Sunday, 23 April 2017


Say  "Sits"  out loud and rather quickly . What do you think you've just said ?

Well , in most countries you might be assumed to have sneezed  . But here in the C17th if you were frightfully fashionable and rather well off ,  you would have been talking about chintz ... glazed chintz in particular or , these days , you might be going to the  Fries Museum to see their latest exhibition . There's a wonderful  three hundred year-old silk kimono , magnificently preserved and vibrant , that's worth the trip alone .

When the Dutch East India Company managed to elbow their way into the market , picking up this beautifully hand painted or blockprinted  cotton in India to exchange in Indonesia or Japan for spices and china , it became increasingly popular and pieces began to find their way back to Holland ,  to Hindeloopen in particular . There it inspired painted furniture , bed covers and the local women's costume and in fact you can still , in the old fishing ports , see women wearing dresses trimmed with chintz bonnets , decorative sleeves and aprons  .

As eventually the handcarved blocks were brought back by returning East India Company employees and copied  ; the dyeing techniques and the original processes simplified , and substances like buffalo urine , metal salts and saffron replaced with easier to get hold of materials , local factories made cheaper copies . Nearly everyone has some Hindeloopen patterned cotton  around if they've inherited a grandmother's bed linen ... I've got pieces myself , bought in thrift shops and vintage stores .

But two hundred years ago , every scrap of this treasure was hoarded ; stored in airtight chests, sometimes for generations , and eked out to make bodices , baby clothes , collars and cuffs , mittens ...
And , of course , when totally past their best , the more modern pieces found their way to patchwork quilts . Needless to say , I would love to own this quilt

But what I really , really wanted was this very rich little girl's version of Barbie . A C19th doll and her  chest of clothes . TWO straw hats !!

Oh yes , and the hem of this dress . For one of the more tomboyish Bennet sisters , perhaps.



Debra She Who Seeks said...

Looks like a great museum! I love seeing exhibits of historical clothing.

rachel said...

Well, how very interesting! Thank you - I love to learn detail like that.

lovethosecupcakes said...

Thanks for sharing. What a fab exhibition. Though have to admit that, since watching Taboo on the telly, I can't read about the EIC without a picture of Tom Hardy and The Hat coming to mind.

Liz Hinds said...

How gorgeous! And you mean that buffalo urine was hard to find?!