The inspiration behind the design and the concept: The Regency practise of hiring an artist to chalk a design on the floor of a ballroom, dancing across it and sweeping it up in the morning became the centre point of this collection from the very start of the research. The idea of creating a dress to pair with it, the design of/on which would flow into and reflect the drawing beneath came at exactly the same moment. To read more about Regency chalked floors please click here.
The design of both the floor and the dress was created to illustrate empire. At first glance they appear to represent gradeur but amongst the decoration are hints of the damages wraught.
The dress stands on an image of the hemispheres of the globe. This is the one part of the design of the floor that is embroidered on paper. The centre part of this area of the design is embroidered on the train of the dress. Thereby the female figure, representing empire, stands aloft, but also part of, the world.
The embroidery is copied from a late 18th century sampler owned by the V&A, please click here
The design of the chalked floor encorprates the myths and legends that informed knowledge of the globe in centuries prior to the Regency.
The front of the design is divided,side to side, into ocean and land. On both of which Great Britain would strive, throughout the 1800's, for dominance.
The God of the sea rides his fish tailed steed toward the centre from the left and a centaur strides in from the right, over curved and straight lines, the sea and land, respecitvely.. In their wake are two serpents taken from the upper canopy illustrations of mythical beasts in the Banqueting room of The Royal Pavilion.
The compass at the centre of the front of the design is taken from "La Virginea Pars", map of the East coast of North America held in The British Museum. It reflects Britain's loss of America in the American War of Independence in the late 1700's.
please click on the image
The title of this piece is called Fading Glory because the chalked design once created will, soon thereafter be detroyed and the red paper tablecloth from which the dress is created is not colour fast. Therefore it/she will fade overtime, the striking impression she profers gradually fading. To read more about the shae and colour of the dress please click here.
Above and below you can see a series of working images, giving insight into how various parts of the body of the dress were created.
Embroidered along a papery central strip are teeth. The teeth of the soliders whose corpses are known to have been robbed, whilst lying on the ground after the Battle of Waterloo, to be wired into sets of dentures for the wealthy of Regency England.
Building an empire by conquering the world is a grissly business!
And at the back of the design are the sodiers and sailors on whose backs empire was born. On one side two glamorous Regency soldiers reflect the perceived glory of going into battle for ones country. On the other a returned sailor balanced on a wooden leg, begging for coins on the street.
Both these images are from the design of a quilt stiched by hand by a Regency woman named Ann West, held at the V&A's clothworkers centre. To see it in it's entirity please click here.
The fan shape in the centre at the back of the design shows the connection between the military and fashion during the Regency. It is an illustration of: "The only known contemporary plan of the very first Brighton encampment (which was commonly known as the 1793 Downs camp)...still preserved in Worthing Museum, but in a very peculiar format....that years' series of encampments at Waterdown, Ashdown and Brighton & Hove...are all printed on the fabric of an ordinary fan, which is thought to have been produced for sale as a souvenir for an officer's lady."
- The Brighton Garrison 1793-1900 by R.C.Grant
If you'd like to see photos of this fan and read more about the inspiration behind this piece please click here.
The Vagrancy Act we still sometimes enact today, to move the homeless off the streets was first enacted in 1824. It was origianlly introduced because of upper class society's aversion to having to see the damage done to men who'd returned from the Napoleonic wars and found themselves on the streets..