With its delicate old fashioned blooms, this shirt lives up to the Dandy & Rose name.
This is a deceptively simple print – there are several shades of orange and peach blending in those roses and the stems and leaves are a gentle olive green. I have loved working with it and giving it those orange accents.
This is the third shirt this customer has ordered. He found me through my online shop about a year and a half ago and by the time he got in touch, he had already chosen the print he wanted from Liberty‘s online offering. He likes to keep his prints simple, so he chooses the quiet designs. I love that, because I would otherwise overlook them, and they turn out to be brilliant. His first choice was this Jackson Pollock style spatter print:
On the day he received this shirt, he ordered the next. Now that’s what I call customer satisfaction! Although it was a bold and sunny yellow, it had fewer colours than most of the prints I work with.
This new one is intriguing. It’s called ‘Mantaray’ – you will see that the design takes the graceful shape of the fish of the same name.
I have been dying to post photos of this shirt! But I’ve been waiting for the all clear, as it was a Christmas gift from a brother to his sister – so I am not sure whether his choice of a fabric called ‘Queen Bee’ was a comment on their respective roles in the family! 🙂
At any rate, she was reportedly very pleased to receive it – and it is a very special Liberty print, one of those where you spot more and more detail as you look. I love the crown that the bee seems to be placing on her own head!
Woman’s shirt in Liberty’s ‘Queen Bee’ print
Woman’s Dandy & Rose shirt in Liberty’s ‘Queen Bee’ print
I did a lot of thinking before I cut into this fabric!
‘Agandca’ is one of the most intriguing Liberty prints I have worked with. It is based on a 1910 design from the Liberty archive and the complicated pattern looks a bit like embroidery. It’s arranged in wide stripes – but unlike your average stripe, they are asymmetrical.
Cue shirtmaker headache.
I decided to use the stripe by cutting the yokes and pocket flaps ‘on the bias’ – I explained what that means last time I used the technique here
The three strokes in that cross motif in the design inspired me to finish the shirt with a triple line of topstitching.
Thor Platter has a new album coming out in October, which I can’t wait to hear. He asked me to source a Liberty print with a retro look, in dusky browns, greens and oranges, to chime in with the artwork for the record sleeve.
It took about a week, but finally I remembered filing this one away at the back of my brain.
Yokes that turn into pocket flaps are an established element of western wear design. I’ve had it at the back of my mind to try some on a Dandy & Rose shirt, but the idea really took hold when I was doing some research for my PhD in the Nudie’s archive in The Autry Museum of The American West a few months ago. I kept seeing jackets in the style and was suddenly inspired to try the same thing, but with mixed prints.
My friend and customer Bill DeMain, who is a songwriter and journalist as well as running Walkin’ Nashville, a fun and informative walking tour of Nashville (where, in fact, he and I met), gave me the chance. He picked out a Dandy & Rose favourite, the Liberty paisley, Lagos Laurel. I suggested mixing two colours of the print, and Bill opted for blue and red. Although it’s now a Liberty classic, ‘Lagos Laurel’ was introduced in 2012 in celebration of the London Olympics, and features a laurel wreath in amongst the paisley motifs.
It’s only March and I have already made two dresses for myself this year. The pile of books on my dining room table? No – haven’t read them.
This is my version of Vogue’s reproduction 1939 western tailored dress, V9127. It was meant to be my Christmas break project, but it proved so time consuming that I had to put it aside while I got on with some Dandy & Rose orders and come back to it. I finished it in late February. I’m glad I persevered though! It was worth it! I don’t know why Vogue think this pattern is ‘Average’ difficulty. People must have had a lot more skill, time and patience in 1939, that’s all I can say. The construction has hardly any edge-to-edge seams – those long curves on the front are created by turning under one seam allowance and then top stitching it in place on the seamline. Of course, it wasn’t that clever to use a triple stitch that you can’t unpick easily but I do like the look.
And those pockets… tricky. The collar didn’t roll quite where it should either, so one of my arrowhead tacks has disappeared under it. And O look, it’s not quite flat for the photo, but it does sit OK now, I promise! I took a lot of fabric out of the bodice at the side seams too – the blouson made it just a little bit too bulky.
I love the fabric I used. It’s a stretch viscose crepe from Dragonfly fabrics. I picked out this colour, but by the time I ordered, they had sold out; they ordered in a roll specially, which is what I call customer care! It drapes beautifully and it’s stretchy enough that I didn’t need the side zip.
To get a proper look of vintage tailoring, I ordered custom made belt and buttons from Harlequin. They were very reasonably priced and arrived within a couple of days of ordering. More great service!
One thing I love about working with Liberty prints is the complexity and depth of their designs.
This one, Gambier, is from their 2015 A/W range and I loved it so much that I bought a length ‘on spec’, hoping that someone would fall for it as much as I did. A couple of customers did, and they both commented that it looked Celtic. I agreed – that’s a thistle in the middle of the design, isn’t it? And look at that knot! Celtic, if ever I saw a knot!
I had a vague memory, though, that Liberty had said the design had Tudor connections. Now, I have had a fascination with Tudor history since I can’t remember when. Then, a few years ago, I started dressing as a Tudor in out annual torchlit November 5th procession here in Lewes and now I find that, when I am not thinking, reading about and making western wear, I am thinking and reading about Tudor dress. And making it. O, and wearing it, too. But only on November 5th.
So when I checked back on Liberty’s website and learned that this design was based around textiles in the paintings of Henry VIII’s court painter, Hans Holbein (1497/8 – 1543), I was intrigued. The dress history geek in me just had to go hunting.
I love Holbein. I went to an exhibition of his drawings of Henry’s courtiers at the Tate Gallery a few years ago and looking at them, I felt they could have been standing alive in front of me. Even the mightiest were made humble by his humanising strokes.
Here’s poor Anne Boleyn in her nightie.
It was Holbein who created the image of Henry VIII, in all his bulky, murderous masculinity, that we still hold as iconic . So that’s where I looked for the motifs that inspired the designer of our Liberty print. It turns out that the central motif is not a thistle but a pomegranate, a symbol in Tudor times of fertility and abundance. In 1540, when Holbein painted this portrait of Henry, he wore a coat made from fabric decorated with a stylised pomegranate design, so we would all know what a fertile and abundant man he was.
But I think the actual inspiration for it must have been a portrait of one of Henry’s close friends, Sir Henry Guildford (1489 – 1532). Sir Henry was at one point the King’s ‘Master of Revels’ responsible for organising the court’s entertainments. But by the time this portrait was painted in 1527, he had the responsible role of Comptroller of the King’s Household. He looks as if he was a force to reckoned with, doesn’t he?
Holbein has used gold leaf to show us how sumptuous his robe is – and look at that chain!And look closely at the pattern on that gold cloth… here’s our pomegranate:
And here’s our knot:
So… not Celtic, after all. It turns out continuous knots occur in the art of many cultures – Islamic, Buddhist and at the court of that most English of Kings, Henry VIII.
I guess there must have been continuous knots all over these islands, in the same way that there were versions of the same familiar folk songs from England, Scotland and Ireland.
Does that design still look Celtic to you? It still does to me! But that’s alright, I think. Like a great song, a beautiful design can cross cultures and have more than one meaning, depending on what angle you see it from, or how your ear is cocked. That’s all part of our richness, and what makes human culture so life enhancing.