Six things you never knew about Pearly Kings & Queens

By acollinson on 22 Sep 2016
Pearly Queen at the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Pearly Queen at the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Pearly Kings and Queens are an iconic image of London, easily recognised by their distinctive suits and accessories covered with patterns of mother-of-pearl buttons. They’ve inspired fashion designers, costume makers, and been featured in everything from films to the London Olympics opening ceremony. We’re showing off some beautiful Pearly clothes ourselves, in anew display at the museum. But do you know the meaning and surprising history behind the costume?

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Kibbo Kift Unkovered

By guest on 16 Oct 2015
John Hargrave addressing  the Althing (annual camp), 1923John Hargrave addressing  the Althing (annual camp), 1923

Kibbo Kift Leader John Hargrave addresses the Althing (annual camp), 1923

Who were the Kibbo Kift?

Were they the pacifist and feminist version of the Boy Scouts? Were they banker-bashing radicals or performance artists? Were they, as some accused, secretly fascists, communists, or connected to the Ku Klux Klan? Now, for the first time in decades, this extraordinary and visionary social movement of the 1920s and 30s is back in the London spotlight.

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Sartorial dissections: clothes in the photographs of Christina Broom

By beatrice behlen on 12 Oct 2015
Journalists at The Pageant of Women's Trades and Professions, 27 April 1909

Journalists at The Pageant of Women’s Trades and Professions, 27 April 1909 (detail)

My ideal job would give me licence to stare at people all day. Maybe I should have become a photographer, but while I get the depth of field thing (I think), I never really felt totally at one with a camera. Instead I have become the next best thing for a people-starer: a dress historian. My profession (no sniggering at the back!) provides me with a legitimate reason – or so I am telling myself – for gazing at others and for dissecting their appearance. I’m not too bothered whether someone is fashionably dressed or looks – or pretends to look – as if they don’t particularly care about their clothes. And when I say dissect I don’t mean judge. Whether the clothes are beautiful, ugly, boring or unremarkable (in my eyes or by general consent) is neither here nor there. I want to know why that particular person chose to wear that particular thing in combination with the other things they’ve put on. (Naturally my curiosity extends to accessories, jewellery, hair and make-up as well.)

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A dress for spring

By beatrice behlen on 16 Apr 2015

I have been putting off publishing this entry as it contains too many known unknowns for my liking. But I have already spent too many hours on Ancestry and I am hoping that you will be able to solve some of the mysteries surrounding the object below.

Detail of fancy dress outfit

The bodice can currently be seen in Show Space a new (small) exhibition area we opened just before Easter. Show Space consists of three mannequin-height cases which can be (relatively) easily configured to hold different types and sizes of objects. We want to react more quickly to what’s happening in London, to bring out objects that have a good story but don’t fit into forthcoming exhibitions and generally to experiment a little. There is also a screen for film and other digital ‘stuff’ and a player for gems from our Oral History Collection (or sounds, or music). Read the full postRead the full post

Sherlock style: Q+A with artist Kasia Wozniak

By sarah madden, blog editor on 15 Oct 2014


As part of our Sherlock Holmes season at the Museum of London, we commissioned London-based photographer Kasia Wozniak to create a new fashion photography series inspired by the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle. We caught up with her at her studio in South London and asked her a few questions ahead of her exhibition opening… Read the full postRead the full post

The story of London Tweed

By sarah madden, blog editor on 13 Oct 2014

Museum of London tweed

So this is how the story goes. In 1826 a London merchant decides to buy some cloth from a weaver in Hawick, a town in the Scottish borders famous for its cloth production. Very happy with his order, he decides to get some more but – crucially – misreads the weaver’s dashed handwriting. Instead of ‘twill’ this Londoner reads ‘tweed’, and assumes this new cloth must take after the River Tweed which runs fast and clear through the textile areas of lower Scotland. ‘Tweed’ and not ’twill’ has been the term used ever since. Read the full postRead the full post