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From a museum catalogue photograph

This is one of an occasional series inspired by the work of the ladies (and they are all ladies!) from The Arts Society (previously known as NADFAS) who work every week in our costume store and who have the most amazing love for and knowledge of every aspect of our costume collection.

To go into the costume store when they are working is to enter another world…

It is certainly a foreign language that is spoken in there. Some of you will recognise these words but they must be on that list of words which are falling out of use*

What about:’calash’ (a woman’s silk bonnet), ‘guipure’ (heavy lace), ‘lawn’ (plain weave cotton or linen), ‘cambric’ (fine but dense cloth), ‘nainsook’ (fine, soft cloth), ‘madapollam’ (plain weave cotton, originally from a particular part of India), ‘lappet’ (a decorative flap on a garment)….? All of these words appear in descriptions of items in the collection.

Of course, one reason that the collection inspires such excitement is the possible history of the items. The jacket above is thought to be from the 1760s. Cream linen. That boy, if he survived for any length of time, may have read about Cook’s expeditions to New Zealand and Australia (his jacket suggests a family that would have had a tutor for its sons). He would have been aware of the early industrial revolution, unrest in the American colonies, campaigned against, or for, slavery. He might have worried about what was happening in France, perhaps involved in the battles with that close neighbour, including Trafalgar. In his forties he might have appeared in the first census of 1801, and subsequent censuses until his death. If he lived in Salisbury or around about he would have been aware of the Swing riots (agricultural unrest), and in his old age raised an eyebrow at the Tolpuddle Martyrs. A treat as a very old man might have been a train ride in 1847 from the new Milford station to Southampton….

And we think we live in interesting times!

*Have fun with this by going on-line and googling “Words that have fallen out of use”. All sorts of authorities keep lists of these.