Janet Arnold, who died on November 2, 1998, will be honored by London's Victoria and Albert Museum with an exhibition called Patterns of Fashion: The Work of Janet Arnold. The exhibition runs from February 1 to August 22, 1999. A study is planned for April 24.
Janet Arnold was without question one of the most respected costume historians in the western world. She acted as consultant to curators throughout Europe and North America, all the while keeping up a busy teaching and lecturing schedule. Her work on 16th- and 17th-century dress resulted in numerous publications, most notably the monumental Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, published in 1988.
Her research was invaluable to costume designers, and in 1998, she received the inaugural Sam Wanamaker Award from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in recognition of her contribution to the field.
Theatrical costumers probably know Arnold's work best through her three volumes (she adamantly refused to call it a series) of Patterns of Fashion, which offer meticulous drawings, patterns, and construction details of historic garments from 1560 to the 1940s. When the first volume was published in 1964, it set a standard for excellence which has never been surpassed.
The exhibition at the V&A marks the first time that the institution has celebrated the work of someone who is not a practicing artist. According to curator Susan North, Arnold's contribution to the history of dress and her influence on people in so many different fields--conservators, curators, designers, re-enactors, teachers, students, and historians--triggered the idea for the show.
Visitors will be able to see costumes from the BBC and from the Globe Theatre adapted from, or inspired by, Arnold's drawings and patterns together with the patterns together with the patterns themselves and Arnold's original rough and finished sketches. One case will highlight her 11-year study of the Medici graves clothes of the mid-16th century. A full-size replica of the burial gown of Eleanora of Toledo will be paired with Arnold's pattern for the gown. Both were deduced, as one colleague wrote, "from a few fragments ofshaped cloth and some braid."
Another case will display Arnold's drawings, preliminary pattern, and 1/4-scale model of a doublet from 1630 in the collection of the V&A worn originally by Sir Robert Cotton. A full-size replica of the doublet will be shown alongside, one side finished, the other left unfinished to show details of padding and construction.
The exhibit will be housed in the V&A's costume court. In addition to the cases devoted exclusively to the work of Arnold, her sketches and patterns of garments on display in the costume court will be shown next to those garments.
Readers who knew Arnold--and there must be many, as one of her several talents was for friendship--will not be surprised to learn that before her death, she had selected all the material for the show and had even written the label copy. It will be the next best thing to having her there.