Halloween costume inspiration

At Chelsea Reference Library we are in need of some last minute Halloween costume inspiration.  Here are a few ideas that we have found in our amazing Fashion & Costume collection in case you are in the same boat!

In a book about costume design in the movies we found these great images from Beetlejuice:


In Costume Design by Deborah Nadoolman Landis

We also had a look in our Vogue archives for inspiration from the 70’s.  How about something like this glam outfit?

Vogue, October 1976
Vogue, October 1976

Or back in the 1957, this great 50’s outfit appeared on October’s Vogue cover:

Vogue, October 1957
Vogue, October 1957

Or you can’t go wrong with an aloha shirt, and we have a book full of them to look at for inspiration, along with some interesting history of the Hawaiian shirt:

The Aloha Shirt
The Aloha Shirt

The Aloha Shirt by Dale Hope and Gregory Tozian

Here is a great image of the Gothic & Lolita fashion movement in Japan taken around Haloween:

Gothic and Lolita
Gothic and Lolita

In Gothic & Lolita by Masayuki Yoshinaga and Katuhiku Ishikawa, Phaidon Press

Speaking of which, we have a talk coming up at Chelsea Library entitled Alice and the pirates: Alice in Wonderland and the dark and the cute in Japanese Fashion.  Josephine Rout from the V&A will be looking at how Alice has influenced Japanese sub-culture, and especially the iconic ‘Lolita look’ which developed in Japan in the 1980s.

The talk will be on Thursday 19 November, 6pm to 7.30pm at Chelsea Library. 

Make sure that you come along!

Mario Testino captured a great anarchic look for Vogue in 2006 to take dressing up inspiration from!

Vogue, May 2006
Vogue, May 2006

And if you have a pet, how about getting them dressed up for Haloween?  We enjoyed looking through a book that we found of different outfits for your dog:

Dog Fashion
Dog Fashion

Dog Fashion by Susie Green


Dressed to Impress? Fashion and photographs from the early twentieth century

Karen Ullersperger, Reference Librarian, writes: 

Have you ever looked at old family photographs from before 1940 and wondered what they could tell you?  I found out that they can give a direct connection into the lives of the people portrayed in them through the clothes that people wore.

In an absolutely fascinating presentation at Chelsea Library in late October by the fashion expert and author Jayne Shrimpton, I learnt about history of fashion in ordinary family photographs.

Jayne Shrimpton (www.jayneshrimpton.co.uk/)
Jayne Shrimpton (www.jayneshrimpton.co.uk)

In the nineteenth century photography was a cutting edge technology, but by the early twentieth century photography became more accessible with the advent of the Box Brownie camera. This meant that ordinary families could start to take their own photos and as a result pictures were more informal and can give us more information on the daily lives and fashion preference of our forebears. This eventually began to replace the more formal professional images often printed on postcards done in a studio setting.

Jayne showed us that by reading the fashions in a photograph correctly you can date images, but you can also study the history of fashion by looking at the images.

Fashion  a hundred years ago  was moving away  from the  formal and quite restrictive styles of the late Victorian era.The period between 1910-14  saw the development of a much more practical style with the introduction of shirts and ties for working women,  and the gradual raising of hemlines. That fashion staple the pencil skirt first appeared. It was during this time the lounge suit for men began to appear and moustaches became all the rage.

Women of all classes would dress for formal occasions, and we saw some great images of women in afternoon dress of linen or cotton, wearing extremely large hats and gloves even when taking tea with their neighbours outside the back door.

Children’s clothing began to change: some of the photos we were shown had little boys still dressed as girls until they were of an age to be “ breeched”, when they would start to wear trousers or even shorts. By 1914 girl’s dress was moving towards a more boyish or more practical style, maintaining their femininity by wearing a huge bow on the side of their heads.

Family, 1918(Family Photographs & how to date them by Jayne Shrimpton)
Family, 1918 (Family Photographs & How to Date Them by Jayne Shrimpton)

The development of more active life styles led to the development of sportswear and also influenced the introduction of knitwear for a more casual look. Jayne showed us images of specific clothing for cycling, golf, and tennis and for the more wealthy and intrepid ski-ing and skating outfits

During World War One women’s garments became shorter, they began to cut their hair shorter and the overall look was much looser. Many young women undertook war work whether in factories or in the Women’s Land Army (est. 1917), where for the first time women wore breeches or jodphurs, covered by an overall coat to maintain modesty. Of course after the war it was straight back to wearing skirts.

When dating your family photographs Jayne advise looking not only the rise and fall of hemlines, but also what people are doing and what is in the background, for example the modes of transport, so if there is a car you can often date the image from the make and model.

In the 1920s people still “Dressed to Impress” but studio images were in decline and these would only be taken for special occasions such as weddings, christenings etc. In these images as Jayne explained, you can see a history of fashion through the generations with older women still wearing black floor length gowns and their daughters and granddaughters  in more contemporary clothes and hairstyles.

Family, c. early 1920s (Family Photographs & how to date them by Jayne Shrimpton)
Family, c. early 1920s (Family Photographs & How to Date Them by Jayne Shrimpton)

By the late twenties and early thirties the photos showed another shift  for both men and women. This is particularly true of sport and leisure wear. During this  period  it became increasingly fashionable  to have a suntan and as a result women’s bathing costumes began to change from the modest and concealing fashions of the early 20’s  to the much skimpier versions with cutaway sections  by the 30’s, and other beachwear  clothes  such as  the introduction  of beach  pyjama’s.

Swimwear, 1934 (Family Photographs & how to date them by Jayne Shrimpton)
Swimwear, 1934 (Family Photographs & How to Date Them by Jayne Shrimpton)

Men’s swimwear generated some discussion after the presentation  because  men used to swim in the nude but with the introduction of mixed bathing this was no longer acceptable. By late Victorian times they were wearing  trunks but with a vest section which everyone agreed was to hold the trunks up as they were of a knitted fabric . Most of us may have heard a story from our grandparents about their swimwear being so wet and heavy it fell down when they came out of the water!

During this time men’s began to wear informal styles, flannel trousers, sports jumpers, plus fours, and even on occasion shorts. Three piece suits became more relaxed, and had a boxier style; pinstripes were popular as was the Trilby hat.

Women’s and girl’s hemlines rose even further to knee length and their hair became shorter. Knitwear became an established part of dress and new fabrics such as jersey and rayon enabled more women to look stylish and modern and to keep up with the latest trends.

August 1937 (Family Photographs & how to date them by Jayne Shrimpton)
August 1937 (Family Photographs & How to Date Them by Jayne Shrimpton)

I went home after the talk and dug out some of the family photos and looked at them with renewed interest-  large hats,  hairstyles, hemlines, were all there and as a result of Jayne’s talk I  was able to  get a better idea of the dates.

If you are interested in fashion, or forthcoming fashion related events,  why not join our mailing list by e-mailing your name and contact details to libraries@rbkc.gov.uk. Or, if you follow this blog, you will see regular features on our fashion and costume  collection, and you can look at photographic images from our archives in our local studies Library Time Machine blog.

With thanks to Jayne Shrimpton, who allowed us to use her images here. You can find these photos, and much more, in her book Family Photographs & How to Date Them. 

Shrimpton, Jayne.  Family Photographs & How to Date Them. (Berkshire: Countryside Books, 2008) pp.123, 138, 161 and 163.


Fashion on display- new images at Chelsea Library

Reference Librarian, Gillian Nunns, writes:

Chelsea Reference Library had a bit of space on the wall above our costume collection, and what better way to fill it than with some beautiful images from our fashion and costume periodicals?

Chelsea Fashion Collection & our new fashion images
Chelsea Fashion Collection & our new fashion images

Staff at the library were asked to pick their favourite images from a shortlist, and choosing was tricky! The images, depicting costume spanning the Regency and Victorian eras, were all picked from our own magazine archives of La Belle Assemblee, The English Woman’s Domestic Magazine and Les Modes Parisiennes. We like the fact that the winners show how the shapes and styles of fashionable dress changed over 5 decades:

La Belle Assemblee November 1808
La Belle Assemblee November 1808

Classical Greece influenced dress was at the height of fashion in 1808, featuring a high empire waist line and long straight skirts. Woman dampened the muslin draperies so that they clung to their figure!


La Belle Assemblee November 1812
La Belle Assemblee November 1812

This evening dress from 1812 features a great turban – indoor caps for daywear weren’t that fashionable in this era but essential for evening wear and turbans were a very popular choice.


La Belle Assemblee 1828
La Belle Assemblee 1828

By 1928 a very different silhouette was in fashion –with so called leg-o’-mutton sleeves and skirts with tiny waists and wide bases. Check out the elaborate trimmings and hats!


Les Modes Parisiennes 1852
Les Modes Parisiennes 1852

By the 1850’s ladies skirts were so domed that they had to be supported by hoped cages called crinolines and lots of petticoats.


 English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872
English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872

And then by the 1870’s the fashion was to have a flat front of the skirt, with lots of fabric pushed to the back… called a bustle. This image features a popular style called the Dolly Varden (Charles Dickens fans will get the reference) – where you have an overskirt which is shorter at the front with the sides and back bunched up.

Here are a few other images that were on the shortlist but didn’t make the final cut. We hope you like our choices!

Les Modes Parisiennes 1852
Les Modes Parisiennes 1852
English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872
English Woman’s Domestic magazine 1872
La Belle Assemblee 1828.
La Belle Assemblee 1828.


The colours of these prints are really vibrant even after all these years, but we also loved seeing some amazing pictures of the actual fabrics in one of the books that we have in our collection – Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston published by Victoria & Albert Museum:

Promenade Dress made of silk plush. British 1855-57
Promenade Dress made of silk plush. British 1855-57
Woman’s dress of woven silk with applied plated trimming, lined with linen. British, about 1805.
Woman’s dress of woven silk with applied plated trimming, lined with linen. British, about 1805.
Day dress (sleeve detail) of block printed cotton.  British, 1825-30 (page 194)
Day dress (sleeve detail) of block printed cotton. British, 1825-30 (page 194)
Evening Dress made of machine-made silk bobbin net, hand embroidered.  British, about 1810
Evening Dress made of machine-made silk bobbin net, hand embroidered. British, about 1810
Women’s shoes made of silk and linen satin lined with kid and linen with a flat leather sole.  British, 1830s-40
Women’s shoes made of silk and linen satin lined with kid and linen with a flat leather sole. British, 1830s-40
Bustle made of horsehair woven with linen  British, 1870-75
Bustle made of horsehair woven with linen, British, 1870-75

To find out a bit about costume in this era we also read History of Women’s Costume by Marion Sichel. Come along to Chelsea Library to find lots more about the world of Costume and Fashion, or log on to Berg Online with your library card!


The Chelsea Blog – May 2013

Chelsea Library
Chelsea Library

Welcome to the May blog post from Chelsea Library. Lots of exciting things have been happening in the reference library at Chelsea so over to the staff to tell us more….

Adult Learners’ Week 2013

Adult Learners' Week 2013
Adult Learners’ Week 2013

In Chelsea Reference Library last week we got involved in Adult Learners’ Week by teaching some classes about getting more out of online information. From finding online career advice that you can trust to using our online Berg Fashion Library, we have really enjoyed hearing about our student’s different interests and helping them to do more online! (To access the Berg Fashion Library you’ll need a Kensington and Chelsea library membership).

We will be running more classes soon, so if you are interested, check out what we will be teaching next on the library events page.

And speaking of the fashion library, having been to the cinema recently we were inspired to display some of our books on 1920’s fashion that are in our Costume Collection.

What Daisy Buchanan May Have Worn
What Daisy Buchanan May Have Worn

Great facts about Chelsea Reference Library

#2: The Chelsea Gallery

Chelsea Gallery
Chelsea Gallery

 Did you know Chelsea Reference Library has space to display art?

The Chelsea Gallery, which is ideally located on the Kings Road in the heart of Chelsea, is a perfect place to hold art exhibitions. The gallery has been showing a wide range of exhibitions of some fine artwork by artists based inside and outside the UK for over twenty years. To date, we have had talented artists from around the world, including the USA, Philippines, Turkey, Japan, Iran and more, showcasing their paintings, sculptures and other artwork in the gallery receiving much attention and praise from the public.

 Our gallery space is beautifully presented, spacious and can be hired at an affordable rate. Whether you happen to be an amateur artist or an accomplished professional, the Chelsea Gallery is a great place to showcase your artwork.

 To find our more about the gallery visit the  Chelsea Gallery page on our website and the gallery is on Facebook too.  

The Chelsea Reference Library Staff

The Chelsea Blog – April 2013

Chelsea Library
Chelsea Library

Hello from us all at Chelsea Library! Chelsea Children’s Library has been very busy as we ran a number of successful children’s events over the school holidays. This month we’re starting a new mini series on The Chelsea Blog – some interesting  facts about Chelsea Reference Library.

Children’s events

Our events this month tied in with the London wide Cityread London campaign. This year’s book is ‘A Week In December’ by Sebastian Faulks. We tailored our craft events to themes in the novel.

Chelsea Children's Library City Reads
A London Underground bookmark

For our first event we prepared materials with a London Underground and football theme. Boys and girls relished making their very own designed bookmarks.

A football bookmark
A football bookmark
Another football bookmark!
Another football bookmark

And as you can see the results were impressive! The children then gathered around for a Thomas the Tank engine story.

Easter crafts
Easter crafts

Our next event was on the lines of an Easter egg hunt only this time we used miniature chocolate footballs. First of all the children cut out a card template and then assembled with glue a little Easter basket . This was then filled with shredded paper to resemble straw.

An Easter bunny mask
An Easter bunny mask

We hid clues for the hunt  throughout the children’s library  and   excitedly the boys and girls went off in search of the chocolate balls. We then read ‘Football crazy’ by Colin  McNaughton.

Baby rhyme time was exciting this month as it had a London theme  too – we all sang:

  • London Bridge is falling down
  • Oranges and lemons
  • Pussy cat, pussy cat where have you been?
  • Do you know the muffin man?

Everyone joined in and promised to come to storytime the next day where we continued the London theme – we adapted ‘Puss in Boots’ and  to a London setting and the Marquis of Carabas became the Marquis of Sloane Square  and the river in the story changed to the Thames.

Details of when our children’s events are can be found on the ‘What’s on page’ on our website.

Rob Symmons

Lending Librarian

Great facts about Chelsea Reference Library

#1.The Fashion Collection

 Chelsea Reference Library has an extensive collection of fashion books as well as a large archive of fashion magazines dating back to 1924.

Traditional costume
Traditional costume

The book collection covers a wide range of subjects such as costume and fashion history, regional and national costumes, occupational attire, military uniforms and different types of accessories including jewellery, shoes, hats etcetera. Our fashion books are beautifully illustrated and have great content. The fashion and costume collection is widely used by students from Chelsea College of Art and Design based in Chelsea as well as other library users with a particular interest in fashion.

Vogue Magazine - January 2013
Vogue Magazine – January 2013

Our magazine archives include Vogue Magazine (1923 till present) Harper’s Bazaar (1950 till present, albeit with a small gap in the sequence) and L’Officiel (1947-2001). We also have a small collection of Manufacturing Clothier (1973-1988) and Vogue USA.

More information can be found on our costume collection web page.

The Chelsea Reference Library Staff

What lies beneath part 1: from crinolines to bustles

We have a fantastic costume collection at Chelsea Reference Library and Gillian Nunns, one of our Triborough Reference Librarians has been taking a look….

I was very interested to read our Local Studies Librarian’s post about the seemingly bizarre story of crinolines, which had me looking through our costume collection in search of stories of undergarments and their place in history and fashion.

As the crinoline fashion gradually subsided in the early half of the 1860s, the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine reported as early as 1860 that

‘The iron reign of the “Crinoline” is undoubtedly, but gradually, coming to and end.’

And as it did so skirts morphed into into a narrower skirt but with a bustle at the back.  Here is an illustration from Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, October 1869.

Illustration from 'Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine' October 1869
Illustration from ‘Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’ October 1869

 Which of course required different support. This became known as the ‘tournure”, involving different kinds of heavy support for each layer – steel, horsehair and whalebone were used, for example.  Here are some images that we found on a page of The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine also from 1869.

Panier tournure from 'Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine' 1869
Panier tournure from ‘Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’ 1869
Horsehair tournure from 'Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine' 1869
Horsehair tournure from ‘Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’ 1869
Petticoat worn over a tonure from 'Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine' 1869
Petticoat worn over a tonure from ‘Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’ 1869
Crinoline from 'Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine' 1869
Crinoline from ‘Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’ 1869

The last is a sort of cinoline, but altered to emphasise the new bustle fashion, allowing for a straight front of the skirt with a big bustle at the back. 

We can always count on Punch to satirise such trends in fashion.  The first appearance of a crinoline in Punch is in 1856, and the fashion is described as “Crinolineomania”.

Crinoline cartoon in Punch, 1856
Crinoline cartoon in Punch, 1856

And another from the same year.

Another crinoline cartoon in Punch, 1856
Another crinoline cartoon in Punch, 1856

In 1857 Dr. Punch considers of the crinoline that

‘If he were called upon to fix the spot precisely where the malady broke out, without hesitation he would point to Paris’.

Although I doubt that Dr Punch would have done, considering the amount of fun that the crinoline afforded him.  And in fact, I found out that many undergarment fashions might have been lost to history completely if it were not for publications that satirized them. 

The crinoline is described in Punch as a “depopulating influence[…]”

 “The mode now prevailing is one of such extravagance that it is continually demanding fresh sacrifices, and ladies have to choose between a fine dress and a family, for no income but a Rothchild’s can provide for both.”

 As I read more and found about later and earlier eras in fashion, I was interested in how the history of Western fashion is ruled by an obsession with the silhouette; so that when a desired shape comes into fashion, its boundaries end up being pushed to the extremes.  Norah Waugh makes an interesting point about this in her book Corsets and Crinolines.

 “This over-emphasis of line has given a curious underlying rhythm to women’s clothes and become an almost unwritten law of design.  A longer slender silhouette gradually begins to widen at the base, emphasis shifts from length to breadth, and when the greatest circumference has been reached, there is a collapse, a folding up, and a return to the long straight line”

This point was not lost in the pages of Punch in an article called “Philosophy of Fashion”

 “When hoops went out of vogue nigh on a Century ago, the ladies vowed that scanty petticoats were infinitely prettier; and they vied with one another in reducing their dimensions, until their skirts became so shrunken that they could hardly move their feet with the limited circumference.  So doubtless, will it be again, now Crinoline is doomed […] Already we see signs of the change approaching.  Ladies fresh from Paris startle our eyes now-a-days by appearing in what at first sight we may fancy are their night dresses.  Of course, when one tide sets in, all the female world will swim with it”
And in my next post we will see what happened next…..
Gillian Nunns, Reference Librarian
Gillian Nunns

Gillian Nunns

Triborough Reference Librarian, Chelsea Reference Library

Further information

The sources used for this post are all available at Chelsea Reference Library except Punch which is available at Kensington Central Reference Library.

  • Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh, 1954
  • Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, October 1869
  • Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, September 1867
  • Punch,  August 1856
  • Punch, October 1856

Strike a Pose – Vogue Magazine at Chelsea Library

Following on from our previous blogs highlighting the special fashion collection held at Chelsea library, we have gathered a few images and covers with a Christmas theme.

See our previous blog posts on Vogue covers,   Japanese Winter kimonos and Chinese Lotus slippers.

Chelsea Library has copies of Vogue Magazine, going back to the mid 1920s. Vogue not only gives an idea of the fashions at the time, but also reflects society. The Christmas issue of Vogue in 1939 gives a picture of glamour in war-time Britain. 

Christmas Vogue Magazine cover 19??
Christmas Vogue Magazine cover 1939

Vogue Christmas stocking ideas for the woman who has everything. Christmas gift ideas for ‘a glamour girl’ include brands still familiar today, such as Coty, Yardley, Bronnley and Innoxa.

Vogue Christmas stocking ideas
Vogue Christmas stocking ideas

Gifts of beauty, suggestions by Elizabeth Arden.

Gifts of beauty from Elizabeth Arden
Gifts of beauty from Elizabeth Arden

Auxiliary Red, by Cyclax, is the lipstick for Service Women.

Auxilary Red
Auxilary Red

Elegance and glamour does not have to be limited to outside the house. The coat below is desctibed as bright as a brazier and as warm, Balenciaga’s resounding red broadcloth coat buttoned down the front to a cossetted waist, spreading to a voluminous skirt (superb as a housecoat too). Match it with Cylax’s new make-up, “Auxillary Red”.

Balenciaga's red broadcloth coat
Balenciaga’s red broadcloth coat

Debenhams and Freebody are advertising their fur sale.

Fur sale at Debenham and Freebody
Furs from Debenham and Freebody

‘In Paris Now’ women might go shopping wearing Schiaprarelli but they still have to ‘travel in crowded carriages’.

In Paris Now
In Paris Now

From Books to Beat the Black-out: There is a tendency to regard all evacuee tots as problem children. Possibly they would prove less problematic if given some of the books listed here. Titles include Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Chin Pao and the Giant Pandas by Chiang Lee and Joseph Haydn: The Merry Little Peasant by Wheeler and Deucher. Old Possum by T S Eliot is still a favourite, but I’m not sure how the others would be received these days.

Blackout images of famous places in London
Blackout images of famous places in London

We hope you enjoyed these images but nothing beats looking at the originals! So pop into Chelsea Library to slip back in time via the Vogue time-portal, each edition is bound in a very chic blue.

Useful links

by Debby Wale, Triborough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library