A Perfect New England Pairing: Printed Gown and Quilted Petticoat, 1760s+

Exhibit highlights "From the Elegant to the Everyday: 200 Years of Fashion in Northern New England" at the Saco Museum
Gown, 1770-1790
probably Portsmouth, NH
printed cotton, linen
Warner House Association, Gift of Charles Sherburne Penhallow

When this gown was made, printed cotton fabric was considered a luxury and
was highly fashionable-only a fine silk would have been more costly and
desirable.  The printed design was achieved using a separate wooden block
engraved with the pattern for each color.  During the 18th century, there
was no workable solid green dye-the only way to make green was to print blue
on top of yellow.  If you look closely, you can see where the two colors did
not line up exactly in the printing process, and a bit of the blue or yellow
is visible along the edges of some of the motifs.  The original petticoat
for this gown may have been either of the same printed fabric, or of a
contrasting solid color like this quilted example.

Quilted petticoat, 1760-1800
England or New England
silk quilted to a worsted backing, woolen batting, linen waistband
Warner House Association

Quilted petticoats were available ready-made in the 18th century, although
women did make their own at home as well.  The product of professional
quilting shops in England, many local milliners would have stocked them for
their clientele.  The silk exterior made them fashionable garments, but the
wool batting and backing made them warm, which was particularly appealing
during cold New England winters.  They first became stylish in England in
the mid-18th century, but women in chilly climates continued to wear them
into the early 19th century.  This petticoat is quilted in a pattern of a
meandering floral vine.

Guest Blogger, Tara Vose Raiselis
Museum Director & Exhibit Curator
Dyer Library/Saco Museum

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