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A birthday cardA birthday cardOn Saturday, 7th September 2019, Willem Vogelsang wrote:

I was a bit puzzled lately about this phrase, used by such British luminaries as Boris Johnson. He used it, apparently under his breath, when talking about Jeremy Corbyn. I asked my own Brexit refugee here in Leiden about it, but she had no clue either. Admittedly, she has been living in Europe (!) for some 35 years and may have missed essential developments in English idiom. Also, she never went to Eton, which seems to preclude anyone from joining the ruling British establishment and the likes of Johnson (unless you marry a Russian plutocrat, but she hooked up with an impoverished Dutch academic).

Of course I could ask my mother-in-law, who some years ago told her hairdresser (I should not have listened to her telephone call) that she had a son-in-law who had a ‘reasonable’ command of English. (What about her command, I always wondered, she lived for a long time in Yorkshire, so who is the foreigner?) Should I ring her? Put her to the test? Perhaps better not. A call from Europe early in the morning would ruin anyone’s day in England.

Anyhow, what is this big girl’s blouse? At first I thought it referred to a blouse filled up by a big girl. Big, as in well-endowed (another recent development in the English language, I noticed). That, it soon became clear, was not the case.

So, my research (carried out in bed this morning), told me the phrase refers to a big blouse for a girl. So what does that mean? I have had to deal with the Brits for some time, and I know that the word ‘girl’ is not always appreciated when applied to, what I think is now called a young woman. So the ‘big girl’s blouse’ is apparently somewhat derogatory.

But what the heck is wrong with a big blouse for a girl /young woman? At that stage my research descended to the next level. I found a wonderful website that provided me with the information that I so urgently needed. The phrase seems to originate from northern England (well, my in-laws come from Yorkshire, so there you are; perhaps I should ring my mother-in-law after all).

When applied to a man it means that he is somewhat effeminate, but at the same time it is not really abusive. There is something teasing about it. The phrase seems to be used by now all over the Anglo-Saxon world, unknown to me (but I am European, so what do I know). There even seems to be an Australian feminist comedy series with that title. I am proud to say I did not know that either. So there you are: a girl’s blouse as an item of apparel has reached dazzling depths of fame. The world of dress is full of surprises.

For those of you who want to know more, click here

A huipil from San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala, 20th century (TRC 2019.1838).A huipil from San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala, 20th century (TRC 2019.1838).The past few weeks have been dedicated to getting the Socks&Stockings exhibition ready for the grand opening on Thursday (5th September). It is a surprising exhibition, full of warmth, colour and so many different techniques. A challenge to lovers of knitting and those who think they know all about hand knitted socks!

At the same time, we have been thinking about the TRC Collection, how to use it and how to further build up the sections on the Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa. Then all of a sudden, literally in the last week or so, we were given a selection of Guatemalan, Mexican and Peruvian textiles and garments from three different sources. We are now thinking about staging an exhibition about these garments and textiles, which will take place in 2021.

Just to give you an idea of what will be happening exhibition-wise at the TRC Leiden over the next few years, the Gallery plans are:

  • Autumn 2019: Socks&Stockings
  • Spring 2020: 200 years of American Quilts (Leiden Mayflower Year)
  • Summer 2020: Textiles, Garments and World War Two
  • Autumn 2020: Ties to History: A look at men’s neckwear and its links to historical people and events
  • Spring 2021: The Huipil: An essential Middle and South American garment with many facets
  • Autumn 2021 2000 years of Asian influences on Western textiles (an extended version of a pop-up exhibition held in the summer of 2019).

The vast majority of the objects in all of these exhibitions comes from the TRC, so confirming the scope and depth of its encyclopedic textile and dress collection!

Nigar Shukri and Maryan Koehler dressed in Kurdish clothing from the area of Urmieh, northwestern Iran (1974 or 1975).Nigar Shukri and Maryan Koehler dressed in Kurdish clothing from the area of Urmieh, northwestern Iran (1974 or 1975).On Tuesday, 20th August 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Two boxes arrived last Friday (16th August 2019) from the USA, with some very different stories. The first box contained a small group of Iranian and Afghan garments that date from 1972-1975 (TRC 2019.1853a-1867). They were donated by Maryan Koehler. Some pieces were actually worn by Maryan at the time, while others were given to her when she worked in the country. More specifically, she was with the US Peace Corps teaching at the University of Isfahan, and between 1973 and 1975 she was at what was then called the Rezaiyeh College of Agriculture (now called Urmia University, in the northwest of the country) as a professor of English.

Maryan Koehler sometimes dressed in Kurdish clothing from the area. The Kurdish garments were given to her by her friend Nigar Shukri. Maryan Koehler is now tidying up and has been looking for a suitable home for her items. After looking on the internet she felt that the TRC Leiden understood these pieces and would make them available to a wide public.

Detail of a hand-embroidered huipil from Guatemala (Knobler donation).Detail of a hand-embroidered huipil from Guatemala (Knobler donation).



The second group of textiles (TRC 2019.1837-1849) helps to fill a ‘gap’ in the TRC Collection. Thanks to the generosity of Chuck and Carolyn Knobler, USA, we have been given a selection of huipil (women’s tops) and a shawl from Guatemala and Mexico. Most of these pieces date to the latter half of the 20th century and are made from locally woven cloth (back strap looms).They are decorated in a variety of techniques and styles, including woven and embroidered forms. Some of the embroidered examples will be used in a future publication about hand embroidery from the Americas.

One of the outfits designed and made by Kate Askham, final year fashion show, Manchester 2019.One of the outfits designed and made by Kate Askham, final year fashion show, Manchester 2019.Where has the year gone? I look back on my time at the TRC (together with Kazna Asker) with such fondness and am so grateful for the way it shaped my studying this past year. It's been about two weeks since I graduated, which feels extremely surreal and I am now looking for employment, still in glorious Manchester.

I wanted to share with you some photos of my final collection (see here), which I ended up basing around my family living in Glasgow and Iceland during the sixties and seventies. At the very core of my research and design, was a deliberate selection of the fabric and the sourcing of the material.

I made the very first garment of my fashion show presentation with some beautiful black silk-satin that the TRC gave to me, and it set the tone for the rest of my collection entirely. I also used by-product and ethically tanned leather, which I sourced from a British warehouse. The leather I decided to use were all end-of-line pieces, so I was really pleased to give them a new lease of life.

I used only natural fibres, and I carefully selected companies that have sustainability as their key focus. Amazingly, every single piece of my collection was thus made from by-products, surplus or recycled fibres and fabric - thanks to how much the TRC taught me about fibre types, material qualities and why it's worth spending the extra time and care, in order to use something in a responsible manner.

I'm now looking at moving into product development, which will hopefully take me all around the world, and enable me to assist design teams to focus on details, sourcing of fabrics, and finding suitable ateliers with expertise to create beautiful clothes. I think within the next six months I will be in London, and am hoping to work with my tutor Kiran Gobin, who suggested I could perhaps work in his design team. I am also wanting to do some further study eventually, and some more academic writing because I so enjoyed writing my dissertation - I am so eager to be challenged.

I'd love to come and visit you all again, and see what's going on there. Thank you again for such a wonderful experience. I realise how lucky I was to get such an insight, especially at a point where I was struggling to see the value of what I was studying! It was completely eye-opening and the TRC encouraged me to being curious again.

Please give my best wishes to everyone at the TRC and all those I met there!

KINDEST regards, Kate Askham

The London based firm of Hand & Lock has been producing embroideries for court and military uniforms, and diplomatic and religious garments, since 1767.

From their current premises at 86 Margaret Street, Fitzrovia, London, they are still actively involved in producing and teaching embroidery, especially with gold and silver thread.

TRC has long been collaborating with Hand & Lock, and they recently donated a series of replicas of insignia for chivalric orders, some of which worn by the famous British admiral, Horatio Nelson (see here for more information). The latest issue of their journal, Hand & Lock, contains an article about the TRC (pp. 83-86). A PdF version of the article can be downloaded here.

To purchase this issue of Hand & Lock, please go to the attached web address.

Replicas of embroidered insignia of chivalric orders, made by Hand & Lock.Replicas of embroidered insignia of chivalric orders, made by Hand & Lock.On Tuesday, 6th August 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Yesterday the TRC received a parcel from the embroidery firm of Hand & Lock. They have been based in London since the late 18th century and are a major force in the world of elite hand and machine embroidery.

For the last few years the TRC and Hand & Lock have been working together to support research into the history of embroidery and as part of this co-operation they donated various embroidered British insignia, to be used in Volume 3 of the Encyclopedia of Embroidery, which is being published by Bloomsbury, London.

Four of the insignia are replicas of the insignia worn by the British admiral, Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The Orders are:

The Order of St. Joachim (top left) was instituted in 1755 by a group of German nobles, in order to promote religious tolerance in Europe. Horatio Nelson accepted the Grand Cross of the Order in 1802. The insignia of the Order is made of gold and silver metal thread with a silk embroidered centre on white raycott. It is surrounded by a raised green velvet garter with gold smooth purl lettering edged with gold pearl purl. The four points of the cross are worked with silver spangles caught down with silver rough purl.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (top centre) was instituted in 1725 by King George I of the United Kingdom. The insignia of this Order has a central crest that depicts three crowns in gold and silver wire embroidery, which is surrounded by a raised red velvet garter with gold wire lettering.

Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), by Lemuel Francis Abbott (1799). He is wearing, among others, the insignia of the Order of the Crescent; the Order of Saint Ferdinand and Merit; and the Order of the Bath (National Maritime Museum Greenwich).Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), by Lemuel Francis Abbott (1799). He is wearing, among others, the insignia of the Order of the Crescent; the Order of Saint Ferdinand and Merit; and the Order of the Bath (National Maritime Museum Greenwich).The Order of the Crescent (middle left) was instituted by the Ottoman sultan, Selim III, to honour Horatio Nelson for his defeat of the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile (1798). The insignia was worn by high ranking officers and others involved in the Napoleonic Wars. It has a raised midnight blue velvet centre depicting a silver plaited embroidered star and crescent moon. The surround is edged with gold wire. In the most recent issue of the Hand & Lock journal (summer 2019), Alice Murrell has writtten a short paper on the Order of the Crescent.

The Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit (middle centre) was instituted in 1800 by the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The insignia of the Order is made with gold and silver metal thread with a silk embroidered centre depicting St. Ferdinand in a blue and white silk cloak and clutching a silver wire sword. The surrounding points of the crest features silver spangles.

In addition, Hand & Lock kindly donated a badge for a Royal Postillion (middle right), the man who rides or walks with one or more horses pulling royal carriages or the hearse during state funerals. The badge is normally worn on the left sleeve. Also included in the parcel from Hand & Lock was a military cap badge (bottom).

On Tuesday, 30th July 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Last Sunday we visited the Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem), a moving experience because it was so personal. It was about a generation and more of people who vanished. Many of the chronological themes were explained via objects such as photographs, travel documents, letters, a battered watch or a broken toothbrush. Other stories were told via garments, such as a blouse taken from a mound that was recognised as having belonged to a friend and neighbour, a pit full of shoes, yellow Stars of David, and most telling, the blue and white striped garments worn in the camps. This museum really shows how clothing can be used to tell hard stories and pass on messages and emotions.

Street scene in the Jerusalem bazaar, 29 July 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.Street scene in the Jerusalem bazaar, 29 July 2019. Photograph Willem Vogelsang.On Monday, 29th July, Gillian Vogelsang wrote from Jerusalem:

The last two weeks have been quite a time, both at the TRC Leiden itself and for myself. It has included the Out of Asia programme in Leiden, between 14 and 19 July. A few days later I took part in a symposium at Leicester University about science and archaeological/historical textiles, and now with Willem we have a few days in the old city of Jerusalem (a holiday, of sorts).

A theme of all these events, which became clear to me the last few days, has been the passing down of knowledge and community identity through crafts, rather than solely by the written word (a skill that was long in the hands of a few, elite men).

It has left me a little sad, as it is clear that conflicts, changes in communication (spending time on telephones and watching tv), technology (computer driven machines) and that dreaded word globalization have broken the lineage of generations of craft knowledge, which will never come back.

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TRC in a nutshell

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

Open on Mondays - Thursdays
from 10.00 - 16.00.

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

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome!

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

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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
Financial donations to the TRC can also be made via Paypal: