Henry Poole at the Bowes Museum

Yesterday I ventured north up the A1 to the Bowes Museum (http://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/).  It has been almost 30 years to the day (school trip in April 1984), since my first (and until now last) visit to the Bowes Museum so I was especially looking forward to seeing what this provincial art museum had to offer.

Henry Poole & Co exhibition within the fashion hall of the Bowes Museum

Sample suits and lengths of cloth form an integral part of the exhibition
Sample suits and lengths of cloth form an integral part of the exhibition

My reason for making this particular journey was to view the Henry Poole and wool cloth exhibition.  Henry Poole & Co, being the oldest tailoring establishment on Savile Row, founded in 1806 and granted a royal warrant by Queen Victoria, has held one ever since and has a “hall of fame” list including nearly every head of state and royal family for the past 200 years.

Basting stitches on an unfinished jacket
Basting stitches on an unfinished jacket

This exhibition combined two of my loves – tailoring and history of fashion, showing how gents tailoring has evolved during the past 200 years.

Gents tailoring is a totally different process to ladies tailoring (my expertise) and altogether more complex, and is a process to which I am somewhat in awe.  This exhibition proved something of a delight, giving the observer a thorough knowledge of the processes (of which there are many) for manufacturing a bespoke suit.  Many of the traditions, which are still in practice today, and a glimpse of an almost forgotten era.

Made in Huddersfield - the mark of the finest cloth
Made in Huddersfield – the mark of the finest cloth

There are samples of modern style jackets, together with samples of cloth on display, which of course could only be our finest Huddersfield cloth, together with military and liveried uniforms.  One thing that never occurred to me was that the gentry would have the uniforms for their serving and household staff made, at presumably great expense, by their own Savile Row tailors.  It’s completely obvious now it has been pointed out but it never occurred me that one would lavish exquisite and expensive uniforms on one’s staff to elaborately elevate one’s status – oh what a sheltered life I have led.

Well I never... its totally obvious now I think about it but I never considered they'd spend lavish amounts on staff uniforms to reflect their own status
Well I never… its totally obvious now I think about it but I never considered they’d spend lavish amounts on staff uniforms to reflect their own status
...and the uniform
…and the uniform
Lavish embroidery
Lavish embroidery
Keep records before the digital / photograph age
Keeping accurate records of patterns and embroidery before the digital / photographic age
Sampling the embroidery and how this is recreated
Sampling the embroidery and how this is recreated

This exhibition, which runs for another couple of weeks, is well worth a visit north… as are the beautiful surroundings and building (not to mention the famous silver swan and the ground floor toy exhibition), meaning there is plenty to keep you occupied on a wet April day at the Bowes Museum.

Henry Poole & Co - Tradition
Henry Poole & Co – Tradition

For more informtion – http://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/VisitUs/WhatsOn/CurrentExhibitions/HenryPooleCoFounderofSavileRow.aspx

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