ICOM International Committee for Museums and Collections of Costume, Fashion and Textiles

All news

June 29, 2020

Online Talk by Alexandra Kim and Ann Wass

Talk by Alexandra Kim and Dr. Ann Wass “My Things from the Ship are all Come Safe”
Online July 7, 2020 at 9 am (EST).

To register to this virtual event, please visit:

The Gwillim Project Online centres about the unpublished correspondence and artwork of two sisters, Elizabeth Gwillim and Mary Symonds, who travelled to Madras (now Chennai) at the beginning of the nineteenth century. They went with Elizabeth’s husband, Sir Henry Gwillim, who was to serve as a judge. The project brings together an international network of scholars from diverse fields in order to explore the collections from multiple perspectives.

The Gwillim Project Online will open with “My Things from the Ship are all Come Safe,” by dress historians Alexandra Kim and Ann Wass. Their presentation will focus on some the exchanges in the letters to family and friends, which are held in the British Library.  They provide a fascinating glimpse of how British women sought to dress appropriately while accommodating to the climate and the challenges of maintaining a stylish appearance, especially given the vagaries of shipments from England. They also shed some light on how fashionable Indian goods made their way to England. The presentation will introduce Elizabeth, Mary and their life in Madras, as well as discussing their trials and tribulations in obtaining items from England, communicating with their family and sending goods and presents back home.  It will also draw on other contemporary sources, including the sisters’ drawings, other accounts of life in early nineteenth century India, paintings and prints, fashion plates and surviving garments.  Finally the presentation will consider the significance of the sisters’ documentation of their dress cultures and discuss briefly the next steps in the research.

We must thank you for the delicate stratagem of the small package by the “Harriet” which came as perfect as you set it out. . . . these muslins you have now sent, instead of being made up now will be laid bye_& by. Your next sending you must send us made up gowns alone & not any muslins, unless it should be something very striking.”

Elizabeth to Hetty

14 August 1803


Image: Dress panel of embroidered muslin with coloured silks, edged with ribbon and lined with muslin, England ca. 1810. © Victoria and Albert Museum London