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.
This Liberty print is called ‘Juniper’. I have to admit that I had to google to find out what the flowers of the juniper tree looked like, only to discover that they are ‘inconspicuous’, so I am guessing the fabric designer took some artistic liberties here.
On the other hand, I am very familiar with the taste of the juniper berry. Is the sun over the yardarm yet?
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.
Around the world, 2016 has been in many ways a strange, sad and alarming year .
But looking back on my own year brings many good memories and moments of achievement. I survived the grilling that came with passing the halfway point of my PhD and had a productive – and fun- research trip to Nashville. A definite high point was having a Dandy & Rose shirt put on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s ‘Featured Western Wear Designer’ exhibit. It’s such an honour: I don’t think I’ll get my head around it until I see it in person, which I hope to do in 2017.
I wrote a lot of words and made a lot of shirts in 2016.
Now for 2017!
Wishing followers of this blog a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
It’s been a grim, foggy weekend, full of undone Christmas preparations, so I have been glad to have this sunny yellow paisley shirt to focus on.
The fabric is Liberty’s paisley ‘Lagos Laurel’. I seem to recall that is a 1930s print from the Liberty archive. They reintroduced it to the range in 2012 in honour of the London Olympics – see the little laurel wreath tucked in amongst the paisley motifs?
I have made several shirts in Lagos Laurel previously…
Jim Lauderdale’s shirt in Liberty ‘Lagos Laurel’ with yokes in ‘Glenjade’
Michael’s shirt in Liberty’s paisley ‘Lagos Laurel’
Reed’s mixed print shirt in Liberty’s ‘Lagos Laurel’, ‘Mitsi’
but I haven’t used this lovely, rich, buttery yellow before. And I don’t think I have used yellow snaps before either. What a joy!
Jim Lauderdale’s shirt in Liberty’s print ‘Wiltshire Berry’
Last week I was in something of a panic because this shirt had dropped off the postal radar: last recorded as leaving Heathrow, the US postal service had no record of it. But in a minor Christmas miracle, it reappeared on its way from New York to Nashville on Monday and arrived just in time for Jim Lauderdale to wear it on the festive edition of Music City Roots, the weekly live radio show he hosts, a couple of days ago.
I always think this red colourway of Liberty’s classic print ‘Wiltshire Berry’, shouts ‘CHRISTMAS’. I have given it green piping and a celebratory mix of green and red snaps.
At the end of the show, Jim led the jam session that closes Music City Roots in the Chuck Berry classic ‘Johnny B. Goode’. I’m sure the pun was unintended but – well, a classic berry fabric and a classic Berry tune: what could be more pleasing?
Click here to watch a video clip of the jam.
Jim Lauderdale’s shirt in Liberty’s ‘Wiltshire Berry’
I am so honoured that The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum have put this paisley shirt that I made for Jim Lauderdale on display. It’s in one of their ‘Featured Western Wear Designer’ cases just off their foyer.
While I have been researching my PhD, I have spent a lot of time in the Hall’s archives, looking at garments by the great western wear designers, like Nathan Turk, Manuel and Nudie Cohn. So it’s a wonderful thrill now to be in an exhibit alongside them.
Photograph by Scott Simontacchi
The shirt will be on display for a year. After that, you can expect to see Jim wearing it onstage again!
I’ve been home from Nashville for just over a week now. It was my longest visit yet – almost a month, ending with the week of the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference – and I have so many memories. I’ll be writing about the music I heard in the November issue of Country Music People, but I have also been reflecting on some Dandy & Rose highlights.
This year’s AMA week was extra-special for my best customer, the singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. As usual he was everywhere – sharing wisdom on conference panels, performing his songs solo and with a fabulous band, and playing the genial host at the Honors and Award Show at the Ryman Auditorium; he was also presented with the Wagonmaster Award for Lifetime Achievement by the country star George Strait, who has recorded 14 of Jim’s songs. It was quite a moment and I was thrilled to be able to witness it.
One of my own favourite moments of the week came the next day, when I attended a conference panel on songwriting given by Jim, Lori McKenna and Radney Foster.
I was surprised, when Jim took his seat, to see that he was wearing one of the first Dandy & Rose shirts he ever bought, back at the end of 2012.
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale
The shirt Jim Lauderdale wore on ABC ‘Nashville – in Liberty ‘Dragonista’
It’s made from a Liberty print called ‘Dragonista’, a kind of psychedelic oriental vision, with men in traditional Chinese dress riding dragons, interspersed with random antique pots. I am specially fond of it; I feel it was the shirt that kicked Dandy & Rose into life, starting when Paste Magazine tweeted that Jim and Buddy Miller were “the two best-dressed men in Austin” during SXSW 2013. Jim told me that he got a big reaction to the shirt whenever he wore it. Later in the year, he wore it for his appearance on ABC’s ‘Nashville’. You can see that appearance here
If I made the shirt today, it would probably look a little different, but I love it and am proud of it just the same.
But my favourite thing about this shirt is that it was the subject of my only ever press review. Well, to be fair, it was Jim’s review. My work was only reviewed by association. But it still counts!
In 2014, Ann Powers opened her review of Jim’s ‘I’m A Song’ like this:
“I recently ran into Jim Lauderdale at a party in Nashville, and I couldn’t tell if his shirt was made of silk or cotton. Covered in fiery little dragons that seemed to flit around inside its piped seams, it was a beauty. Lauderdale told me it was made of breathable material and that it came from London. Its cheerfully theatrical boldness exemplified the style of the Grand Ole Opry, too, with a cosmopolitan and slightly ironic twist.
Lauderdale’s music is like that shirt: immediately charming, with flashy touches that complement smoothly executed subtleties.”
For a start, it was a brilliant piece of journalism and I wished I had written it. And then, I loved that Ann had compared my work with Jim’s music, which I have loved for so long, and even more what she had said about it. I have always admired his ability to take his vocal, musical and imaginative gifts, polish them, add a lot of technical skill, then do something wacky with them. I once heard him described as a ‘creative technician’ and the phrase immediately chimed. That’s what I, in my much less impressive way, would like to be, too. I loved Ann’s idea of flashy subtlety, as well: my shirts may be brightly coloured and boldly patterned but I aim for a refinement of taste and skill, enough to complement the detailed work of the brilliant textile designers whose work I rely on. I was so touched and amazed to read that she had seen that in the shirt I had made, that she had ‘got’ what it was about, and articulated it better than I could have myself.
So on that day in Nashville a few weeks ago, when I realised that the reason for the ‘Dragonista’ shirt’s reappearance was that the panel was to be chaired by Ann Powers, I was delighted. I made sure to go and speak with her afterwards and thank her for her words. I told her that because they meant so much to me, I had made them into a poster that I keep on the wall in the Dandy & Rose workroom.
There were three new additions to Jim’s Dandy & Rose wardrobe this year.
He was out and about in these, and in some other favourites during the week. I specially loved seeing him wear his new passion flower shirt for his 125th appearance on The Grand Ole Opry.
Onstage at The Ford Theatre, The country Music hall of Fame and Museum
At The Station Inn
At 3rd and Lindsley
On the stage of The Grand Ole Opry
Photograph by Shelly Swanger
Photograph by Shelly Swanger
The Grand Ole Opry – my view from The Bleachers
Photograph by Shelly Swanger
And of course, I took the opportunity to pose alongside him whenever I could!