Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered silk postcards were popular items for British soldiers to send home during the First World War. These precious and expensive gifts represented skilled local craftsmanship and contained intricate details and were often sent home for a special occasion such as a birthday or Christmas. Designs varied considerably but usually the postcards featured a patriotic or personal theme and contained bright colours.

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered silk postcards, 1914-1915

Northampton Museum holds a framed example of these postcards. The writing in the frame reads ‘Embroidered silk postcards made in Paris during the 1914-18 war. Presented by Mrs D.H. Simmonds in memory of her husband’. There are three cards in this frame: two silk and one smaller paper card. The first silk postcard includes an embroidered badge of the Northamptonshire Imperial Yeomanry and the second silk card has a Christmas theme with holly and three flags representing the allied powers: Russia, Italy and Great Britain. The smaller paper card reads ‘To bring you Luck’.

Many of these silk postcards were produced by civilians in France and Belgium and the popularity with British soldiers supported the craft industry and the local economy in some of the smaller towns and villages.

Many of the silk designs would have been standardised and drafted by a professional. The wording, like ‘Christmas’, would have been swapped according to the occasion and designed to fit within the pre-made card frames to allow them to be posted. The message would then have been written on the back of the card.

The design would have been transferred to silk organdie and then stitched with silk floss. The technique is called ‘silk shading’ and predominately uses satin stitch and long and short stitch. These items would have been stitched by a competent embroiderer, most likely using a hoop and then sold to soldiers to send home.

In 2018, objects like these and many more will be made available online for you to explore through a First World War digital archive. For more information on the Conflict & Community Project please click here.

Further information:

Imperial War Museum: Embroidered Silk Postcards

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Shoe of the Month-J’adore Dior

J’adore Dior

These beautiful blue/grey satin court shoes sporting a bow and diamante trim were made under the Christian Dior label for Harrods, London, in about 1955.

Christian Dior is famous for designing the New Look in 1947. Characteristics of this new look were a jacket nipped in at the waist and a wide flowing skirt. A hat, gloves and of course a pair of court shoes with pointed toes and stiletto heels completed the look.

 

J'adore Dior

J’adore Dior

Shoe designer Roger Vivier usually takes the credit for inventing the stiletto heel. As shoe designer to Christian Dior from 1953, Vivier designed bespoke shoes for Dior’s couture collection as well as models for a ready-made series that carried both of their names on the label.

Christmas during the First World War

Christmas during the First World War

 As Christmas fast approaches, most of us are contemplating what gifts to buy our friends and family. During the First World War (1914–1918), many families did not have the money or resources to buy extravagant presents. Those that could spare some pennies tended to purchase British made items including toys, perfume, pens and cigars and these were considered a true luxury during a period of food shortages, price hikes and wartime thrift.

Exchanging presents at Christmas was viewed as an important act. Through all the struggles and hardships of war, Christmas time offered a flicker of happiness and a feeling of hope. Not only was this important on the home front but also on the front line where soldiers maintained military operations throughout the winter months. During 1914, at the age of seventeen, Princess Mary supported a public fundraising campaign to send gifts to the soldiers serving overseas. The Princess Mary Gift Fund box was made of brass and contained a variety of items such as tobacco, sugar candy and a Christmas card.

Princess Mary Gift Fund Box, 1914–1915 

Brass tin containing two packets of cigarettes, tobacco, a printed Christmas card and a bullet pencil case.

Many families shopping for soldiers in Britain searched for practical gifts as opposed to seasonal novelty products. Relatives purchased presents that would be useful to the soldiers such as gloves, lighters, razors, watches and wallets. The leather wallet pictured below is an example of one such item:

Leather Wallet, 1917

Brown leather wallet with fabric and buff leather lining presented as a gift by the Northampton Allied War Fund during Christmas 1917.

In 2018, objects like these and many more will be made available online for you to explore through a First World War digital archive. For more information on the Conflict & Community Project please click here.

Further reading:

Imperial War Museum: Princess Mary Gift Fund 1914 Box and Contents

10 ways Christmas was celebrated during the First World War

Shoe of the Month – Webb’s Wonders

Webb’s Wonders

This classic Oxford shoe was made by the George Webb factory.

George Webb and his two sons, Dennis and Frank established the business in 1927. They manufactured men’s welted footwear at the Mentone Works in Brockton Street, Kingsthorpe Northampton. The works were extended in 1935 and again in 1967. In the 1960s they also opened factories in both Wellingborough and Walgrave.

George Webb made beautiful men’s shoes under the brands of Mentone, Castillo, World-Walk and Savile Row.

Oxford Shoe by Webb's

Oxford Shoe by Webb’s

 

Shoe of the Month – Authentic Shoes

Authentic Shoes

Japanese shoemaker Toshinosuke Takegahara of the Authentic Shoe & Company hand made this pair of exquisite leather toe thong sandals. They show perfectly the great skill involved in creating such traditional footwear.

Authentic Shoes

Authentic Shoes

This style is known as Zori in Japan. The design is thought to have been developed in the mid 16th century by Sen-no-rikyu, one of Japan’s famous artists. It was a very practical sandal as it ensured that the wearer’s feet were kept dry on the snow covered ground. Special socks called tabi would have been worn which have a separate big toe to enable them to be worn more comfortably. You may have seen similar shoes called geta. These have a toe thong too but have an elevated platform sole.

 

 

Shoe of the Month – Mary Quant Fashion Boots

Groovy

In the 1960s swinging London became the capital of the fashion world.

Famous as being inventor of the mini skirt, Mary Quant was one of the first designers to aim fashion at the hip and happening trendsetting girls on the street.

Quant’s Chelsea boutique Bazaar opened in 1955 where in the early 1960s she launched her London look of slim line shift dresses with rising hemlines that showed plenty of leg.

‘Legs never had it so good’, boasted the British press.

As hemlines rose, the increase in expanse of leg drew attention to the feet. Quant brought out her Quant a Foot range of fashion boots in bright coloured plastics. These are from the early 1960s.

Mary Quant Fashion Boots

Mary Quant Fashion Boots

 

Shoe of the Month – Clown Jam Shoes

Clown Jam

This pair of customised bright pink glitter shoes were worn by Clown Jam. Clown Jam was one of Northampton’s most popular faces.

Clown Jam was a member of Clowns International for 40 years. He worked with many famous circuses including Zippo Circus and Billy Smart’s Circus. He regularly undertook charity work, entertaining children here and abroad. He appeared at the Lord Mayor’s show every year and was a member of the royal variety club of Great Britain.

Clown Jam Shoes

Clown Jam Shoes

 

We also have Clown Jam’s outfit in the collection too.