TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Amber Butchart at the TRC

Amber Butchart at the TRC, 6 September 2019. Photograph: Shelley Anderson

Amber Butchart at the TRC, 6 September 2019. Photograph: Shelley Anderson

On Friday, 13th September 2019, Shelley Anderson wrote:

The TRC recently hosted British dress historian Amber Butchart, who graciously opened our latest exhibition “Socks&Stockings” to a crowded gallery.

“I’ve wanted to visit the TRC for a long time,” she said. “The TRC’s work is amazing. The collection is immense and catalogued better than some much bigger institutions, which is so good for researchers. The fact that it is a teaching collection makes it really special.” She looks forward to coming back and exploring the collection more, and to use items for exhibitions and a book.

A BBC presenter and author, Amber is also known for her own distinctive dress style. For her second lecture on stockings in European fashion history, at the TRC, she wore a green short-sleeved dashiki-like tunic with tights and signature turban. “I’ve always loved old clothes,” she said, recalling shopping with her mother as a child in charity shops and jumble sales. “I loved rummaging around. I wasn’t interested in fashion or fashion magazines—in fact, if something was on trend I immediately didn’t like it.”

After studying literature at university, she got a job at her favourite vintage shop, where she spent her lunch breaks reading about vintage clothes. She worked there seven years, buying, researching and writing about vintage clothes, then decided to go back to university to study history and fashion.

Read more: Amber Butchart at the TRC


Sampler by Mary Anne McMurray dated 1866

Sampler made by Mary Anne McMurray in 1866, Ireland (TRC 2019.2023).

Sampler made by Mary Anne McMurray in 1866, Ireland (TRC 2019.2023).

On Thursday, 12th September 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

The TRC Leiden has just acquired a sampler (TRC 2019.2023) worked in 1866 by a girl called Mary Anne McMurray, who went to the Mullabrack Church School, in Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Mary Anne McMurray may be a girl with the same name who was born in Drumachee, near Mullaghbrack, in 1856. This would make her ten years old when the sampler was stitched. The stitching, it should be added, is consistent with embroidery of a school girl of that age. If this identification is correct, then she went on to marry Wallace Coburn (1828-1906) and had three children. She died in 1897 at the age of 41 and was buried in Lisnadill, Northern Ireland.

Mullabrack Church School was a Protestant primary school in the town of Mullabrack. The building still exists, but no longer used as a school.

Read more: Sampler by Mary Anne McMurray dated 1866


Leids Dagblad en de Sokken&Kousen tentoonstelling

Op dinsdag 10 september schrijft Willem Vogelsang:

De opening van de Sokken&Kousen tentoonstelling, op donderdag 5 september j.l., trok ook de belangstelling van de regionale pers. Hier een PDF-document van een artikel in het Leids Dagblad van vrijdag 6 seotember. Klik hier om het artikel te lezen.


Socks&Stockings. A sparkling opening

Lies van de Wege and Amber Butchart at the opening of the Socks&Stockings exhibition. Photograph by Joost Kolkman, 2019.

Lies van de Wege and Amber Butchart at the opening of the Socks&Stockings exhibition. Photograph by Joost Kolkman, 2019.

On Saturday, 7th September, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

The Socks&Stockings exhibition is now open! Thanks to the help of many people, notably Lies van de Wege and Chrystel Brandenburgh and their fantastic knitting crews, we have a very special exhibition. People are calling it colourful, warm, interesting, full of surprises and simply, it‘s GOOD.

What made everything so special was the presence of English fashion and dress historian, Amber Butchart, who officially opened the exhibition and gave a lecture on the history of European silk stockings. Twice in fact, because so many people registered for the lecture we asked Amber to do it again the following day. About 50 people came to the opening and both lectures were full with some 30 people attending each time. Her lecture was informative, well presented and not surprisingly there were many questions afterwards.

Amber had long heard about the TRC Leiden, but had never actually been before. She really liked our approach and the fact we have a ‘broad-based encyclopaedic collection’. She has already asked if she can use items from the collection for a couple of exhibitions and a book. Amber is planning to come back to Leiden on a regular basis and is more than willing to give more lectures on different aspects of European fashion history.

In addition, Amber has very kindly agreed to become an Ambassador for the TRC Leiden and tell her extensive network about what we are doing, what we can do and what we want to do in the future. Interesting days ahead! The exhibition will be open until Thursday, 19th December 2019.


A big girl’s blouse

A birthday card

A birthday card

On Saturday, 7th September 2019, Willem Vogelsang wrote:

I was a bit puzzled lately about this phrase, used by such British luminaries as Boris Johnson. He used it, apparently under his breath, when talking about Jeremy Corbyn. I asked my own Brexit refugee here in Leiden about it, but she had no clue either. Admittedly, she has been living in Europe (!) for some 35 years and may have missed essential developments in English idiom. Also, she never went to Eton, which seems to preclude anyone from joining the ruling British establishment and the likes of Johnson (unless you marry a Russian plutocrat, but she hooked up with an impoverished Dutch academic).

Of course I could ask my mother-in-law, who some years ago told her hairdresser (I should not have listened to her telephone call) that she had a son-in-law who had a ‘reasonable’ command of English. (What about her command, I always wondered, she lived for a long time in Yorkshire, so who is the foreigner?) Should I ring her? Put her to the test? Perhaps better not. A call from Europe early in the morning would ruin anyone’s day in England.

Anyhow, what is this big girl’s blouse? At first I thought it referred to a blouse filled up by a big girl. Big, as in well-endowed (another recent development in the English language, I noticed). That, it soon became clear, was not the case.

So, my research (carried out in bed this morning), told me the phrase refers to a big blouse for a girl. So what does that mean? I have had to deal with the Brits for some time, and I know that the word ‘girl’ is not always appreciated when applied to, what I think is now called a young woman. So the ‘big girl’s blouse’ is apparently somewhat derogatory.

But what the heck is wrong with a big blouse for a girl /young woman? At that stage my research descended to the next level. I found a wonderful website that provided me with the information that I so urgently needed. The phrase seems to originate from northern England (well, my in-laws come from Yorkshire, so there you are; perhaps I should ring my mother-in-law after all).

When applied to a man it means that he is somewhat effeminate, but at the same time it is not really abusive. There is something teasing about it. The phrase seems to be used by now all over the Anglo-Saxon world, unknown to me (but I am European, so what do I know). There even seems to be an Australian feminist comedy series with that title. I am proud to say I did not know that either. So there you are: a girl’s blouse as an item of apparel has reached dazzling depths of fame. The world of dress is full of surprises.

For those of you who want to know more, click here


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Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428

Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment. Holidays: until 11 August

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Sept. -19 Dec. 2019: Socks&Stockings

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
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