Slightly Steampunk: The Archaeology of a Dress

Back in the Victorian period, a lot more thought and effort went into the production of clothing and fashion than our modern world has the patience to tolerate. Some of the love for a well put together wardrobe has been resurrected in Steampunk, but I’ve yet to see anything quite to level of intricacy as the topic of today’s post.

Back in 1888, a actress by the name of Ellen Terry was captivating audiences with her evocative performances of stages’ most enduring characters. Her performance of Lady MacBeth in Shakespeare’s MacBeth was as celebrated as the dress she wore:

Adorned with a thousand  jewel beetle wings (which they shed naturally) the dress was and still is considered one of the greatest theater costumes ever created. It came to reside in Smallhythe Place, Terry’s former home and survived the passage of time and several alterations.

Conservation for this 120 year old masterpiece started two years ago and was only recently completed, requiring 1,300 hours of work to preserve an essential piece of Victorian theatrical history. To read more about this impressive undertaking, check out Past Horizon’s article, The Archaeology of a Dress. There, you can read more about the melding of science and art to preserve this dress for many years to come. Here is the dress after two years of painstaking work, returned to its former beauty and glory: