Sep 9, 2010

Cotton masquerading as fine silk

The reign of Napoleon III (1852-1870) - called the Second Empire - was characterized by a period of rapid economic growth in France that created a prosperous middle class. Many of these newly-affluent middle class people now wanted to own larger homes and to create interiors that would be like the luxurious rooms in the very wealthiest houses.
The printed-textile manufacturers were quick to respond to the demand by creating cotton print motifs that looked like expensive silks, but were less expensive and could be produced quickly. These cotton fabric manufacturers strove to elevate the quality of the floral and botanical prints by hiring artists and Parisian-trained designers to create the motifs.
First below are two examples of cotton prints designed to look like the elegant striped silks. Notice the faux moirĂ© background on the red stripe with cherubs.
The next two pictures show medium-heavy cotton prints that were intended to look like heavy silk jacquard furnishing fabric. Indeed, when hung as drapes, these fabric have the aura of sumptuous silks.
The last cotton print would have been less expensive to produce since it used only one color and was printed on a lighter-weight cotton. The striated background was designed to look like a taffeta.  This kind of pretty print would likely have been used in a boudoir or a child's bedroom.

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