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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

 


Culture:textile: English; garment: American
Title:petticoat
Date Made:ca. 1750
Type:Clothing
Materials:textile: yellow plain weave silk (taffeta); green plain weave wool; batting
Place Made:textile: United Kingdom; England; garment: United States; southeastern Connecticut or Rhode Island
Measurements:Center Back - CB: 38 in; 96.5 cm
Accession Number:  HD F.122
Credit Line:Gift of Mrs. Henry N. Flynt
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Description:
Quilted petticoat made of quilted, yellow, plain weave silk (taffeta) worked in an all-over quilted design with the top pleated into a waistband (possibly replaced); the top half with a diamond or trellis pattern; and the lower half made up of parellel lines closely spaced together interspersed with foliate designs and several figures and creatures, including Cupid (possibly made for a marriage), a crowned lion, and a sea serpent. The initials "MC" are worked into the trunk of a tree along the border. The petticoat is lined with green, plain weave wool. This petticoat one of about eighteen similar examples with distinctive, fanciful quilted designs (often including an element of the sea) with the quilting done in a variation of backstitch. Petticoats like this example have been attributed to southeastern Connecticut or Rhode Island areas,and were probably made by girls under professional tutelage in the mid 18th century. They are distinctive for their trees branching off into fantastic flowers and figural designs as well as an unusual quilting stitch, a variant of the backstitch. In additions, every petticoat attributed to this Connecticut/RI school includes the design of a lion, usually crowned in the manner of the lion from the British coat of arms. Lynne Bassett suggets that the appearance of oceanic creatues supports the assumption that these petticoats were made in a community with close ties to the sea. The fineness of the stitching that creates the quilting pattern (a kind of backstitch) allows the quilter to intricately depict the designs of stags, rabbits, birds, and other creatures both real and imagined, which cavort around the border of this petticoat. Such animals appeared in European embroideries since antiquity. Over the centuries they symbolized various human, supernatural and Christian qualities and abilities, but by the 18th century, animal designs were largely secularized. Most of the members of this group of petticoats are quilted silk; one made of red quilted wool by Sarah Halsey and dated 1758, which has a similar lion, is in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society (1959.54.2). Although professionally quilted petticoats were imported and purchased by colonial American women in large quantities, the survival of several quilted petticoats with similar figural imagery suggests that these were made locally. As early as the 1720s, quilted petticoats were an important component of many women's wardrobes. In addition to providing added warmth, the materials and quilting patterns they displayed served as decorative embellishment to the wearer's apparel. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the bulkiness of these kinds of petticoats fell out of favor as dress styles became streamlined. The petticoat is cut to be slightly longer (4") in the back.

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