December 4, 2018

Know Your Fabrics When Writing About Nineteenth Century Fashion

Suppose you want to describe the dress worn by a young woman as she walked across the prairie beside a covered wagon.  Do you know the difference between calico and chintz, muslin and pique?  Know how to describe what ordinary folks were wearing so your readers can see it too.  Forget about the aristocracy and royalty - silk and satin - yawn.  Let's define common, everyday fabrics worn by common folk.

Calico, circa 1836-1837
Wiki Commons
Calico:  As worn in the United States:  A printed (commonly a small floral print) plain woven textile made from unbleached and often not fully processed cotton

Chintz, circa 1800
Wiki Commons

Chintz:  Glazed calico with a large floral pattern

Gingham, date unknown
Wiki Commons

Gingham:  A type of cotton cloth with a pattern of white and colored squares - in other words checked.  Note:  It would be redundant to say "She wore a blue and white checked gingham dress." Gingham is by definition checked with white always being one of the colors.

Twill ribs on bustle, 1872-1875
Wiki Commons
Twill:  A type of textile weave with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs

Muslin, circa 1830-1840
Wiki Commons

Muslin:   A cotton fabric of plain weave made in a wide range of weights from delicate sheers to coarse sheeting.

Pique, circa 1840
Wiki Commons

Pique:  A stiff fabric, typically cotton, woven in a strongly ribbed or raised pattern

References and Additional Reading