Thursday, July 21, 2011

The contents of a fabric covered box in the Brain Watkins House

 There are a number of boxes in the Brain Watkins House holding textile related items, the Cadbury Box with its hundreds of buttons that we have had a quick look at already, mahogany boxes, (one that appears to have been made for his daughter by Mr. Brain himself), and among them this one, containing a wonderful collection of buckles, from the Victorian era through to the 1960's.

The box with its contents when first opened.

 Here the contents of the box are laid out, ready to be catalogued.

 What does this box and its contents have to tell us?  Let us look through some of the items in this wonderful little archive of fashion history in Tauranga and see what we have.

 A Victorian buckle.

E.P.N.S. Electro plated nickel silver, known as nickel silver, became widely used after 1840 as a cheap substitute for silver.

The colour of the metal and the design of this buckle suggest it is of a similar era.

This brooch has diamantes in brass coloured mounts, set onto metal filigree work.  Stylistically it appears to be from the late 1800's to early 1900's.   Filigree work uses twisted metal wires shaped in curving patterns, soldered together at certain points creating an effect of lace.

On the reverse are 3 metal hooks where the metal brooch was attached to the garment.  The metal used in this brooch could be pinchbeck, an alloy of zinc and copper, used as a cheap imitation of gold.

Through the last two centuries there has been a love of the fashions of the 1700's, and this buckle with its portrait of an elegant women of that era is a reflection of that.

The powdered wig, and large straw hat with its floral trim and ribbons, are reminiscent of the Rococo period so popular in France at the time of Marie Antoinette.  Straw hats were fashionable as part of morning dress and this created a certain frustration for the fashionable lady of the day, who had a beautiful new straw hat, but knew it was unfashionable to rise before 11am.  What to do?  A fellow blogger Lauren has a great post on this on her blog: Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide.

The reverse of the buckle.

This buckle is made from an early lightweight plastic, possibly celluloid, and unfortunately it has broken in half.  I love the style and wonder what the dress it was originally worn with was like.  Possibly a slim fitting navy crepe dress with gold buttons, and a kick pleat at the back of the narrow calf length skirt.

This bakelite buckle is typical of those worn in the 1930's, and below the 1930 Sear's Catalogue shows the style of dress the buckle may have been worn with.

 I love the shape and form of this buckle, it is so Flash Gordon with it's Art Deco styling.
The 1936 film serial, that told the story of Flash Gordon and his team on a mission to stop the planet Mongo from colliding with earth, and his encounters with the evil Emperor Ming.
 One of the space ships, wonderful stuff.  They sounded like lawn mowers as they moved across the screen with the occasional glimpse of the wire holding them aloft.  Favourite Sunday morning television. But I digress.

 The Deco styling of this metal buckle is suggestive of the 1930's.

The crepe fabric this buckle is covered with has heavy staining, but it has an elegant shape.

A new hard plastic, this buckle is post 1940's.

The metal frame of this buckle is covered with white vinyl.

Although this belt was not in the box with the buckles, I had to include it to finish this post.  It is part of the Brain Watkins House collection, a thin red plastic belt from the 1970's.  Isn't it fantastic?  In this post I hope to have illustrated how fashion is not only influenced by the culture and events of the times, but also by new materials and ways of using those materials.


  1. I love the art deco one and how it took you into a little talk about film :P
    The blue 1940's one is so cute!!! What a treasure chest! You must've had a ball Zhozho

  2. Hi,

    I am a lace bobbin historian and read your blog with interest. Could i correspond with you privately re the bobbins (and the family history) please?
    brido11 AT
    you can see my publications herebut scroll down a looong way before you come to Brian Lemin.