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!