World’s Oldest Pants!

There has been some excitement in the archaeological community this week about a find of the bodies of two men.   The bodies were found in the Tarim Basin, which is on the eastern end of the silk road as it passes into China.  They died roughly 3000 years ago.

It makes a lot of sense that horseback riding would bring about the development of leg clothes.  Skin is subject to chafing on long rides.  What’s even more wonderful is that these pants are decorated with contrasting yarn woven into the base cloth.  This means they weren’t just functional, but that their maker wanted them to be attractive, too.

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Vines and Whorls from the Anglo-Saxons

Last month I wrote a bit about my obsession with curving vines and acanthus leaves.  Someone at the British Museum must have heard my cry, and just posted this about how to decode (and thereby reuse!) the complicated knots and whorls of Anglo-Saxon art.  The British Museum being the foremost holder of such treasures, not surprisingly.

For your summertime projects, I offer this:

And I hope it excites you as much as it did me.

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Making it Up

Here at FIT, we have many resources that offer possibilities to inspire you.  As I reshelved materials one morning, I came across a title from the 1950s that I’d never looked at before.  It offers patterns and measurements for laying out a range of fashionable contemporary garments.  Since I love that era for fashion, I immediately scanned a few articles to show you.



The Maker Up was a trade magazine for British garment manufacturers.  It seems to have begun in 1939 (Volume 1), and later merged with a competing magazine, Manufacturing Clothier, in 1974.  The Gladys Marcus Library is fortunate to have fairly complete holdings of The Maker Up from 1954 through 1965.




Describing itself as “The accredited organ of the garment-making, wholesale clothing, made-up furnishings, smallwares and fabric-laying industries,”  this London-based magazine has reviews of Paris shows, reports on fabrics for the next season, advertisements for all kinds of manufacturing equipment, notions, fabric mills (complete with many swatches), and other tools of the trade.  But from the point of view of a tailor with patternmaking skills and a penchant for 50s vintage looks, I find the most interesting articles in this magazine to be those that include pattern layouts and details and cutting instructions for new and trendy garments.









Here is one such set of pattern with instructions.  This big A-line coat would be perfect for the variable weather of spring, and fits into the current trend for architectural shapes.  Each of the construction layers, such as interfacing and lining are included in the diagrams.

If you want to take a look at this pattern in the original, come to the 6th floor Periodicals and Electronic Services Department desk and ask for The Maker Up, February 1957 issue, pages 146-9.

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To dress or not to dress, that is the question!

In honor of William Shakespeare’s birthday yesterday, we found this list from Harper’s Bazaar online of the best-costumed films of his plays:


clrnleo1.  Clare Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio play the leads in “Romeo and Juliet”, in Baz Lerman’s 1996 film. This is a modern-dress adaptation of the play.  We don’t have this movie, but we have various copies of the play on the 5th floor, in the Main Reading Room at PR2759 .G8.



lizanddick2.  Liz Taylor plays Katerina in “Taming of the Shrew”, in Franco Zefferelli’s 1967 film, based on the artwork of Raphael and Lorenzo Lotto (c. 1530s).

While we don’t have a copy of this version where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton play the tempestuous Katerina and Petrucchio, we do have the play itself on the 5th floor, in the Main Stacks, PR2832.A2 H3.

We have lots of great books on Elizabeth Taylor and her personal style, as well.  For example, here is a new book on her: Elizabeth Taylor : her life in style, kept on the 4th floor in Art Reference PN2287.T18 K45 2011.



3.  Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting play Juliet and Romeo in Franco Zefferelli’s gorgeous 1968 version of the play.  Costumes for both this and Taylor’s version of “Shrew”, above, were designed by Danilo Donati, who won an Oscar for these.  We have a copy of this film down in the DVD collection on the 5th floor:  DVD PR2831 .A23 2000.


kennemma4.  Kenneth Branagh made this adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” in 1993, when he was still married to Emma Thompson.  The two of them play the central pair of lovers in this comedy.  We don’t have the film, but the play can be found on the 5th floor, in the Main Stacks, PR2828 .A1 2007.



kennkate5.   Kenneth Branagh also made this version of “Hamlet” in 1996, with Kate Winslett as Ophelia.

We don’t have this version of the show, but we have several other famous film versions.  These are in the DVD collection, on the 5th floor: DVD PN1997 .H3649 2007.  This version stars Ethan Hawke as Hamlet and was directed by Michael Almereyda.


Another version we have is the famous 1948 film which stars Laurence Olivier as Hamlet.  This is also in the DVD collection on the 5th floor: DVD PN1997 .H365 2006.


6. The next stars on this list are Dame Judi Dench and Gwyneth Paltrow in “Shakespeare in Love”.  The costumes were designed by Sandy Powell, and all three of the above-mentioned women won Oscars for this film.  

gwynI confess that this is one of *my* personal favorites, partly because of the beautiful and fun ways Tom Stoppard adapted Shakespeare’s own words, and partly because the costumes are so sumptuous (even if they are a bit Victorian-looking.)  We have this film on the 5th floor, DVD PN1997 .S49 1998.


midsummer107. The last film on Harper’s Bazaar’s list is the 1999 version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Tatiana, Queen of the Fairies.  This is another movie we don’t have a copy of, but you can find the play on the 5th floor in the Main Stacks, atPR2827 .A1 1993.


We hope this listing and the pictures it included will encourage you to hunt down all of the film versions of Shakespeare’s plays.  And in the meantime, Happy 450th Birthday, William Shakespeare, Poet of Our Hearts!



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