Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Despite my tendency to be a detail-oriented person, I tend to take fashion in as a whole.  But just as the accessories can make an outfit, so too can the minute details.  Take embroidery for example.  Embroidery was such an important aspect of high fashion of the 18th century yet it is often lost to us in paintings of the time.  Luckily we have surviving examples of the amazing embroidered work of the time, which are better appreciated on their own.

 A woman's jacket, circa 1620.  The black and white style of embroidery actually reminds me of black and white tattoos (example).

Women's smock, England, circa 1630.  A simplistic pattern but don't you just love the smiling snails?  You would never catch that from far away. 

Man's waistcoat, 1780s. Monkeys!  Even if you don't like the mischievous little fellows you have to appreciate this amazing piece of embroidery.  Although I wouldn't get to close to rake sporting this waistcoat.  For more on the monkey craze, check out Susan's post.

Mantua and petticoat, England, 1740s.  What can you say about such breathtaking work?  The only problem with it is that you would draw an excessive amount of unnecessary attention to your backside.

Mantua petticoat, England, 1740-5.  Can you image walking into a room with a rectangular skirt?  How about a rectangular skirt like this?  Would many people bend over to examine the awesome needlework?

Gown, England, circa 1780.  Simple yet gorgeous.  I love how so many of these patterns have birds hiding in them.  This bird reminds me of some of the imagery I recall seeing in Arizona.  If I saw it by itself I probably wouldn't have guessed it to be of English origin. 


  1. That last one is off one of my most favorite 18thc gowns ever! I love how it's so carefully pieced together so the embroidery matches up.

  2. Lovely, think how good we would be if there weren't social networks?

  3. Those mantua petticoats are beautiful beyond words. And you know what? I wouldn't care if there were looking at my backside! I don't have a backside to begin with! (Yes, I am one of those people with a no curves and a bony butt. I might actually gain a butt with those dresses. Although, I'm not sure my 94 pound frame could handle all those layers without either collapsing from the weight or having a heat seizure. Hmmmm.)

    My other favorites are the woman's smock with the snails, cats and butterflies (it's so cute!) and the man's waistcoat. I think the last one has birds and butterflies hidden in the flowers (or the flowers could be perceived as butterflies).

    It's hard to think that everything back then used to be done by hand. That had to be so time consuming and painful on the eyes to do all those stitches! I crochet and I get bored after ten minutes! How the times have changed!

  4. Thanks for posting this! As someone who spends a fair amount of time (read: every second I can grab) embroidering in some fashion, I'm fascinated by the beauty and artwork that was clothing. With the fast-paced and advanced machinery we have today, I think we tend to lose sight of what it meant to have this beautiful, intricate and detailed work to wear, much less look at. Textile museums are one of my favorite to visit because it brings quite another meaning to art - for me, at least.