The media features NTU research fellow & lecturer Dr Leanne Tonkin

The media features NTU research fellow & lecturer Dr Leanne Tonkin

 May 04, 2023

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Nottingham Trent University (NTU) women are often featured in the media, sought out for their thought-leadership and insightful perspectives.

Research Fellow and Lecturer in Fashion from NTU's School of Art & Design Dr Leanne Tonkin is spotlighted in The Conversation, highlighting how King Charles III’s coronation robes – and other historical garments – are conserved.

Conservators apply tremendous skill and knowledge

"Ahead of King Charles III’s coronation, textile conservators based at Historic Royal Palaces are hard at work. For the occasion, the sovereign is set to don historic ceremonial robes, heavy with history and symbolism," explains Dr Tonkin. 

"Conserving textiles is all the more challenging when the textiles in question are not just to be displayed but also worn, as these coronation robes are. Conservators apply tremendous skill and knowledge to keep such items intact."

When the royal coronation garments are not in active use, they are held in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Historical Royal Palaces and Kensington Palace. This archive offers tangible evidence of dress worn by the royal family since the 18th century.

"Conservators there work to identify and protect areas of weakness in the materials the garments are made of," shares Dr Tonkin. "They can be heavy in some areas, which makes the threads more fragile. This can stretch and damage the material, when not supported. Care is taken that elaborate decorations, mostly made with silk and precious-metal thread, like gold and silver, do not snag."

Dr Tonkin highlights that traditional materials, like the gold silk used to make the coronation robes, are stronger and thus more durable – they can keep their shape and often their colour too. "Ensuring this, however, involves thorough environmental monitoring to achieve optimum conditions – regular humidity levels, cool temperatures, low light levels. When transporting or otherwise handling historic textiles, you have to use materials that do not react chemically," she explains. 

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