Mrs Gainsborough and her daughter were developed for a 1760s interpretation event last summer. Although I had made a trial set of hoops at college 25 years ago and am an experienced costumer, I had never made an eighteenth century outfit.
Rummaging through extant outfits, fabric resources and portraits from the time, I simultaneously came across both the lovely portrait of Gainsborough’s daughters chasing a butterfly, and the Foundling Textiles. Mrs Gainsborough had a number of personal connections with the Foundling Hospital, and my daughter shares the same name as one of Gainsborough’s.
With the exception of the boning channels, every last stitch in this ensemble, from skin out, was worked by hand, exactly as it might have been back in the 1760s. The fabric was a horrific challenge to source, but eventually I fell across exactly the right silk in the corner of the silk mill – in Gainsborough’s home town. All the fabrics are entirely as they would have been – linens, cottons, silk, hand quilting – with the idea that these outfits were not only looking as if they had stepped out of a picture, but that Mrs Gainsborough and her daughter could actually have selected them from their own closet that very morning.