movies (A&E Emma- Mr. Elton!, Valkyrie, and S&S 2008- Mr. Palmer), so that was tons of fun!! The actors frequently walk through the crowds of groundlings to the stage, and once when someone tapped my shoulder and said, "Excuse me!", it was the main actresses! :-) Mom was standing near the back and during the second half, a man was standing near her. She and her neighbors didn't pay attention to him until he suddenly started giving the epilogue and moved toward the stage. Imagine their surprise when it turned out that he had been wearing a gold organza doublet and breeches entirely covered in feathers, and they hadn't even noticed!!

Next up- Kensington Palace!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trip to England - Part 3

Mom and I started our Sunday with a quick tube ride to Westminster Abbey for 10 o'clock Matins. Wow! I'm at a loss to describe how beautiful and worshipful the whole experience was! The choir singing Psalms with the stunning organ combined with the amazing acoustics and the lovely stained glass was unlike anything I have ever experienced! If you are ever in London on a Sunday, this is a definite must for church!

After the service, we were able to look around the Abbey for 15 minutes until the next service. Providentially, we were seated in the Poets' Corner, so we were able to see the graves of all sorts of people from Robert Adam to Handel to Dickens to Chaucer to Laurence Olivier! If we ever go back to London, I would love to go back when we have more time to see the whole Abbey.

After the next service started, we were able to look around the Cloisters. We were admiring the non-gargoyliness of the outside of the Abbey. :-) When we were at York Minster 6 years ago, we noticed how many gargoyles they had. I must admit that I prefer Westminster in that regard... ;-)

While Mom was taking a picture, I looked down and noticed this grave. Muzio Clementi is one of my favorite classical composers, so it was a pleasant surprise to notice this!

More lovely stone buildings that are so common in London! I loved all seeing all the different styles of old architecture.

The impressive North Entrance. Silly as it may sound, I was surprised at how enormous Westminster Abbey was. Looking at pictures just doesn't give you the right sense of scale; once you get there and see the Abbey towering above you, it is breathtaking to think of all the work that went into it!

Just across the road, one of the great landmarks of London: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

The gold detail on it really pops in real life!

Another quintessential London picture. We rode on a few double-decker buses while in London and I would recommend not sitting in the very front right above the driver! When you are on the first level it constantly looks like you will either run into the very close light posts or you will run over the bicyclists riding on the roads! On the second level, it's even worse! I eventually just had to tell myself, "The bus driver has plenty of experience, I'm sure he knows what he's doing!". Of course, it also helps your trust of them if you pay no attention to the newspaper headlines announcing "Bus Smash Injures 6"!!!

We walked past the Houses of Parliament on our way to the Tate Britain (an art museum) and saw this statue of Richard the Lion-Hearted. Shortly after, we were approached by an Italian family who were exclaiming "Bella, bella" and asked us in broken English if they could have their picture taken with us! We've had the request several times when we were in historical clothing, but never on a normal day!

On arrival at the Tate, the woman handing out maps admired our clothes, "loved our style!", and asked if we were designers! Well, in a way.... The Tate was wonderful and lived up to our expectations. They had beautiful portraits from the Tudor period on up and a lovely Pre-Raphaelite collection! They also had a William Blake collection; I can safely say that I'm not a fan!! I had several people come up to me in the Pre-Raphaelite rooms and tell me I looked like I stepped out of one of the paintings. It was rather strange to get so many compliments in one day because in the US, people just look at us like we're nuts!

After the Tate we caught a bus to the Piccadilly area and walked around there. This is Burlington Arcade, built in 1819. Lord George Cavendish, who lived in Burlington House (now the Royal Academy) commissioned his architect, Samuel Ware, to design a covered promenade of shops – unofficially to stop ruffians from throwing quantities of rubbish, in particular oyster shells, onto his property and officially “for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females”. Burlington Arcade also has it's own police force- the Beadles who are all dressed in tailcoats and top hats. All in all, much more charming than your everyday strip mall!

Royal Arcade- smaller, but just as (if not more) charming. Piccadilly has several Arcades, each with their own qualities. Keep your eyes open, though! they are very easy to miss!

Liberty's. This store was built in 1924 and designed to look like a Tudor-era building, inside and out! The detail work everywhere was lovely, but unfortunately the prices were out of the roof! They sell fabric, so we had hoped to buy some, but at £20/metre (approx. $35/yd.) for cotton lawn, that was outside of our budget! Disappointed and hungry (since we skipped lunch), we contemplated tea in their cafe but it was (unsurprisingly) expensive. Enter one of the Riggenbach family quirks- while traveling, we have two objects: to get enough sleep and see lots of fun things. If you'll notice, eating is not included.* So, since it was 3:30, we decided to wait to eat until supper and instead head on to the National Portrait Gallery. Wow!! The NPG was another good choice! Absolutely stunning!! The Tudor gallery alone was worth the trip! While researching for Reformation Day outfits, I have looked at countless pictures and during our trip to London I've been able to see many of them. I now have a huge regard for Hans Holbein. I admired his work online, but the detail of the real paintings is unsurpassed! His attention to every pin and almost every thread also make learning about the way clothes were worn much easier, too.... :-)

After walking through most of the Gallery, our feet were protesting very loudly! So we called it quits and went to a nearby Italian restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal while sitting down. :-)

After soaking our feet, we went to Courtney's room for a fun evening of toenail painting and chatting. All things considered, a wonderful (if tiring!) day!

Next up: Victoria and Albert Museum and a performance at Shakespeare's Globe!

*Please don't think I'm complaining, on the contrary, I have been raised so well that this is the way I prefer to travel, but we have found that it is terribly uncommon... ;-)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Trip to England - Part 2

After sleeping in on Saturday, we met as a group to head to Shakespeare's Globe.

During our tour, we got to see the interior of the Globe, which is a reconstruction of the original. The building was constructed entirely by hand using authentic construction methods and took 3 1/2 years to finish.

The stage and ceiling are elaborately painted, making up for the few props during the play.

Outside the Globe, the dome of St. Paul's is clearly visible across the river.

After our tour, we went inside to view the exhibit which has (among other things) costumes from their former productions! You can easily guess what interested us... We also had a demonstration of clothing featuring Ophelia's outfit and one of the ladies from our group. Courtney was dressed entirely in 16th century clothing including this lovely block-printed skirt (an exact reproduction of one in the Museum of London's collection) and jacket. I love the color combination!

After finishing up there, Mom and I split ways. Mom went to various markets, including one that was closed (bummer!), and I went to the Dulwich Picture Gallery with several of the ladies from our group. Since I didn't go to the markets, I'll just report on the Gallery. :-) At the Globe, we all decided to wait for lunch until we got to Dulwich. Well, after a confusing and long trip, we arrived at Dulwich at 3 o'clock. We ate in the cafe right by the Gallery, but unfortunately it took an hour for the whole meal! By this time, we only had an hour to tour the gallery, but that ended up being just about perfect. The Dulwich Picture Gallery first opened to the public in 1817. Notwithstanding the fact that it houses Rubens, Van Dycks, Rembrandts, Raphaels, Canalettos, Reynolds, and many more, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with the selection. Too many landscapes and works depicting classical scenes. *sigh* I guess that's the price you pay for being so picky! I did find one picture I really liked depicting a mother holding her child. The mother was wearing a beautiful spencer and the child's dress was so charming! Too bad they didn't have a postcard of that one.... Dulwich itself (at least the little we saw of it) was very nice and greenery abounded! I was starting to tire of the lack of vegetation in London, so it was a very refreshing break! :-) On the way home, we decided to navigate ourselves and not follow the instructions again and found our way back using a much more logical way. A little bonus was the fact that we switched to a tube at Victoria Station. After watching "The Importance of Being Earnest", I was hoping that somehow we'd be able to go there.

A charming shop in London. I loved the beautiful stone buildings that abound there and the oh-so-common hanging flower pots. Chicago has nothing on this!

In the evening, Mom and I took a walk along the Thames and saw this. Nothing can capture the beauty of St. Paul's lit up at night. Especially not this blurry picture.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Corn in the backyard 2009, week 18

September 20

I know you've all been waiting on the edge of your seats to see how the corn has been doing. I'm pleased to say that it is still standing and continues to dry in preparation for harvest. Check back soon for a view of the corn on September 27th! Thanks for visiting!

Trip to England - Part 1

Well, it looks like I'll (Lily) be responsible for blogging about the trip Mom and I took to England. Before I start, a little word about the picture quality- Mom and I make no pretentions to being good photographers and we felt the absence of our family expert (Dad) and someone who knew how to use all the settings (Dad or Gretel). Maybe next time we should have a lesson before we leave the country... ;-)

We left O'Hare airport on Thurs. evening and were able to get a direct flight to Heathrow. We flew with British Airways and wow! we really like them! :-) If you haven't flown before, don't use British Airways for your first flight. You'll be spoiled for everything else! We didn't sleep on the flight (as anticipated), but we got safely into Heathrow, got our bags, and breezed through Customs. Our flight arrived 1 hour before the rest of the group, so we got a nice caffeinated latte while we waited. :-) We met up with a few of the ladies who had come earlier and got to chat with them. When the rest of the group arrived, we left on our coach (not bus!) tour of London with our friendly and very informable guide Nigel.

This picture was taken as we were heading into London. There were so many quaint houses on the way in. And yes, I realize that there is a giant arrow in the middle, but you get the idea!

Our first stop was the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall.

Then Buckingham Palace.

And then St. Paul's Cathedral.

By the end of the 2 hour tour, several of us were beginning to drag, but thankfully Mom and I felt fine. So after checking in to the hotel and getting a quick bite of lunch, we headed out to the Tower of London.

The Tower of London is actually a conglomeration of over 20 towers! We started out on a Yeoman Warder (or Beefeater) tour which took us around the premises and gave and overview of it's history.

Just inside the second gate, there is this charming half-timbered building.

After the tour, we went to see the Crown Jewels (housed in the building below). While they were very big and shiny, Mom and I found them kind of lacking in prettiness... One hates to turn up one's nose at huge jewels encrusting crowns, etc., but some seemed to be lacking in good taste. And while watching the video of Elizabeth II's coronation, I couldn't help but notice that her coronation robe looked very stiff and unbecoming, and even kind of ugly. Well, it's the same in real life! Oh well, I guess I'll never have to wear it, anyway! ;-)

Here is St. Thomas' Tower. It was an architectural marvel of its time because it has no keystone. Oh, and Traitor's Gate is underneath, but I guess we didn't get a picture of that. Too interested in the keystone-less bridge instead! Above it is the Medieval Palace, which is furnished as it would have been.

And there's Tower Bridge!

The White Tower. The centrally located tower, and home for the medieval kings.

After that, we went back to our hotel, found a nearby grocery store and found some bread and cheese for dinner. (our favorite English dinner!) It's a good thing that Hyacinth Gibson wasn't traveling with us! :-)