I was lucky enough to  receive this book as a gift at Christmas, and since then I’ve been savouring its marvellous detail. Though it covers a longer period than the Long 18th century, there is ample information to interest us within its pages.

The book is in fact the catalogue of a new exhibition which is currently on show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibit celebrates the acquisition by the museum of a major collection of European men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and accessories. I have no hope of getting to Los Angeles to see it ( the exhibit runs untill 27th March, 2011) and so it is truly wonderful to be able to pore over the very good photographs- highlighting some wonderful details- and the interesting text, including a very intriguing Preface by fashion’s current enfant terrible, John Galliano.

Let’s have a look at some of the items that interest me. First a waistcoat which would surely have appealed to Mr Knightley, though it is actually French-  Shhh! Don’t tell him- as it’s subject matter is so rural:

Is this Harriet’s own dear welch cow?

And look at this beautiful dress form 1818, the overdress made of handmade lace, “Bucks” so-called because it was made in Buckinghamshire, a traditional area for bobbin lace making.

Here is a close-up detail of the lace:

In fact I am reading this book  it in conjunction with the Museum’s marvellous and most excellent website: some of the items in the book are available to view in greater detail on the internet. Let’s do it together now….

This is a gentleman’s three piece velvet suit dating from 1800. The close-up of the embroidery is breath taking. Some areas of the embroidery are padded slighty to add a raised area and  texture to the embroidery, almost like stumpwork. The dandelion heads are padded in this way.

If you go here however you can see more images of the suit and can zoom in on the details.

This beautifully detailed Spencer dating from 1815 is also available to view online here

So even if you can’t get to the exhibit, the museum’s excellent website and the book are beautifully presented and allow those of us sadly separated from it by thousands of miles to enjoy these wonderful clothes at one remove.

A final note: the website actually includes a wonderful free gift to talented needleworkers: free downloadable patterns which have been created from some of the garments in the collection. Go here to see. I love the banyan.