Detailed analysis of several colour fashion sketches from the early twentieth century, originating from the women’s apparel and court costumier, Barrance & Ford of Brighton (1891-1970s), has prompted a critique on age in relation to elite women’s fashions during the Edwardian era.The discovery of the name ‘Viscountess Clifden written on the back of one of the fashion sketches dated 1910-1912, led to an in-depth investigation as to the identity of the Viscountess.
The subsequent realization of her age at the time of the sketch prompted queries regarding the possibility of the Viscountess really being the person depicted in the sketch. Since the juxtaposition between the youthful image and the more mature Viscountess was striking, further analysis and research was needed to reach an informed conclusion.The artist’s probable intention to flatter the Viscountess as a means of generating sales revealed a clever business practice of Barrance & Ford appealing to an individual's perceived age as a means of securing the patronage of older, aristocratic women. During the in-depth visual analysis of the Barrance & Ford fashion sketches, noticeable similarities between the garments of English dress designer Lucile (Lady DuffGordon) and the sketches themselves were detected.
The word ‘bodice’ written on the back of the sketch suggested a discussion between the sketch artist and the subject as to the potential modification of the garment illustrated. Despite the artist’s intention to portray the Viscountess wearing the prevailing mode, the probability of subsequent modifications to the garment provoked further questions regarding ideas of age appropriateness. Analysis of other elite women of the time and their engagement with fashion throughout their lives played a considerable part in the discussion. The name of Viscountess Clifden associated with this particular fashion sketch begged the questions; who was she, what her association with Barrance & Ford was. Was there an underlying connection between age and the engagement of elite women with fashion during that era?
BA(Hons)Fashion and Dress History
21 Dec 2015