Saturday 4 August 2012

The Lady Mayoress of London, Mrs Fanshawe's Spitalfields Silk Dress

In the Museum of London is a splendid court dress of Spitalfields silk traditionally thought to have been worn by Mrs. Ann Fanshawe when her father, Crisp Gascoyne, was Lord Mayor of London in 1752-53. Mrs. Fanshawe acted as her father's Lady Mayoress as her mother had died in 1740.

The dress made from a Spitalfields woven white silk and silver was made for canlelight with its brocaded alternating motifs of silver cornucopia from which spill polychrome flowers, barley and hops, and silver merchant's packs, the ground covered with silver strip. The merchant's packs, barley and hops incorporated in the design of the silk allude to Crisp Gascoyne's profession as a London merchant and member and Master of the Brewers' Company. It was usual for silks to be woven in lengths sufficient to make several dresses, but on this occasion the design was likely made for just this one dress. The lead time for weaving the cloth was six months and the time for making up the garment was little more than a week. There is a wonderful account of this garment and its making together with how it would have been worn in this fabulous book, which I recommend unreservedly for your enjoyment - hours of enjoyment! And don't forget the authoritative books on silk and silk designs by Natalie Rothstein.

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