Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Regency Fabrics, Part 14

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like. So here we go!


Today’s four samples are from the July 1810 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is not very good, and when I went searching online for a less toned and foxed example, I couldn’t find one that was much better.  So here we are, in all its spotted glory:


No. 1 is a real India muslin*, of uncommon delicacy, calculated for half or full dress robes. In the former order it is worn plain, and over white sarsnet; in the latter over coloured gossamer, satin, or sarsnet slips. Long sleeves, cut obliquely, are frequently composed of this article; and the Persian robe, with white satin bodice and petticoat, boasts much elegance and delicacy when formed of this tasteful material. It is sold, from 6s. to 3 guineas per yard, by Mr. Millard of Cheapside; whose ware-rooms are not to be exceeded in taste, fashion, and variety, by any in the metropolis.

*The article of India muslin is well known to have been for many years in high and deserved estimation, and it has been considered by the India Company of the first consequence as an article of commerce, and by the government as a great and principal source of revenue. The improved state of the British manufactured goods has, for some time, enabled many persons to substitute the one for the other, and so well have they been imitated, that even many inexperienced vendors themselves have not been able to distinguish them whilst new. From these combined causes, for two or three years past, the India goods have sunk in the estimation of the public, because British goods have been substituted through ignorance or design; and it is a well known fact, that, in some of the leading streets of the metropolis, as well as in different parts of the country, British muslins have been constantly exposed for sale with large labels on them as real India. This has proved a serious evil to the India Company, to the revenue, and to the public. The establishment of the warehouse by Mr. Millard, in Cheapside, is likely to prove a check to these impositions, as the India goods are there sold direct from the India warehouses, not only in bales, but in single and half pieces. Here the public cannot be deceived, the honour and the reputation of the house entirely precluding the possibility of such a transaction, and those valuable articles will no doubt soon regain their wonted celebrity.

My comments: Okay, if this is real India muslin, I can see what the big deal is about bewaring knock-offs—it’s an amazingly finely woven, dainty, smooth fabric. It’s hard to judge if the patterning is machine woven or hand-done, but it’s lovely—so light and finer than the finest linen. I’m a little amused by the long footnote warning against domestically-made muslins trying to pass themselves off as imported—a bit of a reverse from what we’re used to!


No. 2. A most elegant permanent green cambric muslin, of most delicate pattern and happily contrasted shades. Morning wraps, summer pelisses, and high military gowns, have an uncommonly attractive and appropriate effect, when formed of this elegant print. It is sold by F. and I. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: A very pretty minty green fabric (assuming it hasn’t changed color over the intervening 200 years since it was printed!) The fabric itself reminds me of a lightweight percale; it’s fairly opaque, and has a pleasantly smooth hand. The subtle leaf print is attractive.


No. 3. A beautiful lilac embossed muslin, composing much appropriate and  unique elegance. This article is best calculated for the dinner and  evening party and must be worn over white satin or sarsnet slips, with ornaments of diamonds, pearls, or white beads. It is sold by Messrs. Waithman and Everington, 104, Fleet-street.

My comments: This displays more as pink than what we would consider lilac; it’s hard to judge whether the color in the sample has changed, or how the word is used. It’s fairly loosely woven, but the evenness of the threads keeps it from feeling coarse. The light blue flowerets look almost painted on.


No. 4. A sea-weed or rock muslin, appropriated [sic] also for evening dress, and which should also be worn over white satin or sarsnet. The observation with regard to the ornaments to be worn with dresses of the preceding article, applies to the present. This muslin is sold by F. and I. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: This sample has not aged well; looking at another example of this page I found on line the print is dark tan and black on a brown background, in a sort of loopy, tentacle-ish pattern; my guess is that the dye had degraded the material, so it’s hard to make a judgment about the weight and hand. The fabric body itself is very loosely woven of fine threads and any garment would indeed have to have been worn over an underdress.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

I like the warnings about fake India muslins.