Until late 2016, the National Museum has a small exhibition on embroidered clothes from 1780-1800 on show. Together with the other textile collections, it is well worth a visit. Living too far a way to pop over and have a look? No worries. Let me show you some exquisite silk embroidery.
Centrepiece of the exhibition is a Robe paree, a French female court dress from 1780-1790. It was altered three times to follow changes in fashion. The dress ended up in the museum as 20 separate parts and was recently pieced together again. Its cream satin is lavishly embroidered with silk embroidery using satin stitch, stem stitch, knots, needle lace, goldwork, paper padding and applique. In all, there are 20 different dainty little flower patterns consisting of roses, pansies and bellflowers scattered on the dress. Larger patterns consisting of garlands and bouquets of roses, carnations and forget-me-nots. They are stitched using 14 different colours of silk.
Now that we've seen the dress of a lady at the French court, what did the accompanying boys look like? Very colourful! Their mostly unicolour satin frock, trousers and waistcoat were richly embellished with colourful silk embroideries. These embroideries were placed along the seams, the cuffs and collar. Patterns mainly consisted of floral motives, little birds or Chinese scenes in satin stitch, stem stitch and knots. Again goldwork techniques, padding and applique are used as well. Tambour embroidery was used on garments made in Italy. Matching passementerie buttons completed the stylish outfits.
Who made these lovely embroideries? The French court employed its own embroiderers and maintained its own embroidery workshops. Apart from that, Lyon was an important centre of silk and goldwork embroidery. In the late 18th century, apparently 6000 female embroiderers were occupied. The garments were stitched on large embroidery frames and tailored into clothes afterwards. The many uncut finished embroideries show that clients could buy these and have them custom made into a finished garment. Alternatively, they could flip through a catalogue with sample pieces. Either drawings or actual pieces of embroidery.
The Bavarian National Museum sells a lovely little booklet on the exhibition. With only 67 pages it gives a good discription of pieces on show. And more importantly, it is jam packed with detailed close up photographs of the embroidery. Good enough to see individual stitches. There are even a few photographs of the backs of the embroideries! You can order your copy of Mode aus dem Rahmen here.
My absolute favourite would have been the uncut finished ambroidery with the large flowers and tulips on the cream coloured satin. It is absolutely spectacular! However, my husband did not seem keen on wearing it... What's your favourite? And do you own and wear embroidered garments? Please leave your comment below.
Jessica M. Grimm
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