I hope this blog finds you all healthy and safe. To keep busy (and sane!) I have been delving into my archives. A collection of old press articles and photos. I am reminded of another time when life seemed precarious and precious.
During my rummage, I found this fascinating article about a onetime contemporary of mine, Charlotte Hilton. We shared the same page in the Times of January 4th 1983. She was the Grande Dame, of Lingerie, and I was the new young upstart.
We both supplied Harrods amongst other stores, and met at various trade shows.
An interesting bit of background on her career...
Charlotte Hilton came from Germany in Feb 1939 to join her Jewish husband. They formed a small company making underwear and in 1943 a trim British officer banged on their door; a Captain Kenmore from MI5. He wanted them to make underwear for spies. The work was very hush hush, unobtainable fabrics suddenly became available.
One day Charlotte’s secretary’s nephew came to visit and saw these unobtainable fabrics and laces in the workroom, he realised what was going on ‘Don’t tell me anything’ he said firmly ‘I drop the dammed things’. H was a pilot in the R.A.F.
Charlotte recounted that the spies came for fittings, including the famous Oddette, and had spine chilling stories about how they got through the escape lines. She said that some of them had the most terrible scars.
Sadly at the end of the war, although paid well for their work, there was no glowing letter of thanks.
This information was taken from an article by Meriel McCooey, from the Times colour supplement of July 8th.1984. I could not find any internet reference to the designer herself and her interesting history. Her designs have featured on a few lingerie history blogs and her pieces are for sale on various vintage wesbsites. Perhaps Charlotte Hilton was not her name rather her brand name only, however, I believe that we should not forget, those times and her contribution.
Saturday the 3rd of October was the first session of the Sherston Sewing School. Held in the British Schoolroom in Sherston,(also The Congregational Church)
We were four students, with little or no previous experience, and myself. We wore our masks and socially distancing was easy in such a beautiful and open space.
It was wonderful to meet together all full of enthusiasm to teach, to learn and to be creative together. Much needed in the current climate.
First things first, we had everyone practise with their machines on paper without thread, then thread in cloth, learning to go slowly and carefully, learning foot control and guiding the direction of the stitches. This helped students develop confidence with their machined.
We worked on two projects. Firstly, A lace-edged cotton handkerchief was attempted. This proved to be more challenging than the second project, a simple cover for a cushion, which everyone managed. Some great examples were produced by the students (see pictures) Lucy Tom our village interiors shop was on hand to supply lovely fabric for the cushions.
The atmosphere was great (blessed obviously) and everyone went home feeling that they had had a good experience.
Next weeks lessons are 'make-do and mend'.
The Sherston Sewing School is run by Goug her cousin Sue Palmer, who has been making clothes for HRH Princess Anne for many years.
They teach to small groups, with COVID measures in place, every Saturday. 10am - 4 pm.
For anyone in the Wiltshire area who may be interested, please contact Goug on 07788558035
Leavers Lace: Named from the inventor of the machine that produced it, John Lever, in Nottingham in 1813. It was an adapted version of the Bobbinet machine. The name of the machine was the Leavers machine (the 'a' was added to aid pronunciation in France).
Calais Lace: In the early 19th century, a group of British ‘tulle’ manufacturers from the Nottingham area emigrated to the continent to escape a period of economic unrest, taking their distinctive techniques with them. Many settled in Calais and there resulted in a boom in the Lace industry.
There is also Corded Lace and Eyelash lace which is self-explanatory when you look at their design.
When I began designing my first collection in 1975, lace and in particular colour matching silk was a big part of the process. I would make test batches, dying at home, or gather samples of ribbon in the colour I wanted. I would then take it to The English and French Dyeing company, which opened up after WW1, based in Acton. The two guys running the place, who were in their 80s, were very busy fulfilling orders for the Royal Opera at the time. I was reluctant to try gifting them with lingerie to get to the top of their queue, but it was the way to go and my five rolls of natural silks became Palest Pink Peach, Milky Coffee, Ivory ( not dyed but whetted and stretched) Hot Coral, and Eu de Nil.
Excitingly, as one shop-door closed another was opened last summer, with the launch of Keturah Brown Online. Showcasing signature designs from the brand, reaching beyond the high street bringing this Heritage Brand into a digital age.
A year on, Goug has adapted to the world of online sales, fulfilling orders via her Etsy and Keturah Brown online stores, reaching a new and Global customer base. Goug has embraced country living and even managed a (much deserved) three-month cruise in South America.
Goug talks a little about the big change…
“I now have the best work room ever, with lots of space and all my laces and silks to hand. Wonderful sunlight and a great space to feel inspired. Obviously, I miss my shop and my lovely customers so much but I am in London often to meet and fit by appointment.
The shop and upper parts were showing their Victorian heritage and needed a massive investment from which sadly we, will be recovering for quite some while”
The personal service and made-to measure pieces that Goug’s customers have come to love so much is still available, as Goug mentions, via appointments booked with her. You can get in contact via the website if you would like to arrange this.
Goug is continuing to create new collections and these will be added to the website as they are available. Visit www.keturahbrownlingerie.com where you can browse, buy and sign up to our mailing list.
Last week, London was hit with another of it's usual '30 days of summer' condensed into 72 hours. The capital stripped-off in local parks, terraces, balconies and gardens as the mercury hit 29 degrees. As wonderful and very welcome the weather was, particularly after a very harsh winter, I found myself with my annual dilemma a little earlier than expected...The Summer Wardrobe.
I stood staring into the void of clothes hanging up...a dark abyss of different textures and colours trying to recall clothes I knew I had worn last year (or was it 5 years ago?)...and as I rummaged I began to find things I had no memory of wearing (possible impulse buys that never quite worked outside of the fitting room)
This dilemma was fuelled by the fact I had a meeting to go to on the other side of the City and it was scorching...so it had to be appropriate and practical. Nothing too transparent and nothing too fitted!
A few other things came to light, as they always do on that first hot day of the year, such as forgotten wears and tears (that one always had the intention of repairing but it got thrown to the bottom of the pile at the start or autumn) and the state of some of my lingerie!
Goug's suggestions were...
"These days when your bra strap shows, it doesn't matter and can be part of your outfit as in keeping with current trends...if it is showing make sure it's pretty and that it has a good colour (not faded) and not worn"
"Obviously always take care to wash your white's with only whites and be delicate with your delicates to keep them at there best for longer"
"Those fine summer dresses often needs a slip as the slip will sit on the skin and the dress will then sit on the slip...smoothing out those lumps and bumps"
I would add...Having a good set of summer lingerie pieces in your wardrobe will carry you through the season and will give your confidence to shine in freeing and cool pieces that deserve the (sun)light of day...atleast once a year.
By Celyn Cooke at Keturah Brown