Anna's blog

Reflective Statement

As the certain areas where chosen for us to write about this helped a lot when it came to choosing a certain topic.  I looked forward to choosing something that both inspired me and was also something I had an interest in. Researching into different parts of the topic and finding out interesting information, how things were made and where it all stemmed from and their influences and inspirations. Also looking at the imagery of the different things they had created, and the images that were related to the topic  really inspired me and give me an insight into what things looked like at the start of a process and how this had developed into now. It’s also been inspiring to look at other people’s blogs and to see what sort of things they are writing about and their personal interests.

If I were to carry on with my blog I would like to research different people / designers and things that inspire me within my own work and also things that I have created and achieved myself, to show different processes and techniques I have explored within my work, and to share my way of working and being inspired.

Family Photograph


My Great Great Nan

The image I have chosen to look at is of my Great Great Nan she was born in 1860 and the image was taken about 1890. As she is no longer with us I won’t be able to interview her, but I will look into the types of clothing, fabrics and accessories that were worn and used in the 1890’s.

From the photograph I had to establish the era in which it was taken I looked into 80’s and 90’s fashion within the 19th century and the difference between the 1880’s and 1890’s was quite big, with the skirts going from quite a big bustle to a much plainer and straighter skirt and also the sleeves going from being quite straight to become what was known as mutton; puffed at the top and then become more straight at the bottom. Both of these changes are demonstrated in the image of my Great Great Nan so therefore I felt it related more to the 1890’s fashion.

In 1890 cameras had been invented but not to the standard that we use today. Cameras were mainly owned by professional photographers in the 19th so this meant that either they would come to your house or you would visit them. From this photograph it looks as though she has visited the photographer and a scene has been created for the photograph with a seat prop and also a backdrop of some sort.  Photographs also took a long time to take so the subject being photographed would have to wait around for a long time before the photo was taken, which explains why people never smiled in photos, and also why simple sitting down and standing poses were used.

In 1890 the fashion changed quite dramatically going from quite a bustled skirt slim sleeves, and many layers under the dress, to quite a straight plain and loose skirt. With the skirt being left quite plain, the designs on the bodice became more elaborately decorated and with so much change it was said that it was a revelation within fashion.

IMG_3708Detailed Bodices, Plain Skirts.

With the sleeves on dresses becoming extremely large, this then made the waist look tiny in comparison. In previous years women seemed to look a lot larger than they actual were this was due to the way they dressed by making the hips look a lot bigger by using crinoline or a bustle,  making them look out of proportion. But in the 1890’s there was no distortion with the structure of the skirt, with it being fitted at the waist and naturally flowing over the hips, the larger sleeves and the hem of the skirt becoming wider nearer the bottom, created a counterbalance, making the waist appear a lot smaller.

IMG_3691Puffed sleeves and lace insert around the neck like the photo of my Great Great Nan.This Image was taken from a magazine called Woman At Home which was published in the 1890’s and all magazines from 1897 where taken and published as a book which was was located in the library archive.

large hips  Dress with large hip Bustle. dress of 1890 1890 straight dress

Even though skirts were quite plain Petticoats become a lot more elaborate with the end of the skirt creating quite a full shape women would wear petticoats with lots of flounce at the end to hold the skirts out at the bottom, some were also edged with stiff piping cord which made the skirts stand out stiffly.

1890 petticoatDetailed petticoat

With the waist required to be as small as possible and becoming quite understated, women sometimes wearing a blouse and skirt with the clothing not being very structured they depended on a very tight firm under structure, which meant corsetry played quite a vital role within the 1980’s fashion change.

Hairstyles where slightly wavy in texture and then gathered up into a simple knot on the top of the head, the style was very soft. In response to such hairstyles hats become a lot bigger with brims become larger, decorated also with elaborate trimmings, which also included stuffed birds used as decoration. As you can see in the photo of my great great Nan the hat she is wearing is quite largely brimmed with quite a big decorative flower arrangement on the top.

1890s hair1890 Hairstyle

IMG_37101890 HatIMG_37091890 Hat

In the later 1890’s the demand of lighter weight fabrics became more and more popular and also the change in the colour of the fabric becoming a lot paler.  The plain firm textured material that was used earlier within fashion was swapped with a more openly woven material with much more surface detail such as delicate muslins and laces. The colour within the fabrics changed a lot also from quite dark colours to white being a colour that would be worn a lot and also pale blues and mauves.

IMG_3711Lighter Weight Dresses

late 1890's dresses 1973.376a,b_CAMDresses lighter in colour and less fabric

From the image I have of my Great Great Nan you can see many similarities from what I have described from the clothing that was worn in the 1890’s and the clothing she is wearing in the image. She came from a working class background and therefore means the clothing she is wearing in the picture would have been her Sunday best. I found it hard to find information and images about the working class within the 1890’s but feel the information I have found gives a general overview of all fashion within the time frame of the 1890’s.

Penelope Byrde (1992). Nineteenth Century fashion. London: Typest. p83-p87.

Carol Belanger Grafton (1998). Shoes Hats and Fashion Accessories. Canada: Dover Publications. p85-p88.

Nancy Hayden. Women’s Clothing of the 1890s. Available: Last accessed 10/12/13.

Ladies Treasury. (2002). Fashion in the 1890’s. Available: Last accessed 10/12/13.

Vintage Fashions. (2012). 1890’s fashion footage. Available: Last accessed 10/12/13.

Japanese Fans


In Japan the hand fans are a very important symbol within Japanese lifestyle.  Hand fans have a long history within Japan, it is said that Japan was the homeland of the traditional folding fan.

Hand fans had many different purposes, these included warriors as a form of weapon, actors and dancers use them within performance, children use them as a toy and sometimes used within religious ceremonies and events. Below is a video showing a Japanese dancer using fans.

war fam Traditional War Fan

The Japanese believed that each part of the fan had a meaning, the top of the handle shows beginning of life and the ridges within the fan show the many different pathways within life to bring good fortune and happiness.

Evidence has shown that hand fans where used as early as the 6th century, this was discovered on a burial mound wall painting which showed drawings of fans.

burial mounded paninting exampleBurial Mounded Painting Example

The two first main types of Japanese fans were the tuan shan known as the round fan and the bian mian known as the screen fan. From this Japan then developed the folding fan production started for this style of fan in the 6th largest city in Japan.

a round fanA Round Fan.

Fans are used in many different countries also, In China many kung fu masters such as Shaolin monks use fans as a weapon. Korea use hand fans in a style of dance called bunchaechum which is a very popular dance within Korea. And of course the Japanese Geisha are trained to be anonymous as much as possible, this is partly done using a fan to cover the identity of their face.


The use of wood block printing created opportunities to broaden the range of fans shapes and sizes. In the 19th century Japanese fans became popular all over Europe and were exported all over the world. Artists were also inspired by the Japanese fans, painting various designs and scenes onto them.

IMG_3470[1]Block Printed Fan

the-lady-with-fans-portrait-of-nina-de-calliasPainting by  Edouard Manet “The Lady with the Fans”

With Spain being part of the exportation of hand fans, as a child visiting Spain every gift shop sold folding fans, the designs were slightly different mainly being quite floral with a lacy edge around the top and also being darker in colour. The expense of a Japanese fan is more than a Spanish fan due to the materials that are used, but Spanish fans were produced using cheaper materials which made them more accessible for people to buy. The main uses for fans within Spain were to keep you cool.  As I remember we would buy one every time we visited for that reason, creating quite a collection of designs and colours. They were also used as a privacy matter to cover their faces from strangers.

spanish fan2Traditional Spanish Fan

fan-cherry-blossom fanTraditional Japanese Fan

Still now fans are used widely throughout the world whether it is for simply keeping you cool, used as a beautiful decoration within the home or used within culture. The designs that are created for the fans show a piece of a countries culture which I feel (with having so many different Spanish fans) is a lovely way to remember a country.

Spanish fanSpanish Fan


Hand Fan Org. (2006). Japanese Hand Fans. Available: Last accessed 23/11/13.

takkhis. (2013). Beautiful Hand Fans. Available: Last accessed 23/11/13.

Oriental Decor. (-). Japanese Folding Fans. Available: Last accessed 23/11/13.

Adriana Morales. (2010). 11 Facts You Never Knew About Geisha .Available: Last accessed 23/11/13.

Rupert Faulkner (1991). Hiroshige Fan Prints. England: Victoria & Albert Museum; 1st Edition edition.

The S&G Typewriter


Numerous inventors worked on inventing typewriters, the first success of this was the writing ball created by Rasmus Malling-Hasnsen in 19870. The devices appearance resembled the look of a pin cushion.

 1Writing Ball

 From the writing ball came the Sholes and Glidden Type Writer invented by Christopher L Sholes, which started to be produced in 1873 and was sold within the America market in 1974.

Sholes was a part time inventor also working as a newspaper man and a poet. The Sholes typewriter that he invented typed only with capital letters so he then introduced the QWERTY keyboard which is still used widely within most keyboarded products today. The keyboard style was made so that keys would be slightly more separated to allow for the more frequently used keys to not clash and get jammed whilst printing.

The design of the S&G typewriter had a decorative detail on the body of the typewriter making it look like a sewing machine; this was because the typewriters were produced in the same department as the Remington arms company as the sewing machines.

 2The S&G Typewriter

The Sholes and Glidden Typewriter and many earlier typewriters where known as “blind” typewriters. This meant that the type bars were positioned in a circular basket shape underneath the printing surface which meant the writer would have to lift up the carriage to see their work which must have become quite frustrating and time consuming. Also with the earlier typewriters both the upper and lower-case letters had separate keys so one letter would have both lower case key and an upper-case key making keyboard twice the size of a QWERTY keyboard. Below shows an example of the full keyboard and also the “blind” printing surface.


The QWERTY keyboard was introduced as the universal keyboard as it made things so much easier for typing by just having one keyboard. From 1884 to 1891 there were different variations of the QWERTY keyboard typewriters but nothing had been invented to change the blind typing.

The Daughtery Visible was one of the first typewriters to have a visible typing bar so you could see what you were typing. By the 1920’s mostly all typewriters were look a likes and  using the QWERTY keyboard, type bar machines printing through ribbon.


The typewriters that were produced after the 1920’s model just adapted simple things such as creating electric ones which meant not as much effort would have to be put into touching the keys and also a smoother transition of the keys so they wouldn’t jam.


1940s 1940’s

1950's 1950’s

1960's 1960’s

1970's 1970’s

1990's 1990’s

The Soles and Gidden QWERTY keyboard is something that is still being used today on laptops, computer, touch phones and tablets it is something that is used worldwide and was taken from the inventor of the typewriter.  Without this invention who knows what layout of a keyboard we would have, or maybe not have a keyboard at all.

A type writer can be either electric or manual; it has a type key that produces the characters one at a time on a piece of paper that is inserted around the roller within the typewriter. Typewriters have been replaced with computers and printers, but can still be purchased. As still many people use them, I believe they are making a comeback with all different generations of people.

Click here to view a link of an article showing 2012 marked the end of production for typewriters, and the people that still use them.

I own an electric typewriter, I do love the typewriters from the 30’s-50’s  the beautiful ascetic quality when you look at them and also the ascetic quality in the lettering and the way things are personally typed is something a computer could never take over.


TypeWriter Movie. (2011). The Typewriter (In the 21st Century).Available: Last accessed 12/11/13.

Gerry Holt. (2012). Five reasons to still use a typewriter. Available: Last accessed 12/11/13.

Mary Bellis. Typewriters. Available: Last accessed 12/11/13.

Richard Polt. (-). A Brief History of Typewriters. Available: Last accessed 12/11/13.

Typing Through Time: Keyboard History. Available: Last accessed 12/11/13.

Madeleine Vionnet

Madeleine Vionnet is most well known for introducing the Bias cut to the fashion world; from this she produced beautiful and elegant Grecian-style dresses.

Vionnet was born in 1876, Chilleur-aux-Bois, Loiret France. At the age of 11 she started an apprenticeship and from there carried on working as a seamstress moving to London briefly and then returning to Paris and trained within a well know fashion house called Callot Soeurs and then also went on to work with Jacques Doucet.

In 1912 she opened her own fashion house at 50 Avenue Montaigne which was named “Vionnet”. It was open for a little while before World War 1. “Vionnet” Fashion house was one of the first fashion houses to create ready to wear clothing, this was because The House of Vionnet employed 1,100 seamstresses to create these garments.

In 1922 Vionnets designs were inspired by Ancient Greek Art from which the garments flowed freely around the body and where created using the method of bias cutting. As an Expert Couturier she knew that by cutting cloth on the bias this would draped to match the curves of a women’s body making the designs simple and classic. Many of the designs where made of geometric shapes such as squares, triangles and circles, these where then draped over the body to  create a tight fit around the waist and then flared out into a bell shaped skirt. With these designs she completely eliminated the structured dress and created a more comfortable dress. These were based on her love of draped fabric, and worked with fabrics that flowed which meant  that the dresses didn’t hide the figure but showed it off, with soft fabrics such as chiffon, tulle, and crepe de chine.

1921   1924  1924

Below is a video showing how Vionnet constructed her garments from the geometric shapes that she cut on the bias (1minuet 05 seconds in is where this is shown.)

Click here to view another video of how Vionnet’s Designers where constructed.


The way in which Vionnet designed her garments was by draping fabric over a manikin, creating the shape and structure she wanted then she would sketch the designs that were successful and then produce the garments.

1920 1935

With the marvellous discovery of the bias cut clothing, Vionnet dominated the haute couture in the 1930’s, with her beautiful gowns. Vionnets vision of transforming the female form, modernised clothing and her unique cuts of fashion guaranteed her her well known reputation.

1938 Eveing gown 1935

Below is a quote by Vionnet herself:

“The designer at work has a woman and some fabric, and with these two elements must create something harmonious. Until recently, we abused these two. We seemed to view women’s bodies as shameful objects whose shapes had to be concealed as much as possible. As for the fabrics, we treated them like young children, incapable of managing on their own, for which all sorts of supports were essential: stays, interfacing and stiffeners. I wanted to rehabilitate these two innocents and to demonstrate that a piece of fabric falling freely over an unfettered body can still form a harmonious ensemble. I was looking for the dress that would automatically find its original shape when at rest, like a soldier stepping back into the ranks. The formula for the well-cut dress.”

Something that concerned Vionnet as a designer was her designs being copied. It was common in the 1920’s and 30’s for clothing manufactures to send employees to sketch or photograph the haute couture designs and re produce them in different fabrics. The knock off’s would appear within cities around the world within weeks. Vionnet considered copying the same as theft, and was well known for the saying “Death to copyists!” And therefore fought for copyright laws to be enforced within the fashion industry.

1931 1930-35

Vionnet closed her house when the Second World War started, but once the war was over she did not reopen the house. She left an important legacy when she closed her shop; she donated a lot of her material such as designs, photographs, books, prototypes and finished garments to the Union française des arts du costume, the forerunner of the Musée de la mode.

Rose cape

Madeleine Vionnet showed her last collection in 1939, and she died in 1975. Until the end of her life she still continued to look at and comment on haute couture. Her legacy still lives on. In 1988 the name “house of Vionnet” was bought by Araund Lummen from which he sold perfume and accessories.  The label is now owned by Matteo Marzotto and in March 2010 they unveiled a collection in honour of Vionnet, taking inspiration from the original Vionnet designs, by using draping within the collection.

Thank you for taking the time to look

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Sources :

FRANCE 24 English. (2009). Looking back on 1920s and 30s women’s fashion. Available: Last accessed 23/10/13.

le modalogue. (2010). Madeleine Vionnet. Available: Last accessed 23/10/13.

Madeleine Vionnet. Available: Last accessed 23/10/13.

Philippa Campsie. (2010). Madeleine Vionnet: Cut on the Bias. Available: Last accessed 23/10/13.

Jacqueline Demornex (1991). Madeleine Vionnet / Jacqueline Demornex ; preface, Madeleine Chapsal ; photographs, Patricia Canino. London: Thames and Hudson.

A bit about me

My name is Anna Grant  I have recently completed a BTEC and a Foundation in art and design and I am now currently studying Textile Design at De Montfort University

I have always had a keen interest in constructed textiles, hand knitting being one I have practised with my Nan since I was little and weave I have explored a little on a make shift handmade loom (creating some half decent samples.) As well as constructed textiles I can’t wait to explore other textile pathways at university.


Stitch Embroidery using the sewing machine is something I have also become very interested in, with it being another way of drawing and portraying my ideas.

An era which inspires me is the 1940’s 50’s, a mark in history for women becoming their own person and a big change in fashion. Taking a big jump from war-time clothing being masculine and non structured to structured and sophisticated, with a transformation in print and colour.

With so much change within design, structuring to clothing and also the change within women’s rights and how they have made and impacted on both the fashion world and everyday life is what I find inspiring. Christian Dior’s 1947 ‘New Look’ is an example of the change within fashion (black and white image below.)

Photography is another way I like to capture interesting compositions and objects that I find inspiring I sometimes use them as inspiration within my own work and also take images that interest me.