The most stylish historian in all of history, Amber Butchart is currently making waves on BBC Four's A Stitch in Time where she gives us a fascinating insight into historical figures through their clothes - beautifully weaving together history and fashion in 30 educational and entertaining minutes! The captivating series is a must-watch and has been our favourite thing on TV this year!
Credit Lorna Milburn
We've been watching Amber for a while now, from her days as Head Buyer at Beyond Retro to delighting our eyes and ears as one half of DJ duo The Broken Hearts. You can imagine our excitement when she agreed to let us pick her brain...
YOU HAVE A VERY IMPRESSIVE RESUME! CAN YOU SUM UP WHAT YOU DO IN ONE SENTENCE?
I’m a fashion historian - so I write, lecture and broadcast about many aspects of fashion history.
REGARDING YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO HISTORICAL FASHION, WHAT IS THE MOST FUN PROJECT YOU HAVE EVER WORKED ON?
Definitely, the TV series, A Stitch in Time is one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on. For the series, I got to choose 6 historic artworks, and historical tailor Ninya Mikhaila and her team have recreated the clothing in them using traditional, authentic methods. We really get to see clothing in its historic. social and political context. I got to have a go at a number of things I’ve wanted to try for ages - medieval dyeing, filming at the Palace of Versailles, and getting a crash course (literally) in fighting in armour!
LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR MUSIC...WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE GIG AND WHY?!
One year we got to Dj at the Ritz in Moscow on Christmas Day - that was pretty unbeatable. Last year we played at a hotel opening in Sri Lanka, and the year before at one in Hong Kong. I’m incredibly lucky to have had these experiences! Some of our early festival gigs were really exciting too - causing stage invasions at Latitude and managing to do Glastonbury and not camp - quite the achievement.
WHAT DO YOU PERSONALLY REGARD AS YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT?
I’m very very proud of our flat. It took a lot of hard work to save to buy it but it was all fully worth it. It's in Margate, which we absolutely love, looking out to sea. My boyfriend Rob and I have recently finished refurbishing it, exactly to our taste. We both have very specific ideas about what we wanted it to look like, and we’re delighted with the result - a cornucopia of colour and patterns, including a leopard print floor in our kitchen, Rob’s illustrations on our kitchen tiles, and a glorious art deco bathroom. You can take a peek here and here.
WHAT'S THE BEST DECISION YOU EVER MADE?
After I left university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I decided to get a job at my favourite shop, Beyond Retro. I became the Head Buyer and worked there for 7 years. I’ve loved old clothes for as long as I can remember, but this is the moment it became my profession. It’s still my favourite place to shop for clothes!
I currently haven’t had a holiday for 3 years, which I’d say is a pretty bad decision. Although it’s not really a decision, more a necessity as I’ve gone from one project to the next without a break. My resolution for 2018 is to (fingers crossed) have a holiday at some point!
WHAT'S IN STORE FOR YOU IN THE YEAR AHEAD?
I’m currently working on my next book, which will be out in the autumn. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it's involved me researching areas from the clothing of suffragettes to Karl Marx. Keep posted here or on social media to find out more! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TATTY DEVINE PIECE?
While I am a BIG fan of the anchors and the musical notes, my all time favourite is a Tatty Devine classic - the lobster. I got to make my own during a Tatty Devine workshop so it's even more special. One of the first books I wrote was Nautical Chic, which charts the impact of the sea on our wardrobes. I grew up in a seaside town and have always been fascinated by nautical dress, so the lobster gets a lot of outings at public talks, and for seaside life in general!
WHICH WOMEN ARE YOU WATCHING RIGHT NOW?
I love literally watching social historian Emma Dabiri who has recently been on our screens on BBC2’s The Sweet Makers and BBC4’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces. She’s currently writing a book about the history of hair that I’m really looking forward to. Some of my other favourite women had fantastic books out last year - hoola hooper Marawa’s The Girl Guide and Gemma Cairney’s Open. And another favourite, dressmaker Tilly and the Buttons, has her next book Stretch out in March.