New Blog location

I have just merged my period costume business with my son’s filmmaking business, Crow’s Eye Productions. I now have a new web page and I am gradually transfering the blog to that too. My new costume hire for film and costume blog can be found here Crow’s Eye Productions Costume

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Coming soon: more on the making of Mona Lisa’s gown!


Crowseye logo

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Copying an Edwardian Photograph for a Crow’s Eye Production Film.

Heckington mill 2

Apart from the two men’s suits, I replicated all of the clothes in this picture from the boy’s wool suits to the girls’ linen sailor dresses and the ladies skirts and blouses.

Group 2 JB

The girl’s’ dresses were finished with vintage trim and were worn over replica petticoats and drawers.

sailor dresses

For more on Crow’s Eye Productions follow the link.

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Beetle wing-case bodice?

William Holman Hunt

Is this beautiful iridescent and scaly bodice covered with beetle wing cases, much as the (newly restored) Ellen Terry gown:

But then look at this painting, The Birthday, also by William Holman Hunt, is the cape made up of feathers and beetle wing cases or just feathers? Hard to say, but the source must surely be the same…


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50% of The Lady of Shalott DVD sales are going to a special cause for the next month. Please help support us.

Head to the WAG Screen shop to make a purchase – thank you!The_Lady

For more on the special cause (in support of a dear friend and her family) go to the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood blog.

If you want to help directly you can go to the Facebook page:

The Piña Benefit Fund For Tony & Stephanie

Stephanie Piña has been incredibly supportive of the Lady of Shalott film project and has done a great deal to help promote it. This is our way of saying thank you.

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Eleanor Glanville; Lady of the Butterflies and a Rebel Heiress!

Eleanor Glanville’s story has been made into a novel by Fiona Mountain, initially called  Lady of the Butterflies the book has been renamed for the American market as ‘The Rebel Heiress’. Here is the finished book trailer:

The actress playing Eleanor is Tiffany Haynes

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The Luttrell Psalter Film

In 2006/2007 I co-produced and costumed the Luttrell Psalter film. This can now be viewed online free:

The Luttrell Psalter Film, Director Nick Loven


Here is the first part of the story of making the costume:

We took the decision early on in the process of making the Luttrell Psalter film, and in consultation with The Collection (the museum in Lincoln for whom the film was made), to reproduce recognisable images from the Psalter rather than to reinterpret them. The museum wanted the people from the Psalter images to ‘walk off the page’. We too felt that any deviation from the images was to move away from the primary source and so we worked hard to recreate the world that Sir Geoffrey created for posterity, rather than to reimagine it as we think it should have been.

The Vexed Question of Colour – would a swineherd really have worn purple?

We were aware that the illustrator was working with a painter’s palette, not a dyer’s one, and would have had a different range of colours available to him – he was also creating a decorative work. With this as a consideration, we strove hard to find textiles in colours that looked believable and achievable for the period, but matched the images. We also had a very small budget. We resorted to dyeing the fabrics ourselves or dipping them in a weak solution of potassium permanganate to dull the modern dye colours down. However, we did not break down the clothing to make them look worn and grubby as this would be reinterpreting the images.


Historic Background

The period over which the Psalter was created – 1325-1340 (approx.) – was a period during which the cut of clothing began to change. Since textiles were first created, clothing was made by first tying, then pinning, then sewing rectangles of fabric together. Textiles are a product of farming – from the fibres (linen/flax – wool/sheep) to the plants needed for dyeing them.  A complete farming year goes into the production of the raw material, this then need to be harvested, cleaned/prepared, spun into yarn and woven into cloth. So you can appreciate that the value of textiles was such that, when they were cut to form a garment, they were cut without waste. This was achieved by using simple geometric shapes – rectangles, triangles and squares ingeniously pieced to create fit and fullness. However, a radical change in the cut of dress in this period is happening around this time. It begins with the armhole; instead of creating sleeves t-shirt wise, they begin to fit the sleeve closer to the arm and into a shaped armhole. This frees the arm movement and allows the arm to be raised without the garment pulling up. As a result, garments could then be tailored to fit the figure without restricting movement.

LP costume 05

Above: One of the women from the film, her gown is loose fitting, but their sleeves fit quite close to the arm.

As we studied the Psalter images we could see that many of the garments had tight sleeves, but were otherwise loose fitting – however no seams were shown. So we looked at archaeological evidence, tomb monuments (which do often show seams) and trial tested garments comparing them with the Psalter images for the correct fit and drape. As a result we decided that Psalter clothing shows a variety of cuts from simple rectangles to fully fitted, but that most of the villagers were  gowns showing shows a transitional cut – with fitted sleeves into a simply shaped armhole, but with the remainder of the garment formed from the rectangles and gores with some limited shaping.

Higher Status Clothing
No means of fastening is shown on any of the women’s gowns, and indeed most clearly simply slip over the head. However, the dress worn by the lady spinning (below) with the great wheel is an exception. Her gown is fitted so closely to her figure that it must include sophisticated tailoring and must be laced closed to achieve such a tight fit.


The spinner is also the highest status figure that we included in the film. Apart from her dress being finely tailored (which is very wasteful of fabric), she has an excess of fabric about the hem of her dress which pools on the floor about her feet. Her fine white linen apron also has the most detailed stitching of all the aprons shown in the Psalter (there are five in all with four different designs). An immaculately fitted garment such as this, would probably have been made for the individual (rather than by her) and fitted to her figure.


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Lady Eleanor Glanville, Lady of the Butterflies

We have been filming a few short sequences from the life of Lady Eleanor Glanville (c.1654–1709), the first English female lepidopterist.


One of the things I had to make for this scene was a 17th century butterfly ‘clap net’, but with only fragmentary information to go on!


Happily, it worked! To everyone’s surprise, especially Tiffany Haynes (the actress playing Eleanor), the first thing that she did was to capture and safely release a butterfly!


Eleanor Glanville has a Butterfly named after her, the Glanville Fritillary, initially known as the Lincolnshire Fritillary as that was where Eleanor first captured it in the 1690’s. Now the Glanville Fritillary is pretty well restricted to southern half of the Isle of Wight and on the Channel Islands. The butterfly pictured above is a Red Admiral.


Eleanor is played by actress Tiffany Hayes. You can see her showreel here. It contains more Eleanor Glanville footage, plus other modern roles Tiffany has played. Tiffany’s web site can be found here.


Eleanor Glanville’s story has just been made into a novel by Fiona Mountain: Lady of the Butterflies.

The book has been renamed for the American market as ‘The Rebel Heiress’.

You can hear a BBC Woman’s Hour interview with the author about Eleanor Glanville here

nick The sequences were directed and filmed by Nick Loven of Crow’s Eye Productions.

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Viking iron and ironing board!

Ok, so its not an iron and polishing board is a more appropriate term than ironing board, but they are for smoothing, pleating and polishing linen.

Viking iron and ironing board

These form part of the grave goods from a Viking era burial of a wealthy woman at Birka, in Sweden. The board is carved whalebone and the smoother is made from glass. They can be seen, along with other exquisite items from her grave, on display at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm (Historiska Museet), Sweden.

The Romans used smooth lumps of glass for pressing linen too.

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Queen Margaret’s Gold Dress early 15th c.

Last year (2009) I visited Uppsala in Sweden and made a particular point of visiting Uppsala cathedral where a number of significant surviving items of clothing are kept on display, including the clothes of Nils Sture (described by Janet Arnold in Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1550-1620 ) and the early 15th c gold brocade dress of Margareta (1353 – 1412), Queen of Denmark, Sweden, & Norway.

Queen Margareta’s gold gown – Uppsala:

The clothes are kept behind tinted glass to protect them and light levels are very low, so visitors are supplied with torches so that they can look at the details of the garments – which is rather fun. Queen Margareta’s gown has been conserved and was on display (pictured below – sorry it’s not a great image).

Queen Margaret gold dress

The gown is made from Italian gold brocade with a pomegranate design in gold on a reddish-violet silk ground. The cloth has been carbon dated and was found to have been woven between 1403-1439. A replica of it has also been constructed, but is on display at Stockholm.

Queen Margaret gold dress1

Queen Margareta’s gold gown, replica – Stockholm:

At the beginning of September this year (2010). I had an opportunity to visit the Historiska Museet in Stockholm (The Museum of National Antiquities) where the reproduction of this gown is displayed.

Queen Margaret gold dress repro3

The gold fabric has been hand-printed to reflect the design of the original fabric, as it would have been awesomely expensive to actually recreate it.

Queen Margaret gold dress repro1

Queen Margaret gold dress repro4

The reproduction gown being worn. Sorry the picture is a bit distorted – I could only photograph the image from an angle and through glass. I should like to find out more about this re-production – I will try and find out!

Thanks to Bess Chilver who sent this link: Durant Textiles – Durant textiles made the fabric, created the gown and published this excellent article, on the reproduction with lots of pictures, in their newsletter. They also have an excellent article on Queen Margareta herself.

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