Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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Dress 1827 - 1847 (1982.428)
1823-1825 printed cotton dress neck detail (1947.1778)
1770-1775 waistcoat (1983.619)
1770-1775 waistcoat detail (1983.619)
Dress 1805 - 1810 (1947.1733)
Pattern Book

In 1783, Thomas Bell took out the first patent for a type of roller or cylinder printing, and Lancashire mills using such rollers were quickly established from the 1790's. Unlike somewhat unrefined wood block printing, the polished metal surface of the rollers could be engraved with intricate detailing and patterning, including tiny dots to give shading to the background. The earliest popular patterns used these dotted backgrounds, known as "Stormont prints" as in the woman's jacket from about 1785 below. Rollers were also cheaper to use than engraved copper plates which had been used instead of wood to give higher quality prints from the middle of the century.

Printed patterns became increasingly elaborate during the early nineteenth century, although stripes and floral sprigs remained perennially popular. The blue and red day dress of 1825 in the main image has been printed using the "discharge" process, so that the cotton was dyed with blue after areas of pattern had been restricted using a mordant, thus forming the white stripe. The red vine pattern was then over-printed on the white areas. The print is unusual as it has been printed with the stripe on the cross grain of the fabric, not straight up and down, which would have been much more complicated to manufacture. Other dresses using roller printed cotton are pictured below, dating from between 1815 and 1835, and the page from the patternbook shows samples of these cottons from a similar date.

Full item descriptions:

"dress" [1947.1778]
"pet-en-l'air jacket" [1999.171]
"waistcoat" [1983.619]
"dress" [1947.1733]
"dress" [1982.428]

Related Themes:

Block Printing
18th Century Women's Fashion
19th Century Women's Fashion