The appeal of white on white is an old one. Perhaps it's the emphasis on textural contrast and the purity of the design without the distraction of color pattern. Or perhaps it's just so clean and crisp. It's a look I have loved since seeing my first hand stitched white quilts, where it's all about the quality of needlework and the perfection of the stitching pattern. The theme has shown up in embroidered underwear, quilted petticoats, lace applique blouses and dresses for some centuries. But if ever there was a time for the embroidered white on white dress, it was the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries. I have come to believe almost every woman in the cultural sway of Western Europe owned at least one white linen or cotton summer dress with embroidery, tucks, lace, cutwork or some other handiwork. Quality varied of course. Many were inexpensively manufactured, with little actual handwork. Others were amazing samplers of exquisite hand sewing techniques. One things that must be said, is that these dresses must have been a relief on warmer months, with openwork and lace insertion to let the air through.
This two piece dress set c. 1899 - 1900, was one of our favorite finds from our September swing around the Northeast. It's a lovely heavy linen, not cotton, with openwork and hand worked embroidery in the Arts and Crafts style. The vertical bands of the handwork are carried through the blouse front to the hip yoke of the skirt, with a single panel defining the back of the blouse. The deep cuffs of the sleeves have both the border and an overall pattern.
Late 1890s Victorian Antique Dress in Hand Embroidered White Linen SZ M
Currently available at Past Perfect Vintage