18th century coat and waistcoat from Hampton Court Palace.
18th century, 18th century court dress, court dress, projects

18th Century Ribbon Embroidery

So! While I haven’t actually DONE anything about my 18th century court dress (see: wig book, busy fall semester, Dickens Fair), I have done a little bit of thinking about it.

Specifically, when I was thinking last summer of trying to “bang out” this sucker (which obviously wasn’t going to happen, but one can dream), I was trying to think of ways to save time on the embroidery:

I hit on the idea of incorporating ribbon embroidery as a way to make it happen much faster. The problem is that I’ve seen multiple books on ribbon embroidery talk about how it was used in the 18th century on clothing, but I couldn’t find any actual examples of it being used on clothing. So, was this just a misconception that has been passed down?

Lo and behold, I’ve now come across THREE whole examples of ribbon embroidery on 18th century clothing!

The bulk of the embroidery on this 18th century coat and waistcoat is done in ribbon embroidery (Hampton Court Palace).

This c. 1790 baby’s bodice has ribbon embroidery scattered across it (RISD Museum).

And, while a little late, this 1815 evening dress features ribbon embroidery in the trim along the hem (Victoria & Albert Museum).

These three sources feel like enough to go on, but I’ll ask you anyway, hive-mind, because I’m interested! Does anyone know of any other examples of ribbon embroidery being used on clothing in the 18th century?


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  • Reply Jen February 4, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Considering a good chunk of kids wore recut mama clothes, the kids wear is a good bet. Don’t think it the case with this extant piece though, considering the trim placement around the neck.

  • Reply Suzi cClarke February 4, 2015 at 10:13 am

    I have two front pieces from a gown like the top one, which are embroidered with ribbons in different colours. They are ivory silk and are shaped. Do you want to e-mail me to discuss how I can share them with you? I also have some ribbons very like the originals.

  • Reply Anna-Carin February 4, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I hope you’ll get lots of helpful replies – I’ve been curious about this myself.

    This is the one example I know of; a piece of 18th century silk ribbon embroidery, intended for a bag but never assembled. http://digitaltmuseum.se/011023338140/

    It is in the Nordic Museum in Stockholm. The text on the above page says:

    Ladies bag, reticule type with a channel for a ribbon. 1780s. Ribbon embroidery was fashionable during the 1770s, and and again for a while around 1830, when it was used in small items like bag-type reticules, wallets etc.

    Technical description:
    Rectangular piece intended to be folded in half and sewn to make a bag, so called reticule.
    Fabric: silk satin.
    Embroidered with: silk ribbon, twisted silk.
    Gustavian style flower embroidery with lines of tambour embroidery and flowers of narrow silk ribbons that have been pulled through the fabric with help of the tambour hook. The design is drawn with a pencil directly onto the fabric.
    Dimensions: 50×24 cm (nearly 20″x10″).

  • Reply Anna-Carin February 4, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    BTW, when I’d finished typing I noticed that it says ” 3 comments… read them below or add one” – but none of the comments is displayed. And it’s not just this post, but other posts on your site too. I don’t know if others have the same problem; maybe it’s just my computer…

  • Reply kendra February 4, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks Anna-Carin! Both for the link and the comments heads up. Should be fixed now!

  • Reply LizL February 4, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Take a look at pages 159-167 18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh…examples from a Gentleman’s Waistcoat, 1760-1780, Black Satin Bag, Late 18th Century, Cream Satin Bag 1780-1800, Needlecase, 19th Century, Pincushion, late 18th Century. all UK.

    Quote: Ribbon embroidery was very popular in the 18th century, as it produced a rich effect quickly and with very little effort……Silk ribbons of various widths were available from France in a good range of plain colours….

  • Reply Josie Smith February 5, 2015 at 6:28 am

    I’m in love with these little bags which seem to have been used late 18th cent. Early 19th. It is not clothing but it has ribbon embroidery. I hope this helps your last find was one I have been looking for! A regency gown with silk embroidery!


  • Reply Natalie February 5, 2015 at 8:33 am

    Dear Kendra,
    Here are several examples. on a Pinterest board I keep, at https://www.pinterest.com/zipzipinkspot/18th-and-19th-century-silk-ribbon-embroidery/. The cream dress with the black ribbon and silk embroidery is fantastic and one I’ve dreamed of copying since first seeing it. The Met changed their links out so now the link doesn’t return to the dress, alas! However, it’s there, just not under “embroidery”, “embroidered”, or “dress”, filtered by 1600-1800. Perhaps “gown” or “robe” might do it.

    Thank you for sharing the examples you have!

    Very best,

    • Reply Heather August 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Natalie, a quick search of ribbon embroidery led me to your comment. I’m searching because I own a black and white ribbon embroidery gown I’m about to re-create and lo and behold, it’s the same one you’re talking about. The MET deaccessioned it and I bought it.

  • Reply Karen September 23, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I’ve started setting up a page of links with examples of 18th century ribbon embroidery at http://www.larsdatter.com/18c/ribbon-embroidery.html

    • Reply kendra September 27, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Super cool!!

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