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Victorian Ribbon Work - How Pretty

Since the dawn of civilization, the ribbon has played a significant role in society. It has decorated battle flags, robes of state and the fashions of both men and women.

Before the 19th century, the world center of fashion was Paris. The Parisians were well known for the quality production of their silk ribbon. The dressmakers of the day felt it necessary to manipulate the ribbon in such a way to make it more attractive than just attaching a piece of ribbon to an item and be done with it.

The heyday of Ribbon craft began in the 1600s. This was a time of lavish clothing embellishment. It was considered nothing unusual to use a half a kilometer of ribbon to embellish one aristocratic ladies costume. As ribbon and lace were very expensive, it also advertised the wealth of the person whose clothing was covered in such decoration. This is also one of the few periods in history that men's dress was just as embellished as women. As decorative fashion spread to Europe, England and North America, language differences morphed the art of Ribbon craft into the terms Ruching and Quilling. (the 1800's)

Ruche – means to gather and Quill – means to pleat

In the early 1800s and prior to mechanization, women's clothing was embellished with many different methods or ruching and quilling. (of which we will learn a few today) The ladies books (magazines) of the period give many ideas and instruction to create lovely trims and embellishments for dresses, bonnets, mantles and household items. The Victorians, being the frugal folks they were, used fabric from their old pieces of clothing or ribbon "goods" purchased form their local dry goods store.

By the early 1900s, the term Ruching and Quilling had morphed again into what we now call - Ribbon Work. Ribbon work enjoyed another resurgence in the 1920s. During that time, we see examples of beautiful ribbon flowers and embroideries, which were used to embellish nightwear and decorate small containers to hold precious items. The popularity and widespread use of ribbonwork had pretty well disappeared by the late 1920s.

The First World War had ended. Women were slowly being pulled into the much more hectic modern age. The average woman had very little time to pursue the more time consuming and gentle pass times enjoyed by their mothers and grandmothers.

In our modern times, ribbon work is looked upon as a quaint, old fashioned hobby that is slowly becoming a lost art.

Check my Pinterest Page for examples of completed ribbon trims.

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