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Mary Ireland revisited: Collar for redingote? Fine embroidery at least!

Mary Ireland revisited: Collar for redingote? Fine embroidery at least!

Here is a nice research project for my embroidery enthusiasts!

First, a little background. Two years ago, I bought a large collection of costume accessories from the estate of Mary Ireland. So interesting and important was she as an artist and costume collector, that I researched her life and wrote a Blog about her and the collection, called 'The Superlative Collection of Mary Ireland' and I encourage you to read about this facsinating lady, born before Queen Victoria died.

Being a not very organised person, I researched and sold much of her collection, some of which you can find in the shop, but when I came upon a dilemma, I put these pieces away for 'further work'. Of course I then buy something else and forget what I have in various boxes!

So here is one such dilemma. I now remember it well. Miss Ireland made notes on many of her pieces and she was very knowledgeable. She mixed in grand society and many items were given to her from these friends, together with the story behind them. Yet, most of her notes were factual, written in pencil on the blue paper on which she stored the pieces.

With this particular piece, she has been profuse in her praise. She writes: '1805-1810; A very fine example of pulled thread ground with Acanthus scroll left in solid, showing superb craftsmanship. These high, rolled over collars of the 'Redingote', high waisted long coats of the period'.

High praise from Mary for this piece!

In terms of the embroidery, I couldn't agree with her more. But as a student of Heather Toomer & Gail Marsh books [I stress, student!], I simply couldn't see how this shape of collar would sit inside a redingote - not that there are many redingotes to see any more. They are very rare. And the embroidery appeared later in date.

The embroidery work is so delicate, with all of the detailed background being not lace, but intricately pulled threads, it is amazing that this piece has survived. But what was it?

At the time I consulted my Lace Mentor, and we spent considerable time thinking of the shape [she has a finer spacial awareness than I]. Neither of us could see how it could date to the 1805-1810, as stated by Ireland.

Loath to disagree with such a knowledgeable collector. I put it away, and here we are some two years later, no further ahead!

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that the general style of the embroidery is dated to around 1830-40's period. This makes sense in terms of fashion because ladies were wearing deep v-necked gowns at this time.

But I still hate to dispute Mary's enthusiastic notes, especially as most of her datings were perfect.

So. Redingote or not. A very fine embroidered collar, extraordinary drawnthread work, with a narrow band of silk binding to the inner neck. Highly praised by Ireland.

Fragile as it is, there is some darning as I have tried to show in the photo's, so please read the condition report below.

If any of you know what it is, please do let us all know!


  • Condition:

    Mary Ireland apparently had a housekeeper, who did all of her textile cleaning and darning. I would imagine she worked on this delicate piece too. There are several fine darns, and these are quite heavy to the pointed ends. All neat and not obtrusive. There is light, general discolouration as you would imaging, but nothing of concern.

    High quality work!

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