Posts Tagged ‘Regency fabrics’

Infant’s hand-embroidered dress, c. 1815-1820. Image @Vintage Textiles.

Whenever I view fashion plates and clothes from 200 years ago with Vandyke points, my gaze always lingers. I love these deeply indented trims and decorations, whether they are made of lace or cloth. These are sewn by hand! Imagine the work that went into them.

Vandyke points on the sleeves of a girl’s dress, 1815-1820. Image @Vintage Textile

Delicate muslin border. Image @Vintage Textile

These trims were named after Sir Anthony Van Dyck, a 17th-century Flemish painter (and popular portraitist for British royalty and the upper crust), who was known for painting elaborate V-shaped lace collars and scalloped edges on both his male and female sitters. The pointed vandyke beard was named after him. You can see an example of both in the portrait of Charles I below.

Anthony Van Dyck’s triple portrait of Charles I. Notice the scalloped edge lace collars and pointed vandyke beard.

Vandyke points are labor intensive. The edges you see in the sample of a child’s dress are sewn by hand, as are the tucks. One can only imagine how much time it took, but the results are striking.

Notice the Vandyke points. Love this Heideloff fashion image, 1794-98.

All of the lade edges were once hand-tatted; they are now machine made, but no less spectacular.

Modern reproduction of a regency gown using lace with vandyke points

Vandyke points edged skirts:

Muslin dress with vandyke edging, 1820-1825. Image @Christie’s

They embellished lace caps and collars:

Vandyke points on lace cap and on collar, detail of an Ackermann plate, morning gown, April 1812.

And edged necklines:

1818 ballgown with satin vandyke points edging

They were used to decorate hems:

Silk European dress, ca. 1819-22. Image @MetMuseum

And are still made for modern edgings:

Modern lacy knit with vandyke points

17th century antique clothes looked rich and splendid with these added lace embellishments:

Italian collar with sharp lace points, 1610

For embroidery stitches and lace tatting, click on the following link: Van Dyke online tatting: This article demonstrates how to tat your own Vandyke point lace. Warning. Time consuming. And the link in the caption to the image below:

Vandyke embroidery stitch – a nice way to fill in leaves and flowers. Image @Windy River embroidery stitch tutorial

More on the topic:

Rolinda Sharple’s painting of the Cloakroom at Clifton shows a number of dresses with vandyke points. This one demonstrates several rows of lace with scalloped edges, and sharp-edged embroidery patterns.

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1810 woven Chinese silk cloth with handpainted decorations. Image @Victoria & Albert Museum

We have come to associate delicate white muslin material woven in India with Regency fashion to such a degree that it is easy to forget that other colors and printed fabrics were also used, and that many silk and cotton dresses were made of fabrics with colorful patterns and distinctive designs, such as this 1820’s day dress, or this 1790 caraco printed jacket…


1790 Caraco jacket of printed cotton. Image @Christie's

…or the lively Ackermann dress below.

Dinner dress, Ackermann. 1817

Some of the fabrics were  lavishly embroidered…

1810 Evening Dress with embroidery

… or painted to produce a patterned effect.

1780-1800. Painted satin cloth. Image @Victoria & Albert museum

But with the industrial revolution, printing and dying techniques began to be improved.

Fabric, Manchester art gallery

By the mid-eighteenth century, wood-block printing on cotton and linen textiles had developed to a high standard, even though the home market was affected by legislation protecting the silk and wool industries.” – *V&A


Block printed round gown. Image @Colonial Williamsburg

The dyeing techniques used to produce the strong fast colours on imported Indian chintzes which had dazzled European customers in the seventeenth century had been mastered, and colour ranges were developed further with the introduction of ‘pencilling’ of indigo in the 1730s, and ‘china blue’ by the early 1740s.” – *V&A

Block printed cotton, 1790. Image @Victoria & Albert Museum

“A commentator on the state of British textile arts in 1756 wrote : “chintz…can imitate the richest silk brocades, with a great variety of beautiful colours. This length of block-printed cotton dress fabric is typical in its design and colouring of English production at the end of the 18th century.” – *Block Printed Cotton, Victoria & Albert Museum


Child's cotton dress roller printed, 1820. Image @Vintage Textile

Roller printing also became popular.

Roller printing, a mechanical improvement on the copperplate technique, was developed in England in the late eighteenth century and was in use in the north of England by 1790.” – **Met Museum

Detail, roller printed Regency day gown.

The copper roller gave manufacturers the ability to print larger quantities of fabrics at greater speeds, for lower prices, and the production of printed cotton increased dramatically in the nineteenth century.” – ** Source: Textile Production in Europe: Printed, 1600–1800 | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1800 dress fabric, British. Image @Victoria & Albert Museum


19th century white cotton gown with roller print. Image @Greene Collection

More on the topic:

1795-1800 Printed cotton gown detail. Image @Victoria&Albert Museum

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Domestic Happiness, after George Morland

We have come to associate the Regency period with fine white, high-waisted muslin dresses that were beautifully detailed and embroidered. Until quite recently in human history, a lady did not roam far from her sewing basket. She would mend, sew, and embroider whenever she had spare time. (Even the finest lady in the land could be found plying her needles.) During the day she would sit near a well lit window or even outdoors, and during the long evening hours she would sit by the fireside in a room with other family members, sharing the light from expensive candles (sometimes a single one). For entertainment, one of the men would read aloud from a book, or other family members would play musical instruments. Jane Austen was well known for her sewing skills and examples of her needlework are shown in the Jane Austen Museum in Chawton.

Diamond shaped pattern with a flower in the center

White work is a broad term, one that may be said to encompass any white-on-white needlework, that is, needlework that uses a white yarn or thread on a white ground to create a pattern. Various techniques are employed to make these patterns stand out in high relief against their monochrome background, with the result that many white work pieces have an intensely sculptural quality

All over the country, women carried their needlework with them on visits, and traded patterns among friends.

These techniques include embroidery, drawn work, pulled-fabric work, stump work, stuffed work, cording, quilting, candlewicking, and, later, weaving, both by draw loom and machine. – From Lap to Loom: The transition of Marseilles white work from hand to machine

Detail of cap with twigs and flowers on a ladder motif

Whitework embroidery was frequently used on muslin dresses, fine lawn caps, handerkerchiefs, tablecloths, and bed linens. Patterns were featured in Ladies Periodicals, showing many different motifs, some fancier than others.

1815 La Belle Assemblee Wheat sheaf design

The finest whitework was done on cambric and fine muslin, or netting. This was called French embroidery, or French Hand Sewing. The most delicate threads and techniques were utilized to make gorgeous, lacy handkerchiefs, veils, bonnets, cuffs, collars and baby clothes, as well as gifts to very special friends…

1823 Ackermann embroidery pattern

Christening gowns and robes of the time were very heavily embroidered and were most treasured by their owners. Lots of different patterns and stitches were used, with lots of feather stitching all over, leading to flowers made of satin stitch, eyelets, and buttonhole stitches so tiny as to be difficult to see, and almost all with matching bonnets and slips or petticoats. French knots decorated edges.

1825 Two simple muslin edging patterns

Wedding gowns, too, were embroidered with these techniques, and some of the grooms’ clothes, too, were embroidered to match! – Whitework embroidery

Embroidered collar with lace

More on the topic:

Detail of the hem of a muslin gown. Vintage Textiles.

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Manchester Art Gallery features Dressing Up, Dressing Down on its website. Check out this virtual exhibit of late 18th century dress online. Jane Austen would have been quite familiar with these gowns during her childhood.

Norwich Textiles offers a beautiful site with a history of its lush fabrics. Click here to read about the manufacture of its 19th century fabrics, including the Norwich Shawl, so popular during the regency era.

If you are privileged to own vintage clothing, this excellent article tells you how to store the items properly. Click here.

Image: Manchester Art Gallery

Also read: Fabrics in the Regency Era

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