The John Bright Collection owns a large number of items of white muslin neckwear embroidered with whitework motifs, mainly dating from the second quarter of the 19th Century. A selection has been photographed both flat, to indicate the overall shape, and folded as in wear. (See Related Items). The broad shoulder line of dresses from the mid 1820s to the mid 1830s, created by the expanding size of their sleeves, provided the perfect platform for large collars, or pelerines as they were called at the time, and many were illustrated in the fashion plates of the period. They were embroidered by both amateurs, as a hobby, and professionals, many of whom were outworkers whose work was sold to the public by milliners and merchants. Printed embroidery patterns, examples of which from the 1810s can be seen as a Related Item, continued to be published in women’s magazines such as Ackermann’s Repository and the Lady’s Magazine. These designs could be adapted to suit various shapes of collars as they were transferred to the fabric by means of tracing, pricking and pouncing, and interpreted in favoured stitches. Unsurprisingly, given the work involved in making them or the expense of buying them, collars were transferred from dress to dress, their versatility having the added advantage of making them easy to launder.

As the width of sleeves reached its zenith during the first half of the 1830s so the size of collars increased, offering an even greater area that could be embroidered and scope for more complex designs and variety of stitching techniques. This example is the largest of those included on the website, and is more sophisticated than those dating from the previous decade that are based upon sprays of flowers and foliage borders. Its broad boarder is composed of complementary swags of foliage and cutwork flowers with drawn thread centres enclosing a sprigged ground. The long front ends meet at the centre front waist; their strengthening net border was added later.

Additional Images

  • Collar