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Dress fabric

  • Place of origin:

    Hyderabad (India) (made)

  • Date:

    c. 1858 (made)

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South Asia, Room 41, case 10

Dress fabrics embroidered with pieces of beetles' wing-cases, often cut into leaf shapes, were popular with Western women (those based in India and in Europe) from the mid-19th to early 20th century. The iridescent pieces of beetle-wing gave a lustre and sparkle to evening dresses that emulated applied gemstones. The pieces of beetle-wing were attached by piercing them with a needle and sewing them directly onto the ground fabric, in this case black net, but often fine cotton muslin. Because of their extreme fragility, they were usually used only around the edges of garments (hems, necks and sleeves) to minimise crushing.

Physical description

Skirt length originally consisting of 5 cotton net panels, now in 3 fragments. Embroidered along bottom border with floral scroll in silver-gilt metal strip and beetle-wing cases.

Place of Origin

Hyderabad (India) (made)


c. 1858 (made)


Length: 78 cm, Width: 136.5 cm

Object history note

Transferred from the India Museum in 1879. Slip book entry 4140: 'Net Dress Skirt / Hyderabad / Deccan / 1858 / Richly Embroidered with gold and beetle wings'

Descriptive line

Skirt length, in fragments, cotton net embroidered with metal-strip and beetle-wings, Hyderabad, c.1858; Textiles; Clothing; Women's Clothes; Embroidery

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

pp72-73, cat. no 64
Indian embroidery / Rosemary Crill ; photography by Richard Davis. London: V&A Publications, 1999 Number: 185177310X, 1851772944 (pbk.)

Labels and date

Cotton net embroidered with metal-wrapped thread and beetle-wings
Hyderabad, Deccan
c. 1855

From the early 19th to 20th centuries, the iridescent wing cases of Indian ‘jewel beetles’ were popular with Western women both in India and Europe. They were pierced and stitched to fabric with gilded silver-wrapped thread, and made gowns and accessories sparkle. Designs sketched and stitched onto sheer net, like this piece, could be cut out and applied to garments wherever desired. [01/08/2017]


Cotton; Beetle-wing; Metal-strip; Silk thread




Textiles; Textiles; Women's clothes; Clothing; Embroidery


South & South East Asia Collection

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