A Stitch in Time
by Jane Rackham
It’s hard to tear your eyes away from fashion historian Amber Butchart because she has such a mesmerising wardrobe of unusual outfits and a distinctive look. But perhaps that’s apt as she’s exploring how fashion has reflected and influenced society, starting with the restoration king – Charles II. He is credited with creating the three-piece suit, a look he championed to teach the nobility thrift.
Butchart fills in the historical background but what’s fascinating is seeing Ninya Mikhaila and her team of tailors re-create the clothes, using only traditional methods. One of Charles’s outfits looks relatively simple but involves an extraordinary amount of fiddly hand stitching – his jacket boasted more than 100 buttonholes, complicated pleating and yards of decoratively looped silk ribbons. But it really comes to life when Butchart tries it on.
Fusing biography, art and the history of fashion, Amber Butchart explores the lives of historical figures through the clothes they wore, starting with Charles II.
CAST & CREW
Presenter Amber Butchart
Executive Producer Caroline Wright
Series Producer Lucy Kenwright
( …) A different sort of sisterhood got to work on A Stitch In Time (BBC4), as a group of female historians set about recreating a costume styled by King Charles II — noting gleefully that tailoring was once an exclusively male occupation.
They were quizzed by the fabulously named Amber Butchart, who with her beret and copper bob looks like a David Bowie mannequin from his Scary Monsters period. This half-hour documentary packed far more information on the history and art of making clothes than you’ll find in an entire series of the Great British Sewing Bee.
We learned that the flamboyant king invented the forerunner of the three-piece suit, in a conscious effort to create a style that was quintessentially English. How ironic that suits are now what men wear when we want to be conformist, even invisible.
The French hated Charlie’s suits, of course. King Louis dressed his footmen in the ‘English vest’, as a deliberate snub. What do the French know about fashion anyhow?
By Christopher Stevens Reviews Last Night's Tv
PUBLISHED: 01:22 GMT, 4 January 2018 | UPDATED: 01:30 GMT, 4 January 2018
Amber Jane Butchart is a British fashion historian and writer. She presents the BBC Four Documentary series A Stitch in Time. She is an associate lecturer at the London College of Fashion,and was formerly head buyer for vintage clothing company Beyond Retro.
She has an MA in History and Culture of Fashion from the London College of Fashion, now part of the University of the Arts London.
Butchart is a regular guest on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour. In January 2017 she appeared on Radio 4's The Museum of Curiosity where her hypothetical donation to this imaginary museum was "the colour mauve". She has also produced a two-part documentary for Radio 4 about the history of the vintage fashion industry entitled From Rags to Riches.
She is half of DJ duo Broken Hearts along with Nisha Stevens.
Amber Jane Butchart: My style can be described as art teacher meets Pat Butcher Bel Jacobs for
MetroWednesday 1 May 2013 6:00 am
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Fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart reveals her style secrets (Picture: Phillip Waterman)
Amber Jane Butchart, 32, is a fashion historian, DJ, writer, broadcaster and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion. What are you wearing? A Vlisco wax print dress (supposed to be a top) from Beyond Retro, from when I was their head buyer; a green Nan’s Knitwear turban knitted by my friend’s grandma; a pear brooch from my mum; Terry de Havilland ‘Amber’ shoes, which are named after me. Describe your style. Art teacher in Ghostworld meets Pat Butcher. How has it evolved? I’m interested in colour and print and, through my work, I’m often researching different eras and cultures that hugely influence the way I dress. Biggest style mistakes? I don’t believe in style mistakes. Style rules are there to be broken. What inspires your style? I’m lucky my work involves constant research, from our radio show [Peppermint Candy on Jazz FM] to fashion history lectures at London College of Fashion. I’m always inspired by things I find. We’ve recently been focusing on ‘forgotten women of the Jazz Age’ for the radio show – Gladys Bentley was a cross-dressing blues singer in Harlem who had the most incredible suits. Who is your biggest inspiration? My mum, as you can tell from how many of her clothes feature in my answers. She’s taught me many things (and missed a few out – cleanse, tone, moisturise spring to mind) but mainly she’s taught me the power of green and the defining importance of painted nails. Where and how do you shop? I get the majority of my clothes from charity shops and the high street and from the market in Bethnal Green Road. I don’t tend to go into vintage shops any more as they can be overpriced. I’m pretty old school in that I love to rummage. I’m less interested in shopping from a ‘curated’ selection someone else has picked out. Favourite piece of clothing? A green floor-length Biba dress that belonged to my mum. I’ve been obsessed with Biba since I was tiny, mainly due to this dress. It’s fascinating the role clothing plays in emotional memory. Is there anything you’d like to own but can’t afford? The entire last few Dolce & Gabbana collections – and a house. If you had a skill, what would it be? I would love to be able to tap dance. When I was little you could only learn tap if you also learned ballet. I was not a fan of ballet so gave up on both. www.theatreoffashion.co.uk www.thebrokenhearts.co.uk
BBC 4: A Stitch In Time
Amber Butchart: Fashion Historian / NEWS
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I hope you had a joyous start to 2018! I have some very exciting news, as my BBC Four series, A Stitch in Time starts airing tomorrow, Wednesday January 3rd at 8.30pm.
Fusing biography, art and the history of fashion, throughout A Stitch in Time I get to explore the lives of historical figures through the clothes they wore, while key garments are recreated using the original techniques by historical tailor Ninya Mikhaila and her team. Tomorrow we begin with a look at the Restoration king, Charles II, and how he used fashion as propaganda with an outfit that foreshadowed the three piece suit.
Over the coming 6 weeks I’ll be investigating the the costume clues held within Van Eyck’s mysterious Arnolfini portrait, the role of hand-me-downs among 18th century workers, the impact of cotton on British life, a flamboyant armorial piece which sits at odds with the allegedly brutal nature of its wearer and the impact a scandalously informal gown would have on an already unpopular queen.
I’m delighted to say it’s been selected as Pick of the Day in the Guardian, featured in the Critics’ Choice section of the Sunday Times, one of the Highlights in the TV Times, and one of the Radio Times’ Choices.
There are already some clips online for episode one, click on the image below to see me examine the wedding suit of James II from 1673, with Susan North from the V&A.
Here’s a taster of what you can expect over the next 6 weeks!
IN OTHER NEWS… My latest book, Fashion Illustration in Britain: Society and the Seasons for the British Library was released in October! It was fantastic spending some serious time in the British Library archives, going through previously unpublished periodicals and magazines from the 18th century to the 1930s. The book charts the history of fashion and the social calendar in Britain through the fashion plates of some of the most important publications, offering a record of fashion illustration in Britain that spans across three centuries. For a peek inside, head over to my Instagram.
Get hold of a copy at all good bookshops, including Foyles (above), online, and of course at the British Library shop.
Also, a reminder that my Radio 4 documentary, From Rags to Riches, is still available to listen online through BBC iPlayer, and to download through the Seriously podcast. Episode 1 looks at the transition of old clothes from second-hand to ‘vintage’, and how our attitude to used clothing has changed over a century and more. It features a wealth of contributors from Vogue’s thrifting connoisseur Bay Garnett to fashion auction pioneer Kerry Taylor and even my mum. Episode 2 looks at the global ramifications of our cast-off clothes. It took me from charity shops to sorting warehouses in Leeds and the markets and tailors of Dakar, Senegal.
Rags to Riches
For more regular updates you can keep up with me on Instagram and Twitter, and if you’re interested in learning more about fashion history, I’m teaching my short course again at London College of Fashion. Fashion History: The Evolution of Style covers the key moments in fashion history and theory over 200 years, from the French Revolution through to the 1990s, and it’s running in February and August.