Embroidered or Beaded?

I’m always on the lookout for images to use for inspiration in my writing, especially when it comes to writing descriptions of Regency era clothing.

Not long ago I came found his image on The Met Museum’s website:

This, I thought, is a very nice linen gown, perfect for a warm summer day; and it has some lovely embroidery along the neckline and on the hems of the sleeves and skirt.

The shape of the gown appealed to me, too, because the extra fabric gathered in back reminded me of the “round gown” popular around the year 1800. And the scalloped edges on the hems of the sleeves and skirt were something I couldn’t recall seeing before.

Luckily, The Met had additional photos of the gown’s details, so I took a look at the close-up of the gown’s neckline:

And that’s when I realized I wasn’t looking at embroidery; I was looking at beading.

Lots and lots of beading! Every bit of color on this gown is comprised of tiny colored beads arranged in intricate designs. Here’s a close-up of the beading along the bottom of the skirt:

Each motif is executed perfectly. In fact, from a distance, you would think it was a machine printed fabric.

What’s astonishing to me is how well preserved the gown is; after two-hundred years, every tiny bead is still in its place.

I just love this gown because it’s so deceptively simple with its plain linen fabric, but after spending some time looking at the exquisite bead-work, I have to wonder if this wasn’t a very expensive gown to purchase.

Even more, I wonder about the talented woman (or women) responsible for creating such a lovely gown. Their skills are a lost art!

6 thoughts on “Embroidered or Beaded?

  1. Wow! This gown is exquisite and I completely agree it would have been expensive. Yes, a very ‘accomplished’ woman or a very talented seamstress or her assistant would have spent hours on this dress. Just looking at it has me imagining one of the Bennet sisters (Kitty perhaps) having such a talent and it coming out strong after Lydia has eloped with Wickham and she is not allowed to go anywhere alone. In her boredom she works on the design and execution of this dress! Maybe she has seen something with beading on one of Elizabeth or Jane’s dresses? Maybe, if she is very good, she will be allowed to attend Georgiana’s coming out ball. Knowing she has the time, she spends her pin money on beads instead of ribbons and thread! I realize the time frame is a bit off, but my imagination just took off!

    Do you have any more books planned on the Bennet sisters?

    • We think alike, Carole! This dress made my imagination take off, too. I have a story I’ve been working on that’s a lot like the scenario you mentioned:; Kitty has a talent for trimming bonnets and dresses. After Mr. Bennet falls ill, and no one can tell if he will recover, Kitty decides to put her skills to work to earn money, just in case Mr. Collins takes over Longbourn and turns the Bennet women out of their home. I’m kind of taken with the idea of Kitty being the sister to step up and save the family from financial ruin. 🙂

      In the meantime, I’ve been working on a book that I hope to finish by the end of the month; keeping my fingers crossed (and my coffee mug full) that I will get it done! I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

  2. Oh yes, I like your scenario for Kitty! I hope you take it up once you finish this new one! I’m all excited to know you do have one in the works! Thank you so much for letting me know, and I look forward to the progress reports. Too bad I can’t be there to keep your coffee mug filled!

  3. Actually, beadwork is a thriving craft! You only need to Google the term and you’ll find lots of books and examples.

    That particular type of bead embroidery on fabric is not very popular sanymore, but I think that’s because it became narrowed down to evening wear and wedding gowns, and hardly anyone makes their own anymore.

    It would be interesting to know if the design was stitched with a needle or a tambour hook. BTW, there are textile houses in India still today where people embellish fabric with thread, sequins a and beads, either for high end saris or for sale to the high end fashion world in Europe. It would be interesting to know if the fabric originally came from.India, or if it was stitched in England.

    • This is great info, Ruth! I’m amazed by the skill and patience it must have taken to produce a gown like this or any of the clothing items you mentioned. I’ve heard of tambour frames before, but not a tambour hook, so I’m off to do some research! 🙂

  4. Pingback: Some ideas for a new week | hertstitch

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