Amber Butchart at the TRC

Amber Butchart at the TRC, 6 September 2019. Photograph: Shelley Anderson

Amber Butchart at the TRC, 6 September 2019. Photograph: Shelley Anderson

On Friday, 13th September 2019, Shelley Anderson wrote:

The TRC recently hosted British dress historian Amber Butchart, who graciously opened our latest exhibition “Socks&Stockings” to a crowded gallery.

“I’ve wanted to visit the TRC for a long time,” she said. “The TRC’s work is amazing. The collection is immense and catalogued better than some much bigger institutions, which is so good for researchers. The fact that it is a teaching collection makes it really special.” She looks forward to coming back and exploring the collection more, and to use items for exhibitions and a book.

A BBC presenter and author, Amber is also known for her own distinctive dress style. For her second lecture on stockings in European fashion history, at the TRC, she wore a green short-sleeved dashiki-like tunic with tights and signature turban. “I’ve always loved old clothes,” she said, recalling shopping with her mother as a child in charity shops and jumble sales. “I loved rummaging around. I wasn’t interested in fashion or fashion magazines—in fact, if something was on trend I immediately didn’t like it.”

After studying literature at university, she got a job at her favourite vintage shop, where she spent her lunch breaks reading about vintage clothes. She worked there seven years, buying, researching and writing about vintage clothes, then decided to go back to university to study history and fashion.

Does she have a favourite period? “It changes. I really like the 1770s-80s silhouette for men’s wear. And the 1910s and ‘20s and the predilection for turbans. I also love Mary Quant and bright tights.” Fashion for her “is more about stories than aesthetic. I’m drawn to stories with a political aspect.” In her book Nautical Chic (Thames & Hudson, 2015) the clothing worn at sea by ordinary sailors, officers and pirates, reflected “huge stories about imperialism, trade warfare and the slave trade,” she said.

Her lecture on stockings also revealed how fashion reflects and influences an era’s politics. From the 16th century onwards, men’s silk stockings were used to project an image of wealth, virility and power. From the sans culottes of French revolutionaries, to pro-Jacobin messages woven in garters, to the somber dress King Charles II wore to distance himself from his father’s extravagant excesses, “fashion was used as propaganda and had an ideological function,” she said.

Amber is now an Ambassador for the TRC Leiden, and is helping to spread the word about the TRC’s work and extensive collection. The exhibition “Socks&Stockings” will be open until Thursday, 19th December 2019.

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TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428

Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment. Holidays: until 11 August

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Sept. -19 Dec. 2019: Socks&Stockings

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
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