Victorian Fichu Collar
Victorian Fichu collar
By Morgyn Owens-Celli
This collar (part of a private collection) is a great example of straw adorned fichu collars. Once created in Bohemian Lace and embroidered with splints of straw or couched elements of straw, in the later 19th century era were replaced with appliqué straw.
For a long time it has been suggested that these later 19th century “cut-outs” of straw were created because of a lack skills available to do a more standard straw embroidery that had been done since the 15th century. However, those who do profess this do not take into account that the more regular type of straw embroidery was practice, at least in some capacity, by 20th century fashion houses such as Dior well into the 1950s. It is likely that a few conditions were to make this type of flat straw embroidery popular. First, it is far less labor intensive than the more standard straw embroidery. In the mid-to late-Victorian Era, competition for fashion was severe. Those who wanted to compete with the flood of imports from Asia and the well-established fashion houses of France had to create an equally beautiful look at a much cheaper price for the customer. In addition, flattened straw punches could yield a tremendous amount of materials for a more varied design amidst particular items such as this fichu collar. The more likely reason for the introduction of appliqué straw embroidery is that it shows a larger area of the straw and the patina and shine would therefore be a beautiful design.
Punched straw elements certainly predate this collar, which is likely to have been made somewhere around 1870. The first sequins that were made for clothing were made of straw. This occurred on occasion in as early as 17th century work, but more properly gained some use in the Regency Period of England. The sporadic use of the flattened straw embroidery indicates either an unsuccessful replacement of a more standard straw embroidery, or simply a change in fashion.Tags: fashion, fichu, history, straw applique, Victorian