Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lapis Printed Regency Day Dress 1808-12, Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery - Devon, UK

Last week my lovely older sister was at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, on a day out for my brother-in-law's birthday. She sent me these images of historical dress that she whizzed past. The bonnet is c.1840, but it is the dress which is of special interest. According to the museum it is:-

  ''cotton printed with indigo and madder using a resist dyeing technique, know as lapis after the blue coloured gemstone lapis lazuli. The technique was developed simultaneously in Lancashire and north-east France between 1804-1808. This dress is the only known surviving example in England made from a lapis printed cotton.''

Gown 1808-12, Bonnet c.1840 -Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery Exeter, Devon, UK.

The print looks so unusual close-up, rather like a football.

RAMM is a diverse museum, but has quite a large costume collection, although only a very small amount is on view. It has a fabulous lace collection, appropriate for a museum in Devon. I was very pleased to read on their website that ''the bulk of the costume collection is women's dresses and underwear from the 19th century.'' If mum and I ever manage to move down to the west country (I can't believe that we sold our house over a year ago, and still haven't moved!!), then this is certainly a museum to add to my 'visit' list.

I did a quick search for the lapis technique, and came across a wonderful document by the V&A in collaboration with DATS - Dress and Textile Specialists titled Identifying Printed Textiles in Dress 1740-1890. They have other super booklets such as 'Identifying Handmade and Machine Lace', which I will certainly be downloading and poring over as soon as possible.

On page 22 of this document the lapis technique is explained a bit more fully, and along with it there is an image of a textile taken from a dress 1824-26 in the Manchester City Gallery collection; so maybe there is more than one extant dress in the UK made from this technique?

I'm off to stick my head in our freezer- it's too hot for me at the moment!
~Naomi x