Two of my good friends recently got engaged, and so I spent last week over in Edinburgh, celebrating one of my favorite couples at their announcement party and spending time with many old (and new!) friends. When I wasn’t busy practicing my future bridesmaid skills (drinking Prosecco, ruining my new shoes on the dance floor, and hugging everyone), I spent my time out and about in one of my favorite cities. Edinburgh has turned into sort of a home-away-from-home for me, and by now I have a whole routine. I always revisit old haunts, hunt for antique books, fill up a sketchbook, and pretend there's no USD/GBP exchange rate.
The Bride-To-Be knew I was wandering around looking for sketch inspiration and recommended the Pringle of Scotland 200th Anniversary exhibit at the National Museum over on Chambers St. (Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story, NMS 10 Apr 2015 – 16 Aug 2015). I'm so glad I had a chance to check it out! It may be a cute little exhibit, but it packs a big punch of fashion history.
I've always had a thing for Pringle of Scotland and I've always thought of it as a "heritage brand", but I hadn't really realized just how much their pioneering designs have influenced the way we think about sweaters and knitwear. In early 20th century Britain, a sweater was considered to be pretty much inappropriate for pretty much every occasion. Even for golf (see below). But the Pringle designers managed to take this hopelessly casual garment and elevate it completely, essentially inventing the idea of the modern "Fashion Sweater".
The 20th century Pringle strategy was to "apply traditional dressmaking sensibilities to knitwear", basically to give the sweater the design it deserved. They knitted luxurious yarns into refined silhouettes, utilized elegant styling, and added embellishments (and celebrity endorsements), until the world was convinced that a well-made sweater was not only covetable and valuable, but a necessary component of any well-rounded "normal person" wardrobe.
That's a pretty big achievement, when you think about it! Talk about "brand heritage"! I mean, can you imagine a world without statement sweaters? Without “Sweater Weather”? What would we wear to our holiday parties? What would I wear all winter long?
I also enjoyed the exhibit's commentary on the relationship between sweaters and sports. Given Pringle’s essential closeness with Scotland, it's unsurprising that the brand has enjoyed a particularly warm friendship with the world of professional golf. My favorite display was a minimal chic golfing ensemble worn by Gloria Minoprio in 1933 (below - on loan from the British Golf Museum in St. Andrews). Apparently Minoprio wasn't just a fierce athlete, she was a daring trendsetter as well. Her high-waisted purple trousers, tightly fitted navy blue sweater, and stylish little Paquin of London hat absolutely shocked her spectators. Today we’d probably consider it a pretty dressy outfit (especially for sports), but the 1930s press dubbed it scandelously casual and revealing. And it was the sweater that attracted the most heat. Some commentators even felt it represented a breakdown in etiquette of professional golf!
Anyway, Gloria Miroprio and her sweater kind of captured my imagination. There was just something gutsy and cool about her look, a spirited, sporty confidence that I felt deserved a sketch (below). And I love how the Daily Mail described her appearance while playing in the outfit: "She looked like some goddess waving a flashing rapier..."
Entry to exhibit is free, so if you're in the area you should take a look. You only need about 30 minutes. You could probably drop in on your lunch break, see the whole thing, and still have time to grab a cup of coffee in the Instagram-worthy Grand Hall on your way out of the museum (below)! #Pringle200Years @PringleScotland @nationalmuseumsscotland