Friday, March 4, 2011

Tokens of Love

The exhibit Threads of Feeling at London's Foundling Museum closes in two days on March 6. However, if you cannot make it there by then *wink*, there is a wonderful online video and slideshow that you can virtually experience. Which is what I did. And I had to share. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Image © Coram from the Foundling Museum

The time period was 18th century London...a time when life was very hard for the working class. Many women were forced through severe hardship to give up their babies and would take them to the Foundling Hospital in hopes that their child would gain admission. Sadly, not all did.

When leaving the child, sometimes the mother would offer a textile token...a piece of the mother's dress or the child's clothing...in order to identify the child should circumstances change and she might one day come back to claim the child.

Image © Coram from the Foundling Museum

The scraps were placed in ledgers together with the registration document and kept in the records in case the mother's fortune did, indeed, change. The museum has over 4,000 scraps of textile, Britain's largest surviving collection of 18th century textile history of the ordinary citizen.

The collection gives clues to the translation of fashion to the working classes...Working classes were unable to afford the richly embroidered and woven Spitalfields silks popular at the time. So the working class tended to imitate these expensive woven materials by wearing fabrics that were printed with flora and fauna.

Image © Coram from the Foundling Museum

Another interesting thing to note was that there was no distinction in dress at the time between boys and girls (pink=girl, boy=blue didn't appear until two centuries later).

Boys sometimes wore cockades on their bonnets, while girls wore a bow with streamers called a TopKnot.

Image © Coram from the Foundling Museum

You can read more about this here at the Austenonly blog. There are a number of these cockades and ribbons as part of the textile collection.

Sometimes the scraps of fabric were embroidered specifically for the occasion...

Image © Coram from the Foundling Museum

If you are as interested as I was, I recommend you watch this BBC video here first...


I couldn't help but be moved by all those notes and bits of fabric. My favorite was the story behind this piece...

Image © Coram from the Foundling Museum

Explained by the curator in the BBC video.

Happy weekend, beautiful bloggers.

12 comments:

Radka said...

I have written about the exhibition and the book on my blog too. I have booked my coach ticket to London and will be on my way tomorrow morning to see it before it closes on Sunday. I look forward to very much:)

Plays with Needles said...

Oh Wow, Radka! You really CAN make it there in time. Please please post about it!

Storycloth said...

Yes! doesn't this show so well the power of cloth? Gilly

Emerald Window said...

Thank You again for another marvelous post. I watched the video. It sounds like life there wasn't easy for these kids, but at least they were alive and they had each other.
Cenya

Queen Bee's Musings said...

So very interesting. Thanks for the post!

Gerry Krueger said...

This was so touching..I just love the little patch with the bird...
Ger

anne said...

I love your beautiful site full of ideas, and I like this page, the heart with ribbons. thanks for sharing!!
anne from France

kaite said...

incredible, it touches the heart, thankyou for sharing it all...k.

Judy S. said...

What a fascinating post, Susan! Can you even imagine having to make that kind of decision?

Ingrid Mida said...

I knew about this exhibition and so wished I could have been there.

lambs and ivy designs said...

Oh, so very sad. Just think of all of those children who never knew their mothers.

Kathy said...

Hello Susan, It has been a joy to read your blog. I found it recently through another's recommendation - I have now forgotten who. I was wondering if you have seen this exhibit
http://www.lacma.org/art/ExhibFashioningFashion.aspx

Your talent and skill is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing it.

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