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Ribbon Manufacturers at the Great Exhibition by John Hopper PDF 

from The Textile Blog Friday, 11 June 2010

 

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Collard & Co 1851

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Collard & Co 1851

 The history of ribbon making and ribbon wearing are probably as old as textile making itself. Ribbon has been inextricably linked with clothing and costume for much of its history and has had to deal with the mixed fortunes that a close proximity to fashion entails.

 Ribbon was often used as an accessory to costume by both rich and poor with the amount used only being limited by the finances of the individual. At varying times the demand for ribbon was intense. It is said that one of the original spurs of the industrial revolution was the demand for large amounts of ribbon by the fashion industry.

 Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Cox & Co 1851

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Cox & Co 1851

Probably the last intense period of ribbon making was the mid-nineteenth century when the Victorian fashion industry used ribbon for practically every garment that could be worn from underwear to bonnets. There were a number of industrial companies that supplied ribbon, many of them located in England and France with Coventry and Lyon being particularly associated, as they had been traditional areas of silk manufacture and much of the ribbon produced was silk based.

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Cox & Co 1851

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Cox & Co 1851

The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a perfect vehicle for the English ribbon industry to make a very public example of their achievements and hopefully a display that would both entice their customers and confound their rivals. Companies such as Collard & Co, Cox & Co, J C Ratcliff, M Clack, C Bray and Redmayne & Son all saw the potential of the Great Exhibition and were prominently placed to take advantage of the publicity.

Ribbon sales were probably at their near peak during the 1850s and 1860s and came in ever greater styles, complexities and decorative formats. Woven ribbon could be embellished in any number of ways including embroidery and beading, though by the mid-nineteenth century most ribbon was mass manufactured and tended to be bought as silk, satin or velvet based and in a range of colour tones and textures.

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by J C Ratcliff 1851

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by J C Ratcliff 1851

Many of the companies tied themselves so tightly to that of the fashion industry, that when ribbon started to fade as a fashion accessory, so did the fortunes of the companies. A number tried to diversify by producing ribbon bookmarkers and celebratory and anniversary ribbons, and to a certain extent ribbon was used fairly extensively within domestic interiors. However, without the constant demand of the fashion industry profits and prospects were always going to be limited.

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by M Clack 1851

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by M Clack 1851

All of the examples shown in this article were displayed at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and were of a standard floral type, though there was scope for a number of differing edgings as can be seen in the illustrations. Many companies took great pride in the accomplishments of these edgings, which were seen as an example of the dexterity and professionalism of the manufacturing process. To the individual customer of the mid-nineteenth century a ribbon was not just a ribbon. Ribbon buying was not a simple process and the public were both educated and discerning buyers who understood the range and scope of ribbon available.

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Redmayne & Son 1851

Illustration: Ribbon design produced by Redmayne & Son 1851


Reference links:

River Silks Victorian Collection - Silk Ribbons
Victorian Pleasures Intoduction to Silk Ribbon Embroidery
Victorian Ribbon and Lacecraft Designs
River Silks Wildflower Mix - Silk Ribbons
Ribbons, Roses & Ruffles: 21 Romantic Victorian Projects
Ribbon Embroidery for Cross Stitchers: Victorian Elegance
The Simple Art of Ribbon Design (Watson-Guptill Crafts)

 


John Hopper and The Textile Blog

John Hopper is a writer on textile design and craft history. He gained a degree in Constructed Textiles at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Scotland. He has a wide working knowledge of art and craft textiles and is now a full time writer with a great interest in the historical development of textile based design, decoration and craft. Since 2008 he has been producing The Textile Blog, a comprehensive educational resource that gives regular insights into all aspects of the history of textile design, decoration and craft. The Textile Blog includes a comprehensive subject index, list of current exhibitions worldwide, a large image library and a textile designer and artist index.

The Textile Blog also has regularly updated outlets featured on both facebook and twitter.

 
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