Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Gosthwaites Grand Opening Event (or Cestina's Revenge Part Two)

Opening a department store is no easy matter - anyone who watched the recent television series about the founding of one of London's iconic stores, Selfridges, will know that!

You could read all about the store's beginnings in my previous post - now for the fun part!

Much internal debate has gone on as to what departments we should have in the trickily named Gosthwaites of Aberystwyth.   The store is set in a Welsh town, probably not somewhere that aspires to high fashion or up to date trends, which has allowed me to be fairly flexible over contents.   And the date is helpfully vague "just before the First World War".   Ladies' fashions were dramatically changing at that point in time so that too allowed for flexibility.

But before one can put goods on display one needs counters, shelves, display cabinets and dressmakers' mannequins.....

Last year someone came into Small Worlds and announced that they had quantities of "dýha" they had found in a loft, and did I want it?   I had no clue what it was but fortunately a Czech friend was present and immediately said yes I did.   It turned out to be sheets and sheets of wood veneer of various colours and wood patterns - highly desirable in the dolls house world.

I decided to cheat comprehensively on the counters and shelving, using the wood veneer and a secret ingredient, instant soup cartons.  

Teabag boxes also turned out to be just the right size for the counters that staff would stand behind to serve customers.

The attempts at drawers using matchboxes and veneer were not so successful and these will have to be redone in due course. 

The glass display cabinets were easy peasy - over many years I have collected little metal-bound boxes of all shapes and sizes to make miniature presents in.... 

 ........these now came into their own.  

They were carefully cleaned by Anna Šlesinger and scattered around Gosthwaites, ready to be filled with luxury goods.

The mannequins were not quite so easy - I had it in mind to use hair curlers for the lower body on top of some sort of base -
I was aiming at something like this. I did quite a lot of experimenting with cheap versions of Barbie-type dolls, removing the lower body parts and arms and just using the upper torso.   

It didn't work and it wasn't until friend Lynda visited and pointed out that she could model the torsos in air-drying clay that we - or rather she - were successful in producing something approximating to what I was after.   And since they will mostly be covered in fine apparel the bases made of wooden kitchen knobs seemed to suffice!

Although the downstairs of Gosthwaites clearly needs to be devoted to Ladies' Fashions, the fine apparel is causing some problems; sewing is not, as I have mentioned before, one of my talents.  In fact I hid under the desk at school when we were offered extra needlework in a free hour.   

Nothing has changed since then in my feelings towards it. However, a Czech visitor who is a dressmaker offered to have a go at some dresses.   She is still experimenting with size, proportions and appropriate fabrics but so far what she has made is more suitable for other houses in Small Worlds.  So Gosthwaites has only benefited marginally from her labours.    

My friend Jill, however, laboured mightily during her visit this September and her creation takes pride of place at the moment.  

I have had an offer from another dressmaker who is used to working with tiny items but unfortunately I couldn't get the pattern books to her in time before I left for the UK in October.   However, Gosthwaites is, like any store, a work in progress and one couldn't put next season's fashions on display this year anyway!

I have spent many hours browsing books on Edwardian and pre-war department stores.   One of the most useful, apart from the three in the photo, has been the little Shire Library publication by Clare Masset, which is packed with relevant information.

From the books I gleaned more ideas than I had space for - should we have a photographer's studio upstairs, complete with Edwardian backgrounds?  Or perhaps a team of seamstresses with treadle sewing machines ready to do on-the-spot alterations?   A corset department seemed a necessity, given  some of the fashions of the period.  Hats of course, and maybe other fashion accessories.   And how about a children's department complete with all that the modern baby would need in the way of equipment and clothing, not to mention playthings?

In the end, of course, it came down to what I already had available - and to what family and friends were offering or could be cajoled into producing.   

The hats were a given; from the time last year when my friend Milena began crocheting tiny hats - her full-size creations can be seen here - I knew that a millinery department was a must. Her previous mini-creations are scattered round Small Worlds - in the Art Deco house for example, and outside the Walmer Victorian...

She and another friend, Jana, came to stay for a few days this summer and Milena (what a name for a milliner!) had already been busy at home.  She unpacked a stunning array of hats - the black ones make me think that I really ought to have a specialist mourning department in the store at some point.   

She and Jana then spent their time in Small Worlds creating even more hats and, on finding some tiny shells in my stash, hat pins.

A startling success has been the jewellery department.   When daughter-in-law Laura, of Laurart, said she would like to make some jewellery I envisioned necklaces and maybe bracelets.
  It never occurred to me that she might also be able to produce rings that are almost too small to see without a magnifying glass!  
While son and I took the children out to various local attractions, Laura remained at her workbench (aka as my dining table) and when we came home we were greeted with a magnificent array of wares.
I have not been allowed to display the earrings in the store since they do not yet come up to Laura's demanding standards .....(but if you look carefully you will find some pairs on various dressing tables around Small Worlds).

Because the wares are so tiny, the jewellery department dictated some of the layout of the store.   

It had to be at the front on the first floor, so that everything could be seen properly.   

It's a relatively small department so the haberdashers department, which is anything but complete, has slotted in behind.  

You can read the full story of how Laura created these wonders in this post on her blog - and see better photos too!

Also for ease of viewing, the hats are right upstairs although it might make more sense to have them next door to the accessories since customers are likely to want all such items close together.  

The heads, like the inhabitants of the ballet school, are once again courtesy of Anna Šlesinger though I rather think she expected me to put bodies on them!


At present, however, a toy department is on the middle floor.  

I quailed at the number of sewn and knitted items that would be needed in a proper children's department and because I was anxious to finally fill the rooms, toys seemed an obvious, though possibly only temporary, solution.  

The ever-useful Czech curtain hooks came to the rescue of this wheel-less engine.....

The lift,  created by Butterfly and inspired by the golden lifts of Selfridges' glory days, rises majestically through all the floors, with a woven rope across the dangerous opening on each floor.  (Well it would rise majestically had I already installed some sort of mechanism. As I said, a work in progress). 

Full details of the lift's creation can be seen at the end of this post on her blog, Words and Pictures.

The rope is a necessity since we do not want to lose any customers. And for their further safety and comfort  I plan to introduce one of the most famous liftboys in literature shortly - my Dutch readers will know of whom I speak.

Discreetly tucked behind the lift on the top floor we have, of course, the facilities. 

Ladies Fashions are on what is, at the moment, the somewhat empty ground floor of the establishment.   Their time will come - and having seen something that Laura had on her blog recently, corsets have made a reappearance as a possible department.   I put them on my Christmas list.....

If some should appear on Christmas Day, then I think I shall put the Corsetry and Lingerie Department downstairs as well.  Gentlemen customers will have to avert their eyes as they pass through the store.   There is much inspiration to be found in this fascinating article.

And the last department to "make the cut" into Gosthwaites is the one housing china, porcelain,glass and silver.  

The large glass display cases come into their own here - and I was surprised to find quite how many sets of china I could find in my stash.    They, along with the jewellery and hats, evoke a lot of oohs and aahs from visitors.

So that completes the store's inventory and I will leave you with a view of  the whole store both inside and out - but remember, in the retail trade nothing ever stands still so who knows what Gosthwaites may be selling next season?

Thank you for following the story so far - apologies for the slowing down of blog posts but there will definitely be one more before Christmas, I promise.


  1. As we've said, still work in progress, but I'm so impressed (or maybe slightly horrified, though unsurprised) at how you inveigle (pressgang?) all your visitors into making things... and how brilliant they are, whether miniaturesquely-minded or not!!

    I think I'll have to get at your splendid soup packet cabinets with the walnut stain when I'm there again. I feel the slightly teak-y look is not quite imposing enough! And more shelving... Yes, I know... I'll get on it if you won't! But big bravos all round so far!!

    1. I heartily agree about the teaky look - you know how I feel about teak! I hesitate to say this in view of the pressgang comment but I did know that there was someone in the family far more skilled at wood effects of all kinds than I am! So I choose a base colour that would take whatever Butterfly cared to come up with :-)

      I think cajoled, or possibly inspired, are nicer terms but I too am amazed and delighted at people's willingness to have a go - and I think they are often surprised and equally delighted at what they find they can achieve.....And I am hugely grateful; Small Worlds would not be what it is without all the brilliant help it has had.

    2. Er chose, not choose. Or even choosed.

  2. Hello Miss Cestina, thanks so much for visiting my nest, it gave my heart a hug knowing my 2 favorite artist were worried about me, I have to say I did miss seeing your amazing creations. FULL STOP this is my favorite post, One you were born to create this Doll Museum, your are a BRILLIANT Designer, I see where Miss Butterfly got her talent, you know she is my all time favorite Designer, the apple never falls far from the tree... The shelves, brilliant, I love the boxes, funny I have a huge box full of small boxes, just waiting to be used. they turned out perfect, the glass display cases are fabulous, your collection is perfect for the display cases. wow the dress forms blew me away, those are brilliant too, your dress designer has created some gorgeous clothes, you know how much I love little dresses. Oh my I' in love with the tiny hats they are so adorable, I have been wanting to make some and you have inspired me to do that when I get a chance, can't wait. You have some wonderful, talented friends. Those hat pins are the best, I have a special love for hat pins, its the one thing I always look for in the in the charity shops in England, Imagine another brilliant designer in the family, Miss Laura her jewelry are out of this world and look fabulous displayed in the glass cabinet. I agree Bravo to you all for these fantastic creations. Gosthwaites of Aberystwyth has been a wonderful success in progress and all. I'm so glad I came to see this, it is just what I need I have been at the hospital all day, sadly my dear Sister is back in the hospital her cancer is back, I haven't announced it on my blog yet we just found out a couple of days ago, so this post just made me so happy, thanks for that, I will look forward to see the progress on your fabulous store, hope you and Miss Butterfly have a WONDERFUL holiday season, ((( BIG HUGS )))..

    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your sister Dianne; I am glad that there was a long blogpost to distract you even if only for a short while.

      Your comments are always so bubbling with enthusiasm and you have clearly examined everything so carefully - I love reading them. Thank you so much

  3. Amazing projects in every department. I need to be made smaller so that I can go inside and try on some hats and jewels. The ideas at Small Worlds are mind blowing.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and thank you for sharing the wonders that you create.

    Love Chrissie x

    1. It would be lovely to be able to shrink and shop wouldn't it? And then I wouldn't need to make tiny dolls either....

      Thank you for being such a regular visitor and commenter. It's so good to hear that people are enjoying Small Worlds as much as I do.

      Have a wonderful Christmas and a Peaceful New Year

  4. What a fantastic department store, I have a built DHE Magpies which I had planned to make into an Edwardian department store but just couldn't get inspired to start as it seemed such a big project, this post has definitely inspired me to give it a go. I love the glass boxes you have used as display cabinets and will look out for these in charity shops from now on.

    1. It daunted me as well Diane and in the end I decided I had to just go for it and be prepared to change it afterwards. Otherwise it would have just sat there for another two years....

      I think dolls houses and miniatures are a "one day" hobby - as in "One day I shall make this store, finish this house, create this garden...."

      I'm becoming aware that there aren't enough "one days" left in my life to wait around!

      Good luck with yours - and get hold of that Shire Library book if you haven't already seen it. Lots of ideas in there.

  5. ooh how lovely! LOTS of beautiful work from LOTS of people in this fine emporium! Jill's gown is splendid!

    Um - just one tiny query. Are the Facilities open-plan? I can see how this might be useful, in that one could continue to advise one's companion on potential purchases whilst enthroned, but I wonder whether it might cause alarm? It may be, of course, that it is an authentic setting discovered from your painstaking research. And true Ladies never need to Go…
    Andrea x
    PS I recognise that lying-down bear!

    1. Thought you might! Of the many I have made, this is the only one of which I have a photo. Well a locatable (is this a word?) photo anyway. And that required much searching ....

      Thought too you might query the zařízení. They have to remain open-plan until I conceive of a way of both ensuring privacy for the occupants and visibility for the full-size viewers of Gosthwaites.....

  6. I do admire your work, and am in awe of Laura's jewellery - even making full-size jewellery is something that causes me to go all sweaty and cross and very, very sweary - I am 99.9% certain I couldn't do miniature work...

  7. Wow. We just love your ingenuity in taking one item and making it into something entirely different. We had a small grocery shop and a sewing room with our dolls house collection, a whole department store has so much more scope.

  8. I agree with Alison, anyone who comes to stay seems to have hidden talents and gets put to work... with fabulous results once again! Can't wait to see how Gosthwaites develops.