V&A, London (new website launched April 12, 2016)
Many of Beatrix Potter’s stories begin ‘Once upon a time…’. The Tailor of Gloucester is unusual in that the story takes place at a specific period – ‘the time of swords and periwigs’ – between about 1735 and 1785. Beatrix went to extraordinary lengths to create an authentic setting. Passing a tailor’s shop in Chelsea one day, she deliberately tore a button off her coat and took it in to be mended so she could observe at first hand the tailor’s posture, tools and workbench.
Beatrix Potter sought inspiration for the Mayor of Gloucester’s coat and embroidered waistcoat in the 18th-century clothes owned by her local museum, the V&A. She wrote to her publisher, Norman Warne in a letter dated 27th March 1903:
‘I have been delighted to find I may draw some most beautiful 18th century clothes at the South Kensington Museum. I had been looking at them for a long time in an inconvenient dark corner of Goldsmith’s Court, but had no idea they could be taken out of the case. The clerk says I could have any article put on a table in one of the offices, which would be most convenient.’
Her sketches are so accurate that it is possible to identify the original garments, including the mayor’s waistcoat, ‘worked with poppies and corn-flowers’ in the V&A’s collections.
Her sketches are so accurate that it is possible to identify the original garments, including the mayor’s waistcoat, ‘worked with poppies and corn-flowers’, in the V&A’s collections.