Late 18th Century Shortgowns from Kallfors, Sweden
Text Martin Ciszuk.
The original fabric used in Duran Textiles’ design Pumpa belongs to a private textile collector. The fabric is found in one of the woman’s short gowns that origins from Kallfors manor in Södermanland, Sweden. For several generation this estate belonged to the families von Leuven and Stackeberg, but in the end of the 1990-ties the house was sold and the interior cleaned. By coincident a neighbouring lady, Kierstin Engström, active in the Swedish Costume Society was passing, and noticed that old things were being discarded. She rescued the last plastic sack, when ten other sacks already were burnt as rubbish…
The sack contained garments and pieces of textiles from 18th, 19th and early 20th century among other two complete short gowns or jackets. The two short gowns are very similar and were probably made by the same person for the same person. The fabrics used are however quite different. The first short gown is of brown printed cotton, Swedish kattun. The design with white fruits, flowers and branches on brown ground has a late baroque character and could be dated to the 1740-ties. It is block printed on medium fine (15 warp threads, 20 wefts /cm) hand spun cotton (single yarn a bit uneven, z-spun, yarn diameter 0,3-0,8 mm) The fabric was block printed with resist paste (wax, clay, glue or similar), and then dyed brown, leaving the natural white cotton in the design. The fabric was probably intended for furnishing, but apparently it was also used for clothing. The short gown is patched and joined in some areas. It is obvious that it is of a secondary use. This fabric is reconstructed as a screen print by Duran Textiles AB. The name Pumpa (English pumpkin) refers to the pumpkin like fruit in the design possibly intended to be a pomegranate. The lining of the short gown is another printed cotton with red, white and brown roses on blue ground. It is joined from several pieces and was heavily faded in some places already when the lining was put in the short gown. The design is in rococo style and could be dated to the mid 18th century. Because of the faded areas it is feasible that the fabric originally was curtains, bed curtains or covers for furniture. This fabric will also be reconstructed by Duran Textiles AB. The presentation of this design, Rosita, will be in December.
The second short gown is made in a finer printed (25 warp threads and 27 wefts/cm) machine spun yarn (yarn diameter 0,2-0,5 mm). The design with strewn sprays on small patterned violet ground dates the fabric to 1780-90. This fabric has no joins or patches and was probably new when the short gown was made. The lining, in opposition, is a reused block printed linen dated to the mid 18th century.
The cut of the short gown is simple. Two pieces, without shoulder seam and the sleeve in one piece with the body, are joined in the sides. In centre back there is also a seam that give shaping in the waist. The lining seems to have been attached to the cut out pieces before the seams were made. A interlining of combed cotton is tacked to the reverse, leaving very small spaced stitches on the inside. The short gown is then joined from the reverse and finally the lining is finished from the inside of the garment. In the hem, centre front and at the neck the lining is attached with slanting stitches leaving a dotted stitching on the face side (in French: point a rabbatre sous le main). At the neck opening there is also a line of running stitches 1 cm from the edge, but there is no collar or facing. The garment is sewn with black silk tread and the lining with linen thread. On the right side of centre front opening two black silk ribbons are attached with linen thread. The short gown was closed with corresponding ribbons placed a bit off centre on left side creating a asymmetrical overlap. The sleeve would have reached a bit below the elbow, as there are holes from wear on the back side of the sleeves about 10 cm up. A small cuff finishes the sleeve. The fabric of the sleeve is turned inside and stitched to the lining inside the sleeve The sleeve is folded back to form the cuff and the fabric act as both lining and facing of the cuff.
Drawing on the similarity between the two short gowns concerning both cut an sewing, the making of them is probably contemporary to the youngest fabric: 1780-90-ties or even the early years of the 19th century. If they are compared to the older style short gown from Visby (Duran Textiles newsletter 1), they have a similar cut but are shorter in waist and skirts and are more shaped by the centre back seam and the overlap closing of the front. These details are all influenced by the styles of the late 18th century. None of the fabrics have stamps which could reveal exactly where and when they were printed, but they could well be Swedish. The designs are dated by their style, but printing of old fashioned designs might have continued even when they got out of fashion, particularly in small local workshops. Maybe the distance in the dating is not so big, 40-60 years, as the designs seems to suggest.
The original garment is small and would fit a girl or a small slender woman. A short gown was made from the reconstructed fabric using the original cut, but adjusting it to a modern grown up size. The short gown was used as a everyday working garment, worn over a shift and a bodice together with skirts and petticoats, apron, neckerchief and cap.