Recently, a fascinating selection of historic fashion sketches were discovered at Attingham Park. Whilst undertaking inventory checking work in the textile collection store in 2018, a National Trust volunteer found this collection of sketches tucked inside an unassuming historic envelope. These sketches were created by Teresa Hulton, later the 8th Lady Berwick, between the ages of 11 and 15. Born in 1890, Teresa created the sketches in the early part of the 20th century.
The sketches are a valuable resource showing what activities and interests wealthy teenage girls enjoyed at the time. They show family, friends, ladies’ maids, seamstresses, and outfits seen in operas and plays. Some gowns appearing to be outfits that survive in the Attingham collection, like the striped dress Teresa depicts her mother wearing.
In different mediums from ink to pastel, some sketches have been drawn on whatever paper Teresa had to hand, like her grandmother’s address card. Some of the sketches have been meticulously cut around to give a 3D effect. Pin holes in some of the sketches suggest they were displayed. Other pictures seen in Teresa's letters to her friends show she used her illustrations as modern teenage girls might do with photographs – sharing images of outfits admired at parties or picnics. In a letter to a friend, she says how she loved to sketch her mother in her evening dresses before she left for soirees.
Teresa’s father, the artist William Stokes Hulton, encouraged his daughters to take an interest in art. William Stokes Hulton was friends with influential artists like John Singer Sargent and Walter Sickert. Sickert helped Teresa and her sister, Gioconda, with their own artistic efforts and the girls sent him their drawings to be commented on. Whilst Gioconda was the one who developed a real passion for art, Teresa primarily enjoyed creating beautiful fashion sketches.
Teresa’s interest in fashion paved the way for her future as a fashionable society beauty featuring in the ‘Vogue’ and ‘Tatler’ magazines. She also made her own dresses and enjoyed attending fancy dress parties in historical costumes and outfits from different countries – ideas suggested by the more fanciful of her sketches.
Holly Kirby (assistant curator, Attingham Park)