The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #18 is Poetry in Motion: bring to life a garment inspired by a song or poem.
Here are few of my favourite poems and songs, and the garments they always make me think of:
The Elizabethan ‘Greensleeves‘ is simply dripping with clothes references, from the titular sleeves (which may have indicated a lack of virtue on the part of the wearer), to the many verses about the gifts that her unlucky suitor brought her:
I bought three kerchers to thy head,
that were wrought fine and gallantly:
I kept thee both boord and bed,
Which cost my purse wel fauouredly.
I bought thee peticotes of the best,
the cloth so fine as might be:
I gaue thee iewels for thy chest,
and all this cost I spent on thee.
Thy smock of silk, both faire and white,
with gold embrodered gorgeously:
Thy peticote of Sendall right:
and thus I bought thee gladly.
Thy smock of gold so crimson red,
with pearles bedecked sumptuously:
The like no other lasses had,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me,
Thy crimson stockings all of silk,
with golde all wrought aboue the knee,
Thy pumps as white as was the milk,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Thy gown was of the grossie green,
thy sleeues of Satten hanging by:
Which made thee be our haruest Queen,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Thy garters fringed with the golde,
And siluer aglets hanging by,
Which made thee blithe for to beholde,
And yet thou wouldst not loue me.
Robert Herrick’s 17th century ‘Upon Julia’s Clothes’
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!
Alfred, Lord Tennyson beautifully evokes the flower-like appeal of 1850s ballgowns in Maud
Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls.To the flowers, and be their sun.
Here is Yate’s 1899 ‘Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’:
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
And Edna St Vincent Milay’s early 20th century ‘The Plaid Dress’ (which always anachronistically, but obviously, makes me think of mid-19th century plaid dresses in garish aniline dyes!):
Strong sun, that bleach
The curtains of my room, can you not render
Colourless this dress I wear?–
This violent plaid
Of purple angers and red shames; the yellow stripe
Of thin but valid treacheries; the flashy green of kind deeds done
Through indolence high judgments given here in haste;
The recurring checker of the serious breach of taste?
No more uncoloured than unmade,
I fear, can be this garment that I may not doff;
Confession does not strip it off,
To send me homeward eased and bare;
All through the formal, unoffending evening, under the clean
Lining the subtle gown. . .it is not seen,
But it is there.
For more inspiration, there are a number of traditional UK and US folk songs that mention clothes, including the 18th century Mally Leigh and The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies (which mentions finished silk gowns in some versions, and shoes of Spanish leather in others), the early 19th century Jenny Jenkins, and the 19th century or earlier Wedding Dress Song. I’ve already blogged a rather silly, subversive poem about the 20th Century Girl which is full of fun costuming imagery.
And there are hundreds, if not thousands more songs and poems that mention garments, or could be interpreted as a design! Happy creating!