‘Spitalfields’ Silk Dress
Glencoe Folk Museum
This beautiful dress takes its name from Spitalfields, London, where it was originally made with brocaded woven silk. It is believed to have belonged to an upper-class Jacobite supporter during the 1740s. However, it had a long life well beyond that decade.
The dress shows clear evidence of a changing seamline, indicating that it was valued and reused by different wearers over the course of a century. The exquisite silk fabric would have been very expensive, making the desire to adapt the dress to suit a range of changing fashions understandable. In the 1760s, fringing was fashionable and the dress acquired a box-pleated trim.
By the 1770s, the front ‘robings’ were dismantled and new straps stitched over the shoulders with fabric. Later, the bodice was shortened to reflect the new tastes for higher waistlines.
The dress continued to be passed down through the generations of a family, eventually becoming a dressing up outfit for the children.
In 1971, before being donated to the museum, the dress was put through a washing machine – luckily it survived!