Chintz in the Fries museum – How chintz was worn

My second post about the exhibition ‘Sits – katoen in bloei’ (Chintz – cotton in bloom) in the Fries Museum! My first post was about color and patterns, and before that I wrote this post, which has more terminology and history about the fabric.

In this post I’ll try to go into the specific chintz garments which were on display. What garments were made of chintz; how where they worn and in what context.

Also: all my pictures of the exhibition are now online on my pinterest board and facebook page, so to see everything you can go there! I took too many images for even two blog posts. For this post; click on the image for the full view.

Chintz on chintz

Most jackets and skirt combinations in the exhibition were made of 2 different chintz fabrics. A while back I posted a promotion image for the exhibition on Facebook with such a combination, and it sparked a question from some people. Were (chintz) print-on-print combinations really a thing?

This is the skirt from the promotion image, here worn with another chintz jacket.

 

Now I know that Dutch 18th century clothing, especially middle class (/small town/countryside), was quite colorful. There are a number of prints which show combinations of chintz with striped skirts, and ton-sur-ton skirts like this, this or this (same-color pattern & ground), and checkered or patterned aprons, checkered kerchiefs or with chintz sunhats. So different prints together is definitely seen. However, I couldn’t find any clear examples paintings showing a chintz skirt combined with a chintz jacket. This print might be. But then again, either jacket or skirt might also be silk, or a simpler European cotton or linen print, it’s difficult to see. The only example I could find which clearly shows chintz on chintz is  a doll. But given that the petticoat and skirt were often inter-changeable in the 18th century depending on the fancy of the wearer, this might be an example of skirts being mixed up. All in all, I wouldn’t take that as enough evidence that it was commonly done.

Even though I still think it’s very pretty

 

So, in the end, I decided to ask the fashion curator of the Fries museum, and of this exhibition. She gave a presentation about the exhibition at the meeting of the Dutch costume society, and I approached her afterwards. Her answer: it was probably not common to wear a chintz skirt with a different chintz jacket. Mostly, chintz jackets would’ve been worn on top of the same chintz fabric skirt, or on top of a silk or wool skirt. Many chintz skirts would’ve been worn as underskirt (which you could still see when lifting the skirts a bit), however, she had also seen chintz skirt which were clearly meant as top skirt. In this case, if not worn with a same-chintz jacket, they would’ve probably been worn with a solid color jacket. This is not saying that you’d absolutely never would see a chintz jacket on a chintz petticoat, but it probably wasn’t the common way of wearing it. Similarly, the ‘onderst’ worn to fill in the neckline (see a section below for more info) was often made of chintz. With a chintz jacket, however, a solid (white) onderst was most likely worn, the chintz ondersts being worn with solid color jackets.

Girl’s combination of skirt and jacket.

 

In the case of this exhibition, she choose to display the chintz skirts and jackets together, as this was an exhibition specifically about chintz, and those are the items you want on display. Something I completely understand, as there’s only so much space, and you want to show as much as possible without cluttering. The only exception was this lovely combination of a chintz jacket with a corded quilted silk petticoat.

 

 

Oost-indisch bont

The apron in the image above is interesting. It is made of what we’d call ‘oost-indisch bont’ in Dutch, which would roughly translate to ‘east-indian motley’. It is a cotton fabric originally from India, and just as chintz, it was taken to the Netherlands by the east-indian trading company (hence the name). It was used mostly for aprons and kerchiefs, and just like chintz, it stuck around in many traditional costumes in the Netherlands. It’s funny how I’d now consider it a very typically Dutch fabric, while it actually came from Asia.

Another example of oost-indisch bont, here in apron and kerchief.

 

 

Onderst

I mentioned the ‘onderst’ before. This was the name given in Friesland, in most of the Netherlands we’d call this a ‘kraplap’, or ‘kroplap’, in Zeeland they’d say ‘beuk’, and I’ve heard ‘halsje’ in Noord-Holland. It’s an interesting garment because it doesn’t seem to have an international equivalent, at least in the 18th century. It’s very like a partlet, or a chemisette. But the term ‘partlet’ I’ve only ever heard for the 16th and early 17th century, and chemisette is a typically 19th century term. I believe that the 16th century partlet stuck around in the Netherlands well into the 17th, and eventually the 18th century. The image below shows a girl in ‘undress'(full dress would have a jacket on top) clearly wearing a partlet, this painting is from ca. 1665, so quite ‘late’ for a partlet.

Reynier Hals, Woman with Needlework, ca. 1665. Frans Hals Museum #franshalsmuseum #haarlem #art

It’s very difficult to still find images of the 18th century equivalent though, which might have several reasons. There’s not as many paintings of lower classes in the Netherlands in this century, and this item was most likely worn primarily in the countryside and smaller towns. Another reason is that it was generally covered by one or even two kerchiefs, which make it nearly invisible in the paintings and prints which do exist. However, we know for sure that they were worn, because there are many existent examples, and they show up in doll’s clothes and inventory lists frequently. The 18th century onderst was typically made with a front and back rectangle, sewn together at the shoulder seams and a ‘hole’ for the head (I’ve never seen any with a slit in front). It was attached by putting tapes from the front through loops in the back. Many would’ve been white, with or without lace (see the pictures of jackets at the beginning of this post), but there are also many chintz examples. They had a whole wall filled with them at the exhibition. Click for the full-size version and to read the text below.

Kraplappen, or 'onderst' as called in Friesland. Worn as a partlet or chemisette, this was a typical clothing item for Dutch women in smaller cities or on the countryside.

 

Sun hats

There was also a display of a number of different sunhats on display. These hats are made of straw, but have a chintz lining which extends around to the top to form a border (I think +- 10cm wide? Couldn’t see the top on these). They’re made of the most beautiful fabrics.

Loved this one. Look at the bird and the insects!

 

These sunhats are a little different in shape than the better known round straw bergere hats. These ones might even be larger (although I haven’t seen a bergere in person, so estimating based on portraits), but the main difference is that the hole head is at the back. This creates a large shape only in front of the head. This shape has everything to do with the lace head dresses popular in Friesland in the 18th century. The lace caps started modest, but as fashion does, changed to rather extreme proportions. These caps are called a ‘Duitse muts’ nowadays, and they had one gorgeous example on display. This was my first time seeing one in person!

Look at all that lace!

 

The cap is worn on top of an under cap and an oorijzer, which would’ve helped keeping the cap in place on the head. The front is kept up by a wire running through the lace around the edge. The exhibition also had a little booklet showing a woman wearing both a cap like this and a chintz sunhat. The only thing which isn’t depicted correctly are the ribbons hanging loose. In real life, you have to hold on to those ribbons continuously because otherwise the hat would fall forwards. Although the wire in the cap is strong enough to keep up the lace, it wouldn’t be able to support the full straw hat!

 

 

Hindeloopen

The exhibition also had a large number of items from Hindeloopen, a town which nowadays is known for the chintz in it’s traditional costume. Although not worn daily since the 19th century, the town still keeps the costume alive. The chintz parts are the jackets, which is either long, called ‘wentke’, or short, called ‘kassakijntje (from cassaquin I believe).

For mourning. I love how you can see the faint outlines where the wax was folded and the indigo seeped through in this fabric.

 

The kassakijntjes were a little harder to photograph as they were further away on a wall, but here are three lovely examples. The construction seems the same as for the wentke, just shorter.

 

 

To finish off, another wentke, this time for out of mourning. It should be noted that this costume contains many other bits and pieces to form a full outfit. These items would never be worn with ‘regular’ 18th century fashion.

I love the top-stitching on all of these. All wentkes I saw had it, and it’s so neatly done.

 

Chintz in the 19th century

Chintz as fabric for clothing is very much an 18th century thing. However, it keeps very well, and as fabric was expensive, re-use was extremely common. Especially for the middle and lower classes, this meant that just because something was a bit old fashioned, didn’t mean it wouldn’t be worn anymore. We therefore also see jackets with a high waistline, worn in the early 19th century, in reused chintz.

This jacket below belonged to a lady on her marriage, and accounts show she had two other identically cut jackets. The other two were of fine muslin, this one is remade from a chintz skirt. This probably would’ve been more of a working jacket as the fabric was more old fashioned. But also more practical than the fine, thin cottons so popular at the time.

 

Another great example of re-use is the early 19th century girl’s jacket below. It is made of 76 different pieces of chintz fabric. Talk about piecing!

 

Unusual jackets

The two ensembles I started off this post with both had gorgeous chintz jackets. Because both are a bit unusual I wanted to show them in more detail.

The green jacket has a very interesting front closure of zig-zags, leaving little dimond cut-outs to show off the stomacher underneath. The zig-zags close with hooks and eyes center front.

 

I’d seen the green jacket in pictures before I went tot he exhibition, and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing. It was stunning in person, but I think my favorite jacket was actually the other one I showed before, this red one. The color is so stunning in person. We know that this jacket was worn in the province of Noord-Holland.

 

This jacket is a bit unusual in several ways. Firstly, it laces in the front instead of closing with hooks and eyes. Practically all fancy jackets in this museum close with hooks and eyes. Front-lacing jackets exist, but these were all worn as under-jackets or for very informal occasions. This red jacket, however, is too fancy for that, it was almost certainly worn as a top jacket.

The other unusual thing is the neckline, 18th century necklines are generally square, this one is almost v-shaped. Additionally, it has a collar-like shape around the neckline. I’d never seen this before, and I commented on this during my talk to the curator of the exhibition. She confirmed it was unusual, but also referred to a portrait of a girl in a blue chintz jacket which also shows a collar like shape. I’d seen this portrait before but hadn’t noticed the collar, but it’s definitely there! It’s pointed instead of round, but it also shows a neckline in a (shallower) v. I’m taking this to mean that these type of collars weren’t unheard of, and I personally think the style is very pretty. If anyone’s ever seen any other examples of this style I’d love to see!

A final thing I noticed about this jacket are little white thread loops on the collar. The curator didn’t know for sure what these were for either. One possible explanation might be to tie a kerchief of fichu in place? As before, if anyone has any idea of their purpose I’d love to know!

 

 

 

Chintz in the Fries museum – color & pattern

Last weekend I finally got a chance to visit the current exhibition on chintz in the Fries museum, ‘Sits – Katoen in bloei’, or ‘Chintz – Cotton in bloom’. It was stunning! I had to force myself to look at one thing at a time, because as soon as I turned around I’d see so much more loveliness. We went on Friday and saw the exhibition, and then enjoyed a lovely day with talks on Saturday, organized by the Dutch costume society. This included a very interesting talk by the curator of the exhibition Gieneke Arnolli, and we took the opportunity to visit again after her talk and see some things we’d missed first time! (To all my Dutch readers: it’s definitely recommended, I’d go again for a 3rd if I lived closer by. It’s running until September 11th)

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Seriously, I could look at this all day

 

Because I love chintz (see this post for a very extensive history and background), I’m going to split my blog about the exhibition into two parts. I’ve learned some more things, and because I now have loads of photos of the lovely chintz items I can illustrate this post with! Click the image for a larger version. I’ll also work on uploading all my images and link to those in the next post, as there’s way too much for even two blog posts.

For this first post: a little more about the use of color in chintz, and the various patterns.

The colors and patterns or chintz are made on bleached cotton, making white the first color you see in chintz. Lines are made in a black/dark brown color. Aside from this, the main colors are often made with meekrap (red) and indigo (blue), and you see shades of red and blue a lot. Additionally, purple sometimes occurs, as well as yellow and green.

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Beautiful wall-hanging with tree patterns and a wide array of colors.

Nowadays, we think of chintz mainly having a white ground, with colored flowers and leafs. But that’s quite a western view on chintz. Many chintzes for the Asian market were made with a read ground. In contrast, the English (and I believe also the American) market greatly favored white-ground chintz, and you barely see any colored grounds. Although the majority of Dutch chintz also has a white ground,  In the Netherlands, you see a relatively high amount of chintzes with colored ground. Mostly red, but also blue, green, purple, dark brown and even ‘spotted’ ground. I personally love these, and the museum had some lovely examples.

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Young girl’s jacket in red ground chintz.

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Dark brown ground on a girl’s dress

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Blue ground sleeves

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Spotted ground on a jacket. This shows the pleats in the back

 

 

Interesting to note is that the colored ground chintz is mostly used for blankets/spreads, sleeves, baby caps and jackets. Skirts of chintz are most commonly white. All the sunhat linings in this exhibition were also with a white ground. For the kraplappen (I’ll go into their use in the next post!), you see mostly white but also some red.

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Detail of a skirt.

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Detail of a kraplap, Indian chintz with a white ground.

 

In contrast, the town of Hindeloopen uses a lot of red ground in their traditional costume.

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Detail of a Wentke from Hindeloopen. This might’ve been the prettiest fabric in the exhibition.

 

Traditionally, chintz practically always included white (either as ground or detail color), black (mostly lines), and both red and blue as main colors. However, in the Netherlands we also have a number of two-colored chintz. White-black, white-blue and white-red. These were probably specifically made for the Dutch market, and especially in Hindeloopen worn for very specific occasions.

Hindeloopen had a very specific mourning tradition, with up to 7 stages of mourning. Although chintz wasn’t worn for the heaviest stage (all black), the black-white chintz comes into play for the ‘slightly-less heavy’ stages.

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Back of a Wentke for heavier mourning.

 

In an even lighter mourning stage, blue would enter the scene, and you get gorgeous white-blue ensembles for light mourning. As ‘out-of-mourning’ dress was mostly red, this relatively light-colored combo of white-blue would still clearly signal mourning.

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Wentke for lighter mourning.

 

Finally, you see red-white chintz in Hindeloopen as well. This was called ‘milk & blood’ chintz, and was worn by the bride.

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Milk & blood chintz on a kassekijntje, or cassaquin from Hindeloopen

 

Something else I’d never seen before this exhibition was the use of gold. This was usually reserved for the Indian upper class instead of export, and therefore very rare in European chintz. Nevertheless, the museum had a couple of sleeves and a spread with leaf gold on display.

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Detail of sleeves from Hindeloopen with leaf gold.

 

Although not really a color, something very specific about chintz is it’s glaze. I’ve seen a lot of reproduction patterns which feel like chintz, but don’t have this shine. It’s gorgeous though, and definitely best experienced in person. Although some chintz has lost some of it’s shine (it can wash off), the museum had a piece of a roll which is still in an amazing condition.

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Piece of two-tone chintz still on the roll and in very good condition. The angle of the picture makes it catch the light.

 

Pattern wise, all chintz has flower inspired patterns. Originally, these were very stylized and oriental in appearance. However, the European marked also started to influence Indian makers. Although it’s exoticism was a big draw of chintz, you do see it becoming just a little more European in style as well. From very large, asymmetrical patterns and stylized flowers, you start to see more geometrical patterns and more natural flowers.

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Indian chintz, flat flowers and asymmetrical placing.

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Back of a jacket. Chintz made in India, but the rose motif is distinctly more European looking.

 

Additionally, you also get European cotton prints imitating Indian chintz. Some is of high quality, but most of the time the European prints are just a little less in quality.

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Detail of an informal jacket. The sleeves are made of higher quality Indian chintz, while the body is European cotton print, which would’ve been cheaper.

 

 

And despite the flower theme, you get other motifs as well! Little insects and birds show up in chintz, but every now and then you get other patterns. On blankets you see heraldry, but also more animals and people. There was a skirt with hunting scenes. And one of the skirts had a very unusual border of ships of the West-Indian Company.

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Detail of a skirt border showing hunting scenes amid the flowers.

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Exotic bird on a jacket (re-made from skirt fabric).

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Unusual skirt border, showing ships of the West-Indian Trading company.

 

 

That was it for today, in the next post I’ll go into the different items of clothing (jackets, skirts, etc), some particularities of the items and how they might’ve been worn. I’ll also include a link to all my pictures in that post, as I have way more than fit into a blog!

Chintz

This post has been a while in the making! I’ve been wanting to write a terminology post about chintz for a while, but I wanted to do it right and include a bit of the history, how it was used and how it was made. That made it a bit longer than I’d originally envisioned, so be ready for a rather extensive overview! (If you don’t like those, feel free to just look at the pictures, chintz is very pretty!)

Chintz is a name referring to cotton fabric or paper with flower patterns. In this post, I’ll give some information on the historical fabric. It’s one of my favorite patterns, it’s often used in historical (mainly 18th century) dress and in Dutch folk costume. I’ll try go give a brief overview of the history of chintz, it’s characteristics, patterns and how it’s used in fashion. My focus will be on chintz in the Netherlands and traded by the East-Indian Trading company, but I’ll also try to give some more global information.

A short definition

Lets start with a brief section on the term ‘Chintz’ I’m using. In Dutch, we call this fabric ‘Sits’, and it refers to the glazed cotton painted and/or printed with flowered patterns, originally coming from India. This post is about what the Dutch would call ‘sits’. The translation in English is the term ‘chintz’. In time the English term chintz has evolved and become the name of many different types of flower patterns as well as the original patterns. It’s also sometimes used for basic plain cotton. I’ll focus on the Dutch meaning for ‘sits’ or chintz in this post. Most of those chintzes are 17th or 18th century, maybe early 19th century. All later chintz fabrics are based on these historical patterns. They were originally Indian, but when chintz gained popularity it was also produced in Europe. I’ll start off with some images, to clarify what I’m talking about.

 

This is Indian chintz:

BK-BR-328b

Part of a kids blanket, quilted, ca. 1725 – ca. 1750. Made in India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

 

Stylized flower patterns. The most typical version is of blue and red flowers on a pale background. There are different colors as well though. This is also Indian chintz:

BK-1971-118b

Detail of Palempore of chintz with tree pattern , ca. 1725 – ca. 1750, India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

 

These two examples are typical for the type of floral patterns. The chintz below is much more ‘European looking’, but still also made in India (very probably for the European market though). As you can see, it has a much later date, indicating how the chintz became more ‘European’ and evolved with fashion.

Chintz, ca. 1775, India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Chintz, ca. 1775, India. Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

 

The following image is of a pattern also often named chintz (in English, it wouldn’t be ‘sits’ in Dutch), but which is much more modern than Indian chintzes. To my eye, it’s also much more English, and there’s generally a lot more roses and pink in these more modern fabrics. This is not what this post’ll be about. A good indication if a chintz is Indian or Indian-inspired is to look at colors. Original chintz was mostly white, blue and red. The reason for this is that the white cotton was dyed with natural dyes, which were mostly red and blue, with some yellow. All other colors were a mix of those. Greens and purples you see, although they are rare. Orange and pink are almost nonexistant. Another cue is the flower style, original chintz flowers were very stylized and almost ‘flat’. They became a little less stylized as time went on, but nothing as life-like as the image below.

Modern ‘Chintz’. This is not what I’ll be talking about.

 

The rise & fall in western Europe

Chintz was brought to the Netherlands by the VOC, the East-Indian Trading company. They started around 1600, but chintz didn’t really start to play a role in Europe until about 1675. It initially gained popularity as an interior fabric, later also as dress fabric.  Chintz was imported most notably from Bengalen, Ceylon, Coromandel and Suratte, the latter two being the most important. Some chintz was probably also traded into the Netherlands via England. Indian chintz was copied from the very start, but especially in the beginning these copies weren’t very good. The Indians had a way of binding the color to the cotton to make the fabrics keep their color after washing, and they hand-painted the fabrics. Early European copies didn’t keep their color well, and were block-printed instead of painted. Nevertheless, many companies started making imitations of chintz, and started trying to copy the process to keep the colors, getting more successful as they went.

Two sleeves, displaying a quality difference. Left is early 17th century chintz with a much finer pattern than the right, made around 1800. Fries museum

 

The copying happened in different European countries, but not all of them were happy with this popularity. In 1681, France banned both importing cotton and printing it to protect their silk industry. England followed in 1700 with a ban on importing chintz, and in 1721 a ban on printing cotton, again to protect it’s own linen, wool & silk industries. The English did keep trading in chintz, however, and still made printed cotton for export. Given the bans in England and France, it’s not surprising that cotton printing flourished in the Netherlands from that time.

This started changing around 1750, when the economy in the Netherlands started to fail. The bans in France were lifted in 1759, giving rise to a flourishing cotton print industry. One of the most well-known chintz factories, Oberkampf, was located near Versailles in Jouy-en-Josas. This town still gives it’s name to the famous toile-de-jouy fabrics.

Cotton printed fabric. This sample was made by Oberkampf around 1800. These type of fabrics are still known as toile-de-jouy, after it’s original place of creation. V&A. (We wouldn’t call this chintz though, because it lacks the stylized flower patterns)

Chintz fabric by Oberkampf, 1770–75, MET museum

 

England held on to the bans a little longer, lifting them in 1774, finally allowing printing pure cotton fabrics. New printing techniques meant they also caught up to the Netherlands quite quickly, where innovation stayed behind.

English made chintz, early 19th century. V&A

 

The chintz trading and factories disappear almost entirely in the Netherlands between 1785 and 1815. Archives show 80 chintz-shops in Amsterdam in 1742, 117 shops in 1767, but sharply falling numbers between 1771 and 1776, even more companies fail in the 1780’s. The VOC officially ceased to exist in 1800, after almost a century of decline and growing debt. Changing fashions eventually meant the end of the chintz fabrics. Even though printed cotton was there to stay, the Indian(inspired) flower fabrics went away. Several regional Dutch costumes held on to chintz a lot longer though, some surviving until today.

Interiors

A lot of chintz was not used for clothing, but for home decorations. Curtains, wall hangings and chair coverings are all seen, but bedspreads and blankets seem most popular of all. It seems that using chintz in your interior caught on a little earlier than in clothing.

Schloss Hoff, in Austria, built in 1725

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Room in dollhouse of Petronella Dunois, ca. 1676. Rijksmuseum

 

Clothing

Chintz was also often used in clothing. All existing chintz clothing is from the 18th century, when it reached it’s peak in popularity. It was already worn in the 17th century though, as shown by the girl portrait below. This is one of the earliest depictions of chintz being worn.

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Emanuel de Witte, 1678

 

Despite it’s popularity, chintz never really was used much by the upper class for their best clothes. These fashions were very much influenced by the French court (even in the Netherlands), and employed very rich fabrics. Silks most commonly, often embroidered with silver & gold thread. Nevertheless, chintz was worn by the upper classes. Initially, you mostly see it used in ‘undress’. These were clothes worn at home, for non-official occasions or items such as dressing gowns. So it were the type of clothes not many see, but also the ones for less official occasions. This probably also explains why you don’t see many portraits of high-class women wearing chintz, they owned it (records of property show this quite clearly), but didn’t wear it for such a formal thing as having your portrait painted.

What we in Dutch call a ‘Japonese gown’. A dressing gown for a man, strongly influenced by Japanese kimonos. At this point in time (early 18th century), the Dutch were the only ones allowed to trade with Japan. Fries museum

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A rare example of a chintz Francaise, many more skirts and jackets exist than gowns, Francaises are even rarer. This was probably an (upper) middle class gown. An upper class woman would’ve been more likely to use silk. Rijksmuseum, ca 1780

 

As chintz gained popularity in the highest classes, the higher middle class followed, as did the lower middle class. The lowest classes didn’t own much chintz. For the middle class, chintz would’ve been much more valuable and you therefore do see it on prints/paintings of middle class women. There wasn’t much difference between city and country wear in this.

Girl from Sneek (city in Friesland) in her wedding clothes. Tragically, she died in childbirth age 16.

 

Although we see a lot of chintz dressing gowns for men in the higher circles, it seems that for daily wear chintz was by far most commonly worn by women. Baby clothes are very common at the moment in museums, probably also because little fabric was needed, so jackets and skirts could easily be re-made into baby clothes when necessary. Because you could wash chintz well without it fading, it was very suitable.

Baby Jacket, probably re-made from a skirt.

 

By far more jackets exist nowadays than full gowns. Skirts of chintz have also survived a lot. You do see a bit more skirts, dresses and capes with the richer classes than with the middle class, where jackets are more common (Again, we know this from inventory lists). Probably because jackets require less fabric. You also often see border patterns on skirts, indicating that fabric was specifically made for skirts.

rok:

Chintz skirt

Chintz jacket on white fond, Dutch, 1810-1820. From www.rijksmuseum.nl #Friesland #Hindeloopen:

Jacket. Fries Museum

 

Aside from gowns, jackets & skirts, you also see chintz in powder capes, or as lining of sun hats.

Cape, tot iets over heup, boord en geschulpte kraag katoen sits zwart/bruin; beschilderd bloem + takje veelkleurig; voerin: wol bruin/groen; garnering: lint zijde lichtbruin:

Short chintz cape. ModeMuseum Provincie Antwerpen

zonhoed:

The lining of a sun hat, the top would be straw. This particular shape was worn over a huge lace cap in the  province of Friesland.

 

Records show that chintz was worn throughout the Netherlands, but you do see it most often in the Northwest, around the coast. This makes sense, as they are either closer to Amsterdam (the founding city of the VOC), or have their own trading ports. This is also why a lot of existent chintz is in museums in these regions.

Activiteiten sitsen - Activiteiten - Te zien en te doen - Fries Museum:

Chintz jacket & skirt in the Fries Museum, in the north of the country

 

Regional costume

When chintz started to go out of fashion, it was also in these regions in the north-west that it was kept most. During the 18th century, we know that specific regional clothing was worn in certain areas. This could be either only be a specific form of headdress, or influence more items. Chintz survived in several regional costumes much longer than it did in regular fashion. Most well known is the Frisian town of Hindeloopen, which had grown wealthy from trade. The Hindeloopen costume was worn daily by women until the 2nd half of the 19th century, but has been kept alive by an active community. The society of Aald Hielpen still wear their costume for special occasions and events. The most well-known item of the Hindeloopen costume is the Wentke, a long coat of chintz worn by the women.

Titel:Sitsen Hindeloper bruidswentke, vrouwenjas, motieven op witte grond, contouren rood  Vervaardiger: onbekend  Soort object:wentke; borstrok; jas  Vervaardigingsdatum: 1750 - 1774  Vervaardiging plaats:India  Afmeting: hoogte: 135.5 cm, hoogte: 129.0 cm, breedte: 39.0 cm, wijdte: 56.0 cm, wijdte: 192.0 cm, sits  Materiaal:katoen, linnen  Techniek: sits:

Hindelooper bridal costume.

Coat (Wentke) #Friesland #Hindeloopen:

Back of a Wentke. Red patterns were most common, blue was worn for mourning.

 

Indian chintz survives up to today in the costume of Bunschoten-Spakenburg, which is still worn daily by a group of women. They wear an item called a ‘kraplap’ over the shoulders, made of heavily starched cotton. It can be made in all types of patterns, but the most valued are the ones from original Indian chintz. Because the kraplap has grown in size over the centuries, the original kraplappen don’t have enough fabric. If you’re lucky enough to find 2 of the same fabric, they are very carefully pieced together. These are the most valuable of kraplapen, and very coveted.

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Back of a kraplap made of 18th century chintz fabric.

 

Process

Chintz is a cotton fabric, with the colors being applied after weaving (as opposed to brocade for instance, where the pattern is woven in with the cloth). How exactly the colors were applied depends on location and time. Below a rough overview, as I’m not a chemist, nor an expert on dying. Be aware that the exact substances used could differ.

Original Indian chintz was mostly hand painted, sometimes block printed with smaller wooden blocks. This chintz had a very specific process to apply the different colors. Base colors were blue, red and yellow. Green and purple exist in chintzes as well, but would always be made by applying blue/yellow and blue/red on top of each other. The very special thing about Indian chintz was that it held its colors really well. This was due to the dying process used, some which weren’t discovered yet in Europe when chintz was first imported.

The first step (after bleaching and preparing the cotton) were the black outlines. These were painted directly on the fabric. After the black, the red would be applied. The red dye wouldn’t actually be applied to the fabric though. Instead, everything which would have to turn red was treated with mordant, a chemical substance which would later bind the color to the fabric. If there would be a ‘white’ area within the red, this would first be treated with wax before the mordant was applied. After applying the mordant (once or twice for lighter or brighter red), the cloth is dried and washed and rinsed. The mordant has now set, and only then the whole cloth is put into a dye bath, where only the parts treated with mordant will change color. After dying, the whole cloth can be bleached a bit again, because the white might’ve changed a bit to yellow. The next step would be to apply the blue, painting with indigo. For indigo, everything which does not need to be blue would be covered in wax. The wax-covered cloth would then in its entirety be put into the indigo dye. After dying, the cloth would be boiled to remove the wax again. After the blue, some fabrics would be treated with red again for brighter colors. Lastly, the yellow would be painted on, on top of the blue where you’d want green. This yellow tends to be a bit less well washable than the blue and red though.

In Europe, most chintzes were printed instead of hand painted, with large printing blocks. To be able to use the mordants with blocks, it had to be thickened as opposed to the very thin mordant used for painting. Another difference was that in Europe, some techniques existed enabling the printers to directly dye blue with the indigo, without having to use the wax method. For yellow, Europeans mostly used a mordant again, as opposed to the direct dye used in India.

These fabrics below were made when an interest in chintz began to rise again in the early 20th century and show the process. Collection of the V&A

Chintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samplesChintz process samples

 

As a final step, most chintz was glazed by applying pressure to the cloth. Many of the reproductions I’ve seen of chintz miss this glaze, but it is very apparent on most originals! That shine to the fabric is also one of the things which gives it it’s luxurious appearance.

 

More pictures: If you want to see more examples of chintz clothing, like the red chintz gown below, I’ve got a pinterest board on chintz here.

Japon. Het japonlijf heeft een vierkante hals. Twee platte plooien lopen over de schouder langs de voorpanden en verdwijnen in de rok. Het lijfje heeft vestpanden die gesloten worden met haken en ogen met overdwars een split even in de taille. Vanaf de hals middenachter een brede aangehechte platte plooi die puntig toeloopt en in één stuk is geknipt met de rok. De mouwen zijn glad en uit één stuk tot op de elleboog en hebben een geplooid elleboogstukje...1780 - 1785:

Red chintz Anglaise, Museum Rotterdam

 

Sources

My main source for all of the above information is the book ‘Sits, oost-west relaties in Textiel’ (‘Chintz, east-west relations in textile’, see reference below). This is also my only source, which is not very good practice when it comes to research. I’ve found it to be the only Dutch book about chintz to exist at the moment of writing. In English literature there’re a couple more books, but not many. (I’m making a wish-list!) I personally suspected more to be available when I went looking, especially because chintz is still quite well known in the Netherlands due to it’s importance in regional costume. All books on regional costume seem to refer to this one source. Having said this, the book was written by scholars, and is based for the most part on primary sources. This means that the information comes from inventories of the V.O.C., from inventories of 17th and 18th century shops and homes, from letters and from 18th century books (for instance on fabric-printing). The list of sources used in the book is extensive, and each chapter was researched and written by another author. Given all of this, I trust this source enough to use it as my only reference. As it’s never been re-printed and only available second-hand, nor has been translated to English, I felt free to share the information and images. Good news though; a new publication has recently come out! With a new exhibition on chintz, a new book has been written. I’ll definitely write a post once I’ve visited the exhibit.

The book:

Sits, Oost-West relaties in Textiel

By the Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst (National service Visual arts) , the Hague, together with the Rijksmuseum voor Volkskunde (State museum of Anthropology), Nationaal Openlucht Museum Arnhem (Open air museum), Groninger Museum, and the Gemeentemuseum the Hague.

On the occasion of the exhibition ‘Sits, Oost-west Relaties in Textiel’.

Published in 1987, no reprints

Authors:

Christian Jorg – V.O.C. in India

Frits Scholten – A journey of chintz in 1701-1702

Judith H. Hofenk de Graaff – The technique of chintz and cotton printing

Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis – Chintz and cotton printing, trade and make in the Netherlands

Frits Scholten – The interior ‘in the Indian manner’

Mary C. de Jong – Chintz and the printed neglige clothing of the higher orders

Hanneke van Zuthem – Farmers and Citizens in cotton

Ebeltje Hartkamp-J0nxis –  Motives on chintz and printed cotton

Inspiration

I noticed that I haven’t posted any historical sewing updates since the summer. I have been working on several projects though, and some are nearing completion. My blue regency dress is (finally) truly finished, so as soon as I can make some decent pictures I’ll write a post about it. I’m also working on 4 other projects, of which 3 are historical, so there’s more to come.

Meanwhile, it’s time for another inspiration post! This time about chintz, or rather, the 18th century (originally) Indian version of it. This fabric was used a lot in the Netherlands, including in much of the traditional clothing. I might write a more informational post on this type of chintz soon, but for now it’s time for pretty pictures. Starting with some jackets, on to dresses. In (somewhat) chronological order.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam – 1810-1820

Fries Scheepvaart Museum

DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum 1755-75

Late 18th century

© Hugo Maertens — Bruges, Belgium 1750-1800

V&A, 1770-1780

Museum Rotterdam – 1780 – 1785

Winterthur Museum Collection – 1785-1795

Met, 1785–95

The Kyoto Costume Institute – 1780s

V&A – 1790-1795

Private collection Barreto-Lancaster – 1795