This uniform, (comprising a jacket, trousers and a helmet) with its elaborate embroidery, was made for Maharaja Khanderao Gaekwad of Baroda. He would have worn it when inspecting his troops or on other such ceremonial occasions. Sarah Glenn, Textile Conservator, explains the work she has done in preparation for displaying the uniform in 'Maharaja - The Splendour of India's Royal Courts', 10 October 2009 - 17 January 2010.
Hello, I’m Sarah Glen, I’m a textile conservator here at the V&A and I’ve been working on this jacket as part of the Maharaja’s exhibition. It was worn by the Gaekwad of Baroda. It’s made from this black moray silk and it’s very beautiful but very heavy gold and silver embroidery, which the weight of it is so heavy it has been causing splits to occur throughout the silk, which is the main conservation problem that we have to solve. And because this is going on a mannequin we have to make sure that obviously the silk will hold up and that the braid doesn’t carry on splitting the silk in the same way. So what I’ve had to do is to make a kind of interlining between the actual lining and the silk itself and to get access into that I’ve had to undo all the original stitching, so I’ve undone this bit here in order to put this black silk support in between, then I shall stitch around the edges of this black panel here and then stitch it in place with layered couching threads to support the splits here. I’ll also have to do the same thing for the arms if you can see here, there are lots of splits occurring just from the weight of the braid again and I’ll have to do a similar thing as the back panel by undoing this arm seam here, in order to get a silk support in between the two layers.
OK, so this jacket is going on display along with the pair of trousers that go with it, which will also be conserved as well. And also Jenny, our V&A/RCA student, has worked on the helmet here. She's primarily been treating these feathers here which were very grey and dirty when we got them in the studio, so dirty in fact that we weren’t entirely sure what bird they came from. So what she’s been doing is very gently cleaning them with water and a tiny, tiny drop of detergent, which has kind of brightened them up, and we’ve since identified them as being swan feathers so they'll look pretty spectacular all together on a mannequin.
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