When Sir Jacques de Gravier died near Marseilles in 1700, a man’s indoor cap made in the broderie de Marseille technique was in his effects. Men wore quilted at-home caps all over Europe from the late 1600s to the early 1800s. Surviving 18th-century white corded-work caps are in museum collections throughout Europe and the US. Where did all of these caps come from?
The fashion for all-white corded quilting was well launched in the opening decades of the 18th century. Still carrying the marketable name “Marseilles,” it was certainly imitated elsewhere in Europe. At least one hundred British ships docked in Marseilles between 1713 and 1720. Return cargoes likely included articles made in broderie de Marseille and British needleworkers, already engaged in commercial quilting, must have been keen to imitate it. The 1717 accounts of Lady Grizel Baillie (1692-1733), who purchased a “Marsyls waistcoat” in London, reflect either the work of true Marseilles origin or a domestic imitation of it.
The prodigious export of Marseilles needlework ateliers to all of Europe ceased abruptly when the plague devastated the port city population in 1720. This was a prime moment for other European workrooms to market their imitations of Marseilles corded-work – caps, bedcovers and other furnishings destined for homes and wardrobes.
Click images below to view larger and read more information about some of the quilts included in the exhibit.
As the century turned, Provencal women in continued to wear traditional clothing. Quilted petticoats, known in Provencal as jupons, worn in layers, were a pretty way to emphasize the female form as well as protection against extremes of weather. New mothers in many villages dressed all in white - “jupon, bodice, and cape” - when they returned to Sunday church services.
Women fashioned their petticoats from three skirt-length widths of fabric. They stitched these lengths together at the sides then laid them over a batting and backing of the same size. They quilted the top in a diamond grid and put their creative inspiration in the fanciful border using either the broderie de Marseille technique or plain quilting.
Sewn together at the sides, gathered at the top to fit the wearer’s waist, the petticoat formed a rounded bell shape from waist to hem.