Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ack’s Back! Or, Regency Fabrics, Part 1

One of the coolest bits of my dear Ackermann’s Repository is that for about the first six years of its existence, from 1809 to some time in 1815, it not only published fashion and other prints of various scenery, but also plates which had actual fabric samples from British cloth manufacturers, in an effort to support the cloth industry. As was stated in the first issue in January 1809 (which alas I do not own), “Patterns afford the manufacturer an opportunity of circulating a new article more extensively in one day, than can be done by sending a dozen riders with it through the country. It will likewise afford persons at a distance from the metropolis the means of examining and estimating the merit of the fabric, and of being made acquainted with the tradesman from whom it may be purchased.” In other words, advertising is a beautiful thing. ☺

These plates included both dress fabrics and upholstery or household use fabrics; in addition, there were a few plates with paper samples for artists. So if a young lady was smitten with a certain figured sarsenet, she could go directly to the warehouse that carried it (addresses of where to purchase them were thoughtfully included) and buy her new spring dresses.

I thought it might be fun to take an up-close look at some of these from my collection. I’ll periodically post them in chronological order, and include the printed description if I have them. Quality and state of preservation will vary—remember, the art of dyeing was not advanced—and I’ll try to give you an idea of both, as well as my observations of the weight and feel of the fabrics, which might not always translate via a scanned image. I hope these will be of use not only to writers of historical fiction, but also to anyone with an interest in early 19th century fashion and textiles. And, you know, they're just kind of cool to look at. Enjoy!

From April 1809—overall condition appears to be good, without much fading or change in 200 years:  


The pattern No.1 and 2. is a new description of furniture calicoes, and the scarlet colour is equally novel and striking. For many years genius and ingenuity have been employed in devising the best means of producing a scarlet dye for calicoes; and with the aid of perseverance, they have at length triumphed in achieving so valuable a discovery. In this stuff the scarlet is judiciously contrasted with a grey blue design, which not only gives it (when made up into curtains or bed furniture) an extremely rich and noble appearance, but also produces a most desirable relief to the matt and burnished gold ornaments which generally accompany them. This splendid article is the manufacture of Mr. Allen, whose private ware-rooms No. 61, Pall-Mall, contain a great variety of the most beautiful furniture cottons ever shewn in this country, after new and chaste designs of his own; and, as we understand, at very reasonable prices.

My comments: Today, I would call this a very lightly glazed chintz--it is about of that weight and slightly glossy appearance

The new and elegant article, No. 3. is denominated Scotia silk, from being manufactured in Scotland. It is a mixture of cotton and silk. The extravagantly high price of the latter, which still continues on the advance, must render an economical article like that before us, a most desirable object, as it exhibits all the appearance and face of silk, at very little more than half the price. It is half-yard wide, and is in great request for pelisses and dresses. It has been introduced by Mrs. James, inventor of fashions for ladies, 15, New Bridge-street, Fleet-street, where it may be had in a variety of colours. 

My comments: The scan isn't adequately conveying the sheen of this sample, which is quite lovely. It's a fairly light-weight fabric but tightly woven and completely opaque, and would probably drape nicely.

No. 4. a spotted muslin, is a very fashionable article; it is either worked by the hand, which of course must render it very expensive; or, like the pattern exhibited in our work, is the produce of the loom; in which case, it comes very little higher than plain muslin of the same quality. It is furnished us by Messrs. T. and J. Smith and Co. No. 34, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden. 

My comments: This almost reminds me of a dotted swiss, but with the dots on lines. It's a lighter muslin weave, so would definitely require a lining.

What do you think?  Do you want more of these?

1 comment:

Regencyresearcher said...

Yes, yes, yes. Please do post more. Excellent information.