August 31, 2021

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz – Lucy Adlington

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:53 am by historywardrobe

A very thoughtful review

Books By Your Bedside

Published By: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 400
Date Released: 02/09/2021

At the height of the Holocaust, 25 young inmates of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp were selected to design, cut, and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women in a dedicated salon. It was work that they hoped would spare them from the gas chambers. The fashion workshop – called the Upper Tailoring Studio – was established by Hedwig Höss, the camp commandment’s wife, and patronised by the wives of SS guards and officers,

Drawing on diverse sources – including interviews with the last surviving seamstress – this book follows the fates of these brave women. Their bonds of family and friendship not only helped them endure persecution, but also to play their part in camp resistance. Weaving the dressmakers’ remarkable experiences within the context of Nazi policies for plunder and exploitation, historian Lucy Adlington exposes the greed, cruelty and…

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April 22, 2019

Photography Essay: Henryk Ross

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:57 pm by historywardrobe

Photography by Mervyn

Henryk Ross

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 22.55.22A German postcard showing the entrance to the Łódź ghetto. The sign reads “Jewish residential area—entry forbidden.” Łódź, Poland, 1940-1941.

— US Holocaust Memorial Museum

40009294_poland_lodz_map203Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Henryk Ross1 was a sports photographer. Not long after Germany invaded Poland, an area of Łódź , itself a centrally located city of Poland was closed off and sealed. Ross was forced to live in this ghetto.

HenrykRossIDcard Henryk Ross

Ross managed to get a job as one of the official photographers of the ghetto. Along with his colleague Mendel Grossman, Ross was in charge of producing identity and propaganda photographs for the Department of Statistics.

Due to his task, Ross had access to film and processing facilities. His task  was to show the Jews living a normal life in the ghetto. Outside of his official duties, he used his camera to produce a clandestine diary of…

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January 9, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:01 am by historywardrobe

A beautiful review of The Red Ribbon with particular appreciation for dressmaking

Lizzie Thimble


Thank you so much for stopping by!

This blog post is a little bit different to previous posts but I     hope fellow sewists will appreciate it. A few months ago I attended the launch of Lucy Adlington’s latest book, The Red Ribbon. If you haven’t heard of Lucy, I suggest you look her up straight away. Lucy is a fashion historian, writer, actress and vintage clothing collector who runs her own business, History Wardrobe. She and her colleagues tour the country staging fashion history presentations, which are so fascinating and entertaining. To be honest, I think I want to be her!

When I heard Lucy had written a novel based on an actual sewing workshop set up in Auschwitz during the Second World War, I knew it would be a gripping read.


The workshop was established by Hedwig Hoss, the Auschwitz Commandant’s wife, who loved…

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October 5, 2017

The Red Ribbon [review]

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:21 am by historywardrobe

I’m so pleased this story of 1940s dressmakers is having such a powerful and positive response

The Red Ribbon [review]

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:20 am by historywardrobe

Source: The Red Ribbon [review]

September 26, 2017

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington |REVIEW

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:57 pm by historywardrobe

Great review thank you. The true story of the dressmakers of Auschwitz is absolutely startling. I couldn’t resist writing about it. It’s a lovely lovely hardback edition too.

July 31, 2017

Laura Ashley Sample Book of Secrets

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:10 pm by historywardrobe

A charming mini masterpiece for fans of Laura Ashley fabric

Annjrippin's Blog

After much deliberation I finally decided how to present the Laura Ashley sample quilts that I wrote about on the blog towards the end of last year.  These are tiny little pieces using up the very smallest scraps of the Laura Ashley fabric I have been given and adding elements to them to suggest a narrative which we can’t unlock but can’t resist putting together.  For example:

I am very committed to the idea that we are all born storytellers and that this is how we make sense of the world, so when we see something like the little red quilt above, we start to make up our own story to explain why there is a spoon with the Mayflower on it: a present from an American relative?  A souvenir of a special trip?  A birthday present from a friend who knew about the spoon collection?  A Daughter of the…

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June 15, 2017

The Victorian Seamstress

Posted in Uncategorized, Victorian at 2:40 pm by historywardrobe

How easy it is to take our clothes for granted… and to forget those who labour making them. I’m always eager to hear tales of the dressmakers, tailoresses and seamstresses from the past, so often lost to history, or surviving only in the vintage garments that remain.

“…a very elegant, kind, loving woman”


Eleanor c. 1895

A History Wardrobe fan recently shared images of her grandmother Eleanor, born in 1867, and married, aged 30, to a Younger Man (only 23 – heavens!). Before her marriage Eleanor worked at Pennington’s Department Store in Spalding, Lincolnshire.  The original shop opened in 1850, and only closed when it was hit by a bomb in 1941.  I came across a lovely memoir about a dressmaker’s apprentice at Pennington’s in the 1930s.

Back in Eleanor’s day, customers usually bought their fabric first – a dress length or a costume length – then it was made up by the seamstress.  Designs could be chosen from a shop display, or from commercial fashion illustrations and patterns.

GOA 1889-90_0006

Afternoon outfits from the Girls’ Own Annual 1889


Conditions in Victorian workrooms varied from friendly and tolerable to Spartan and unpleasant. It seems that Eleanor enjoyed camaraderie with fellow workers at Pennington’s. She is picture here with other workroom girls, sporting the fabulous puffed sleeves of the mid 1890s.

Penningtons  backroom girls circa  1895.jpg

Pennington workroom girls c. 1895


Professional dressmakers were distinguished from the truly impoverished sweated labourers by their higher wages and smarter outfits.  They could almost be walking adverts for their employers, as seen in this final portrait of Eleanor (standing, left). Aren’t these winter ensembles magnificent? I love the frogging, the gloves and the muffs.

Penningtons girls

Eleanor with friends


If you’d like to know more about the life of working women in Victorian times, why not join us for a History Wardrobe presentation – A Very Victorian Lady? We feature all-original 19th century garments, and explore the lives of milliners, mill workers, mothers and even emigrants. You can find all event details on our website diary:

April 27, 2017

A Fabulous Fifties Afternoon Tea

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:37 am by historywardrobe

Happy memories of a lovely vintage afternoon

Lizzie Thimble

On Sunday, my friend and colleague Katie and I treated our mums to afternoon tea with a vintage twist. Organised by the Friends of the Richardson Hospital in Barnard Castle, the Fabulous Fifties Afternoon Tea combined three of my favourite things – 1950s fashion, history and lots and lots of cake.

Such a lovely event required an extra special outfit and I decided only a circle skirt would do. I love the Eliza M Vintage Circle Skirt pattern as it is so easy to make and very flattering. I created the skirt below from some curtain fabric and, for such a bold print, it is surprising how many of my tops it goes with. On this occasion I wore it with a  fuschia knitted top with a kind of wrap effect. It was also a fantastic opportunity to wear my new yellow fakelite beads and bangle from Splendette.


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January 30, 2017

Style Tribes – review

Posted in Book review, Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 5:26 pm by historywardrobe


Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures

Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures – Caroline Young (Frances Lincoln, 2016)

When you first discovered fashion, did you want to fit in or stand out? It seems that no matter how much we might want to assert our individuality, we can’t help making connections with others who like the same togs. And, while we think of clothes as being civilising, author Caroline Young is pretty certain that clothes are actually tribal.  Frankly, the first human adornments are believed to have been declaration of status and availability.  Has much changed?

In this attractive, picture-rich book, Young explores the links between youth, music culture and fashion.  Couture barely gets (or deserves) a look-in.  If you remember your own teenage years, much of the themes she covers will resonate.  Mine was the era of the New Romantics… on a very strict budget. My clothes were indeed influenced by music subcultures, and the cover art of those lovely LPs we flipped through at Woolworths and the local record shop. Alas, my solitary Duran Duran t-shirt soon became naff.  Since it was black, I next wore it back-to-front under a dubious fringed jacket during a moodier Goth phase.

Young’s descriptions of the sheer inventiveness of subculture fashion certainly rings true to me.  As teens (and beyond) we created our own looks from what we could afford, and what we could customise. To my chagrin, I remember attending one teen party with loops of coloured paperclips over my turquoise bat-wing top.  My best friend (always fabulously dressed & accessorised) complimented me on looking “so different.” Frankly I’d rather have been kitted out in shop-bought branded goods.  Now, of course, the high street can provide any look, often at minimal cost.  Funky, maybe, but punk it ain’t.


Style Tribes – punk


Reading Style Tribes is like wearing a pair of well-loved classic jeans – you know what you’re getting and you like it.  The chronology takes us through a cavalcade of cutting-edge fashion, all of it ultra-modern in its day.  Though mainly Western, the cultural span is broader than most fashion books, encompassing white surfer dudes and Black zoot suits; Asian harajuku and goa trance.

20170130_165101.jpgLooking back we can raise an eyebrow at outlandish extremes, or smile in admiration at the glorious rebelliousness of it all.  Beatnik, disco, riot grrls and steampunk, all are now immortalised in history.  What next?  Young says look to organically growing moods and moments in society:

“There are always new tribes… We just don’t know about them yet”


Style Tribes is smart, insightful and occasionally edgy. It celebrates all those outfits that made conservative parents shudder and say, “You can get back up those stairs – you’re not going out looking like that!”  Forget catwalks, think catcalls.  This fashion is high street & back alleys. It is attitude, not platitude. Tribalism at its most colourful and courageous.

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