This just in, literally, from the mail carrier: Susan W. Greene’s long-awaited book, Wearable Prints, 1760-1860. It’s discounted (and out of stock) at Amazon, but should be shipping soon, since I have one right here on my desk.
It’s fair to call this book lavishly illustrated (1600 full-color images in almost 600 pages), and while I have access to a copy at work, I am seriously thinking of buying my own copy, based solely on about 10 minutes skimming the book. There are images not just of fabric samples but also of garments, paper dolls and illustrations that help put the fabrics into context. Images of garments from collections I can’t get into? Delicious! Information to help me understand how to use a printed cotton? Even better.
The book is organized in three main sections: Overview, Colors, and Mechanics. Appendices include timelines, prohibitions, price comparisons, print characteristics, and more, as well as a glossary and an extensive bibliography.
The photographs are amazing, and show a range of print designs of greater variety than we may have credited heretofore. Particularly useful is the section on evaluating and identifying printed dress fabrics, and the questions one should ask about fabrics. I think that the criteria could be used forensically on modern as well as historic textiles, and we could think more critically about the fabrics we use.
ETA: I wrote this while the downstairs room was being painted with oil paint, and it’s loopier than I expected. The book is still an excellent resource, and I highly recommend it. While it’s heavy for carrying to the fabric shops, it would be dead useful while shopping online. I have definitely seen bolts of fabrics very similar to those illustrated in Greene’s book. As Anna notes on her blog, Ms Greene’s collection is now at Genessee Country Village. Wow. It’s amazing. If you can’t get there easily, well, the book will certainly help, and the images will you visual access to a plethora of collections.