An Ancestral Petticoat: 1740, 1890


A Wonderful Work Wrought Fully a Century and a Half Ago

A marvelous example of old-time needle-work has found its way into one of the exchanges for the women’s work in this city through the impecuniousness of the family in which it has long been cherished as an heirloom.

It is a piece of the quilted work which has become one of the lost arts in these days, and was the border of a petticoat worn by some richly-clad German dame 150 years ago. The strip is a half yard in width and about three yards in length. It consists of two thicknesses of fine white cotton with a soft interlining. It is quilted all over with an exquisite medley of flowers, foliage, and arabesques, into which is wrought every variety of “stitch” known to expert needlecraft. In those days there were no other ornaments nor any devices for stamping. The patient fingers that fashioned such work also made their own designs, drew them with a needle, free hand, as they went along, and so this petticoat border was the work of an artist as well as a clever needlewoman. The fabric is stiff with stiches—there are millions of them—and the surface puts one in mind of a piece of fine repousse work in white silver.

The woman who is now compelled to part with this has a pitiful history. She and her husband in their advanced age were forced by reverses to emigrate to the Far West, where in an unsettled country, three days’ ride from a human habitation, they “took up a claim.” The wife, unused to hardship, finally lost her health, and in the hope of regaining it came East last autumn, leaving her husband alone. The severity of the winter killed all their stock, and the old man finally met with an accident which laid him up with both legs broken. He is helpless and penniless and alone, and his wife is helpless and penniless here, unable to reach him. She had sold every thing available before she made up her mind to part with her ancestral petticoat. It is a rare and interesting piece of work and ought to be in a museum. N.Y. World.

Barbour County Index [Medicine Lodge, KS] 12 November 1890: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Quilted petticoats are a delightful combination of utility and art.  The one illustrated, from the collections at Colonial Williamsburg, was probably altered to use as a costume during one of the many pageants celebrating the centennial of America’s ill-advised rebellion against the Crown.

Quilted underskirts had several fashionable revivals in the nineteenth century.

The quilted petticoat is once more fashionable. Many years ago this garment was in great demand during the very cold weather; then they were made at home; now the manufacturers vie with each other in getting out novelties in colored petticoats. For several seasons the balmoral skirts were “all the rage,” although there were ladies who would not wear them, not because they were so warm, but because they were colored and hence ugly in their eyes. Starched cotton petticoats in cold weather are more suggestive of poverty than bad taste when soft wool textures made into pretty skirts can be had, or richly quilted satin and silk petticoats are sold at bargain prices, considering the fine quality of the goods and the excellent workmanship required to finish one of these very desirable garments. The quilting is beautifully done; some of the patterns show tiny diamonds, and there are shell designs effectively quilted; flowers and leaves are also well copied and often quilted in with tinted silks. For brides there are petticoats of satin in all the light shades, quilted over flannel and lined with China silk of the same shade. N.Y. Telegram.

Texas Siftings [Austin, TX] 20 March 1886: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



One thought on “An Ancestral Petticoat: 1740, 1890

  1. Pingback: An Imposter at the Concord Ball: 1875 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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