Lady Darnley’s Suit – Rochester Bridge Trust

The Rochester Bridge Trust approached me with a photograph of Lady Darnley at the opening ceremony of one of the bridges in Rochester in 2014. They wanted the outfit she was wearing recreated for their new exhibition.

The photograph did not highlight the details of what she was wearing so extensive research into the fashions of the period, including the fabrics and colours that were popular, was undertaken to get a clearer idea of how the ensemble would look. Magazines, original costume (from my private collection), swatch books, dressmaking guides, contemporary patterns, fashion plates and photographs were all used in the interpretation of this project.

The suit was made from dark red silk taffeta, as the evidence from the photograph indicated the suit was of a dark colour (red was a popular choice) and made of a fabric that was crisp in nature. It was lined in a striped collar as seen in the photograph. As the collar and fastenings could not be seen from the original image, a simple rounded collar was added and a hook and eye fastening with matching belt was incorporated in the design (similar to contemporary dress designs). The jacket was given structure by adding wadding to the shoulders and front and quilting it with the lining before attaching to the main fabric, as seen on a contemporary jacket I have in my collection. The ruffled effect on the bottom of the jacket was an intriguing feature of the outfit. I could find no evidence of anything similar in the sources I had at my disposal, and though peplums were popular in the years presiding the First World War, they were very different to this. Hence, I made the decision to include the ruffling onto the jacket rather than the skirt.

Original accessories of shoes, handbag, feather boa and gloves were all sourced for the display and a hat was commissioned from Farthingdale Hats.