Silk evening dress, c. 1893. Made by Louise Winter, Bentinck Street, Cavendish Square.
This evening dress is decorated with net panels embroidered with gold thread and beetle wing cases from a species of jewel beetle. The panels were probably made in India where Madras and Calcutta were centres for beetle-wing embroidery made for the European market. The iridescent blue-green beetle wing cases reflect the light like sequins. This type of embroidery is found in British museum collections on dress, textiles and accessories dating from the 1780s until about 1930.
Although Indian embroiderers introduced the technique, using it to decorate dress and domestic textiles, Europeans copied them, sometimes using the wing cases of a species of South American jewel beetle. This style of embroidery was also thought to be a suitable pastime for ladies of leisure, who were advised to use a Walker’s number eight needle and green silk thread.
The dress, which has a nineteen-inch waist, has fashionable puff sleeves and drapery over the bust. The skirt is trained at the back and the back waist is trimmed with a silk bow.