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Pocket backs

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1700-1725 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, hand sewn with linen thread and embroidered in silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lord Cowdray

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In the 18th century, women’s pockets were not sewn into their gowns. Instead they were attached to a tape and tied around the waist as separate garments. Worn under the hoops and petticoats, they were accessed through openings in the gown and petticoat seams.
These two pieces of silk embroidery on linen represent a pair of unfinished pockets. They show that the embroidery was done first, before cutting out and sewing up. The lack of space for an opening in the embroidery indicates that these were probably intended to be the backs of a pair of pockets. This is somewhat unusual, as most pocket backs were left plain.
The abstract squiggly pattern is called ‘vermicelli’, which is Italian for ‘little worms’. This design is also found on early 18th century bedcovers and quilts, particularly worked in yellow silk. The choice of colour imitates imported Indian embroideries, which preferred the natural yellow shade of tussar silk found in Bengal. The use of backstitch can also be attributed to the influence of Indian needlework.

Physical description

A pair of unfinished pocket backs. They are pear-shaped and embroidered using a back-stitch in yellow silk, with a vermicular pattern.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1700-1725 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, hand sewn with linen thread and embroidered in silk



Object history note

Given by Viscount Cowdray in 1969 as part of a large gift of 18th and 19th century dress from the Cowdrays of Cowdray Park Sussed.

Historical significance: These pocket backs illustrate part of the construction process of a pair of 18th century women's pockets.

Descriptive line

Pair of embroidered pocket backs, England, 1700-1725.


Linen; Linen thread; Silk thread


Embroidery; Hand sewing


Embroidery; Accessories; Clothing; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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