Pocket Backs thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Pocket Backs

1700-1725 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Pocket Back
  • Pocket Back
Materials and Techniques
Linen, silk; hand-woven, hand-embroidered
Brief Description
Pair of women's pocket backs, F, 1700-1725, British; linen embroidered with yellow silk, vermicelli pattern
Physical Description
A pair of women's pocket backs, unfinished. They are made of fine, bleached linen and backstitched with yellow silk floss, in a vermicular pattern.
Dimensions
  • T.208 1970 length: 35.0cm (approx)
  • T.208 1970 width: 25.5cm (approx)
  • T.208 a 1970 length: 37.0cm (approx)
  • T.208 a 1970 width: 27.5cm (approx)
Credit line
Given by Lord Cowdray
Object history
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.
Summary
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.
Collection
Accession Number
T.208&A-1970

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record createdDecember 20, 2004
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