Eighteenth Century painted silk dress

web 18th c dress (c) Museums WorcestershireThis beautiful silk dress in the Worcestershire County Museum collection is about 250 years old and is one of the earliest items of costume in the collection. Because the fabric is so delicate, it can only be on display for very short periods of time.

Its design of flowers, butterflies and leaves reflects a fascination with the natural world in the eighteenth century. Plant hunters were bringing back exotic samples from across the globe, and closer to home, gentlemen scientists were collecting and classifying the beauty of the English countryside. In Worcester, a group of naturalists went on to found the Worcestershire Natural History Society and the Worcester Museum collections were begun.

The cream silk used to make this dress is handpainted and the fabric probably came from China. The English East India Company controlled the trade between China and Europe in the eighteenth century and would have transported silks alongside other luxury goods such as tea and porcelain.

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