A day or walking dress made of printed cotton, spotted in blue, white and black on a red ground. The dress is long-sleeved with a slight train to the skirt, the fullness at the centre back waist would have been supported by a small pad. The bodice opens at the front, and the apron skirt ties at the back.
The colourful cotton fabric, with its distinctive design, is a rare example of an early lapis print combining red, blue, black and white. It represents the ingenuity of chemists working in the early 19th century in England and on the continent. They experimented with dyeing methods in order to produce novelty prints using traditional dyestuffs. The technique provided a way of overcoming the difficulties of dyeing cloth with indigo (blue) and madder (red), both traditional plant dyes, by using a mordant (alum) to set the dye in the resist. A resist paste was necessary to exclude the indigo dye from parts of the design where it was not needed. The cloth was then dyed in a bath of madder, resulting in clear red and blue patterns. The technique paved the way for further developments in textile printing.
‘Lapis’ was the name adopted in France, after the blue stone lapis lazuli. In England it was normally referred to as ‘resist red’. According to Deryn O’Connor, writing in 2002, this dress is the only known example made of a lapis printed cotton in UK collections. Reference: Deryn O’Connor ‘Lapis: Recognizing a Colour Phenomenon found in some Printed Cottons in Early Nineteenth Century Patchwork’ in Quilt Studies: The Journal of the British Quilt Study Group Issue 4/5 2002/3 (ISSN 1467-2723)