Dress

1868-9
Dress thumbnail 1
Dress thumbnail 2
+16
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
Not currently on display at the V&A
On short term loan out for exhibition
Place Of Origin

The wings of jewel beetles (buprestidae) were traditionally used to embellish textiles in South America and South and Southeast Asia. Emerald-green beetle-wing decoration became a symbol of high status in India during the Mughal period (1526-1756). Western traders in India then introduced these textiles to Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. British newspapers report on several women wearing dresses decorated with beetle wings at court during the late 1820s and early 1830s. By the 1860s beetle wings were being imported to Britain in volumes of 25,000 per consignment, to be applied to textiles in imitation of the Indian technique. The wings were cut, shaped and arranged in stylised floral patterns, often accented with metal thread. The wings would have glittered in candlelight, achieving a sought-after iridescent and jewel-like effect.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 5 parts.

  • Bodice
  • Skirt
  • Tablier
  • Bow Trimming
  • Dress Fabric (Fragment)
Materials and Techniques
Cotton, gilded metal thread and Indian jewel beetles (Sternocera aeqisignata)
Brief Description
Dress of cotton muslin, gilded metal thread and Indian jewel beetles (sternocera aeqisignata), Britain, 1868-9
Physical Description
Cotton muslin with beetle-wing and metal thread embroidery. The style of metal thread embroidery indicates that it was done in Britain; it does not surround each wing case as it would have done if executed in India.
Dimensions
  • Height: 1450mm
  • Width: 1150mm
  • Depth: 1200mm
Gallery Label
  • Object label from Fashioned from Nature exhibition, V&A, 2018: GREEN AND GLEAMING Over 5000 beetle wings or parts of wings were used to decorate this dress. Europeans first encountered the use of jewel beetles to embellish clothing in Asia and South America. By the late 1820s European fashions were decorated with the shiny metallic wing cases. India exported beetle wing cases, as well as stoles, dress panels and flounces embroidered with beetle wings. In 1867, a consignment of 25,000 wings was sold in London. Dress (with replica belt) Britain, 1868–9 Cotton, gilded metal thread and Indian jewel beetles (Sternocera aeqisignata) V&A: T.1698:1 to 5-2017 Given by Kathy Brown
Credit line
Given by Kathy Brown
Summary
The wings of jewel beetles (buprestidae) were traditionally used to embellish textiles in South America and South and Southeast Asia. Emerald-green beetle-wing decoration became a symbol of high status in India during the Mughal period (1526-1756). Western traders in India then introduced these textiles to Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. British newspapers report on several women wearing dresses decorated with beetle wings at court during the late 1820s and early 1830s. By the 1860s beetle wings were being imported to Britain in volumes of 25,000 per consignment, to be applied to textiles in imitation of the Indian technique. The wings were cut, shaped and arranged in stylised floral patterns, often accented with metal thread. The wings would have glittered in candlelight, achieving a sought-after iridescent and jewel-like effect.
Collection
Accession Number
T.1698:1 to 5-2017

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record createdMarch 14, 2017
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