Thursday, October 6, 2016

Vintage Dimensional Appliqué

One of my (Kara's) favorite things to do on vacation is explore the local antique offerings. Antique stores of all types can be found. Some are really just buildings for garage sale-type items, or some that have "fine" as the first word of their name usually mean that what's inside will be above my budget. And some fit somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. While on vacation in Wells, Maine, last week, I took a day to see what treasures could be uncovered. I came across some interesting finds at a variety of antique shops. Some items I left behind, for obvious reasons.

I have no words for this

And of course, I am always drawn to anything with a fairy tale theme.

A very expensive Little Red Riding Hood

One store we visited was R. Jorgensen Antiques. Upon arriving, we were immediately impressed with the massive espaliered pear tree that graced the front of the shop.

Inside, we were greeted by the resident German Shepherd, a gracious store owner,  and some amazing antiques. Since I am fascinated by all types of appliqué, I was immediately drawn to these two pieces.

What a sweet little dog and such elaborate outfits

Such detail!

The detail of the second diorama was exquisite, and I wished I had taken more pictures. The owner shared that this appliquéd diorama tells a story about a friar, who raised a foundling in complete isolation from society. The picture depicts the scene when the, now adult, young man sees women for the first time.

He does look a bit shocked
The attention to detail really shows in the ladies' dresses

It was suggested that this was a common story of that era, and that this depiction might have been reproduced for decor purposes. While the price tag eliminated me as a buyer, this piece of art definitely made me an admirer. 

Not in the budget

At the next antique store, I came across another appliquéd scene that showed these lovely ladies out for a stroll.

This was not the first time I had come across a shadowbox or diorama showing fashionable ladies. I found these two in a shop in St. Joseph, Michigan.

As I began to write this post, I knew I needed to find out more about this method of appliquéing fabric onto a pre-printed paper scene. After searching the web, it appeared that this was not an uncommon art form. Pinterest yielded quite a few images, and most of them used a Victorian fashion plate as the base. 

I really thought that there would be a lot of information out there since I had found many of these shadow boxes available to purchase online, but there was very little information as to how they were made or why. The most prevalent artwork of this type available to purchase online, seems to be those based on fashion plates from the magazine, LaMode Illustrée, a fashion magazine first published in Paris in 1859. There are quite a few different pieces available through Ebay and Etsy for any collectors out there. Occasionally, they can be found in antique stores as well for those with a discerning eye.

Live Auctioneers

Did this art form give ladies who couldn't afford a high-fashion dress an opportunity to dream a little bit? Or were they used to demonstrate available fabrics that could be used to make the dresses? Certainly, this is just speculation on my part, since I couldn't find any specific information on the web. If any of our readers are able shed some light on this art form, we'd love to hear from you.

This dimensional appliqué that I've shared is from the past, but we can certainly utilize some of these ideas for our current appliqué projects. While looking at so many of these detailed pieces on the web and in antique stores, I realized that when I stitched our Beauty and the Beast block from our Fairy Tale Album (currently in Houston), I created Beauty's dress with similar techniques. Her skirt is gathered, and her hair, made out of silk, is gathered and pleated.

A gathered and pleated skirt add dimension

Teri used a furrowing technique for Thumbelina's hair.

Furrowed silk hair

Little Red Riding Hood's cape also has a few gathers to make it stand out a bit.

Hopefully you have enjoyed seeing some of the works of art from the past and will be inspired to add some dimension to your appliqué. Again, if you have any more information about the vintage appliquéd ladies, please share!


  1. First of all, Wells, Maine?? Wish I had known I would have met you there and crossed another "first person meeting" of a Blogging friend off my list! Anyway, I know exactly where you found the "Motorcycle Papa" and it is a fun place isn't it? Your Fairy Tale quilt is amazing! Wish I could go to Houston to see it. I have one there this year too and would love to have been able to go. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thanks Wendy! That picture was something. I wish I had known you were close as I surely would have given you a shout.

  2. How very interesting. And after seeing the price tag you show, I know why you had to leave it behind.

    1. Thanks Karen! At least it was high enough that I didn't have to even consider it.

  3. Stunning detail work on both the antique pieces and your own stitching!!