Upon visiting the Armagh County Museum, I was pleased to find their collection of preserved dresses and clothes from the days of long ago. I have always had a particular passion and fondness for fashion and clothing, as I find it is one of the simplest and clearest forms of expression human society exercises. The dress of individuals from any point in history is a direct result of the cultural and societal environment, and still is even today. I doubt there was ever a time in history when individuals were wearing YOLO shirts or Bart Simpson sweaters. Thus fashion is not only a necessity, but a unique form of self and societal expression that can tell us plenty about history.
I was particularly inspired by the incredible detail of the fancy-dress and more formal outfits from the 16th and 17th century. Not only was getting dressed a hassle -given the layers of tulle, petticoats, corsets and bustles needed- but the production of the dresses themselves was a painstaking job. Each pleat or ruffle had to be hand set and sewn, and the various details around necklines and waists must’ve proved a particularly cruel task. To think of being a seamstress or dressmaker in the days before sewing machines makes my fingers hurt already.
I’ve included some pictures of the dresses to highlight some of the incredible skill that went into them. I find the layering of the fabrics around the necklines and the strategic draping around the bodices and waists to be some of the most beautiful parts.
Comparing these to some of my own shopping finds from TopShop and NewLook today, it’s almost sad to think that some of this artwork and detailing doesn’t exist today like it did long ago. Today the craft of hand-sewing work and design are reserved for grand events and red carpets, but fortunately these pieces are preserved and can tell the story of days long before.