Last week, FIDM Museum staff traveled to Good Samaritan Hospital Los Angeles with precious cargo in tow. The cloth-of-gold court bodice worn by Lady Mary Douglas to the coronation of George III in 1761 had an appointment in Radiology! This extremely rigid bodice is heavily boned with baleen and covered with cloth of gold, a fabric woven with real gold filaments and silk. Silver embroidery and hand-punched sequins depict overflowing cornucopias at the neckline and stylized roses and thistles—all symbols of the British Empire. The bodice is part of the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, which we are currently raising funds to acquire.
Because they are non-invasive, X-rays are an excellent way of learning more about an object. Instead of unraveling a seam or removing a sequin, you simply let technology do its work. The technique is commonly used on mummies, as it can create images without disturbing the ancient wrappings or sarcophagi. In the case of Lady Mary's court bodice, X-rays revealed the placement of baleen boning, showed how bands of embroidery were applied over pre-embroidered sleeves, and delineated the minuscule embroidery stitches and paillettes more clearly than we could see with the naked eye.
These and other findings about the bodice will be included in "Clothing Monarchy, Fashioning Royalty, " a panel session at The Making of a Monarchy for the Modern World conference to be held June 6-8, 2012 at Kensington Palace, London. Curator Kevin Jones, Associate Curator Christina Johnson, Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell and Dale Gluckman are planning a panel discussion focusing on this bodice and other highlights of the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. Look out for more detailed blog posts about the bodice, including more lab results, this summer.
FIDM Museum staff would like to thank the Radiology staff at Good Samaritan Hospital, especially Dr. Sukhvinder Puri, Victor Helton and Melissa Hulse, for treating our unusual patient with such extreme care.