This fabric is a brocaded silk tobine and was intended for ladies' gowns. The technique of brocading allowed different colours to be introduced into the pattern of a fabric in specific, sometimes very small areas. It was a more laborious process for the weaver than using patterning wefts running from selvedge to selvedge, but the resulting effect could be much more varied and lively. The additional effect which makes this silk a tobine is the ribbed ground, created with an extra warp which in some fabrics makes a pattern in a contrasting colour but in this case is the same colour as the ground.
Design & Designing
In the article on silk designing from a contemporary handbook to art and manufacture, George Smith's 'Laboratory or School of Arts', the author recommends that pattern drawers should take advantage of the seasonal variety offered by nature. 'Every season of the year produces .... plants, flowers and shrubs, as afford greater varieties than we are able to imitate'. The naturalistic drawing of the flowers in this dress fabric illustrates this characteristic of English silks well. But the anonymous designer has taken the idea of naturalism further with a scattering of feathers whose brocaded texture allows them to appear as if floating over the surface of the silk.