For those who wonder how Victorians survived the winter in badly heated houses (or snowy streets,) this down-filled petticoat is one answer.
I don’t know how this red, Victorian, quilted down petticoat from England found its way to California. This week I found the pictures I took of it many years ago, before it was sold, and discovered that its older sister is in the Costume Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum!
I only photographed the one in California for inventory purposes, but even a low resolution picture is better than none.
Note how the rows of quilting taper in at the sides.
Deduction: This petticoat is later than the one in the V&A Museum, since skirt fullness began moving toward the back in the late 1860s.
The Cut site has a good view of the back of the petticoat in the V & A. Click here.
There are two of these petticoats in the John Bright Collection, also located in the U.K. Click the site’s + sign for Additional Images.
The label (see Additional Images) in the John Bright Collection is also located center front, and is easier to read than the one I photographed.
The labels say the filling on the petticoats is “warranted pure Arctic down.” Red underwear doesn’t really keep you warmer, although several collections have quilted Victorian petticoats in various shades and patterns of red calico. My search for “Booth & Fox” led to a Scottish museum site about red calico, like the fabrics used in these down-filled skirts.
In Yorkshire, The Quilt Museum has one. Click here.
I wonder if the person who bought the “California” collection knows that one of the earlier Arctic Down Skirts made by Booth & Fox sold at auction in 2009?
The hem on the one I photographed had been repaired in back. You can see that the lining was a solid red, rather than printed calico, and a tiny feather was peeking out.
It would certainly keep you toasty-warm from knees to hem.
Post Script: I received several emails from Patrick Murphy that shed new light on the Both and Fox company. He wrote:
“I came across your item on the Booth and Fox Petticoat when I was looking for some other information on Booth and Fox. As I know nothing about fashion and felt the item is probably now defunct I did not post a response. However, I thought you might be interested to know that the petticoat in question probably did not come from England but, surprisingly, from Ireland! I have attached a (poor quality) article from 1892 which confirms that Booth and Fox was founded and based in Cork City, Ireland (which, of course, at that time was part of the United Kingdom). You can see that it specifically refers to the manufacture of ladies down underskirts. As the article shows, the company did have extensive “branch establishments” in England but manufacturing was done in Cork.
I suspect that the other sites you reference may also be unaware of the true provenance of their garments.
I have some interest in Booth and Fox as Adam Fox (who was married to Mary Booth! – and, admittedly, was English) lived in the house next to mine in Cork City in 1842!”
In a later mail, he sent a PDF of the original article, which appears to be from a Merchant Directory for the city of Cork. Click here for the link. Thank you, Mr.Murphy!