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Quilted garments, such as petticoats or dressing gowns, provide a rare example of how Turkey red dyed and printed cottons were actually used.

The National Museums Scotland textile collections include two items of quilted Turkey red clothing, both manufactured by McLintock and Sons of Barnsley at their Utilitas factory and sold through retail premises such as Misses Fairgrieve’s Millinery, Corset and Crinoline Warehouse in Princes Street Edinburgh. McLintocks, along with rivals Booth and Fox of London, dominated supplies of high quality quilts and quilted clothing in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The first item is a quilted petticoat, made in the 1870s to a patented design and the second, more spectacular garment is a woman’s full-length dressing gown of about the same period. Both are printed with small exotic leaves or flowers in bright blues, yellows and greens on a red and white background, in designs of the type that were developed for the home market. The linings are in plain red. The petticoat has a drawstring waist and the dressing gown is fastened with a bow and hook-and-eye at the neck and buttons down the front with a belt at the waist. Both garments are fashioned to accommodate the then popular bustle dress-form at the back. The quilted channels are stuffed with eider duck down from Russia and the sewing machine stitching is decorated on the outside with coloured braid. The garments are made of cotton, of either United States or India origin and probably woven in Lancashire. It is impossible to say if the fabrics were dyed and printed in Scotland or Lancashire, but the source of manufacture for the garments themselves is indicated through prominent McLintock labels giving patent and design numbers. 

McLintock and Sons

McLintock and Sons of Barnsley was founded by James McLintock (1805-78), son of a Scottish linen weaver, who began his working life as a travelling salesman for a Barnsley linen company, and moved into buying and selling textile remnants on his own account before setting up as a manufacturer of corsets and stays in the 1850s. With his two sons as partners, the firm moved into making quilted undergarments and bedding in the 1860s, for which they registered several patents, and they built new prestigious manufacturing premises in Barnsley in 1867 – the Utilitas factory – to accommodate their growing business. 

McLintock’s was an ambitious firm with a wide retail distribution, who exhibited their goods at international exhibitions, winning a gold medal at the Philadelphia International Exhibition in 1876; bronze at the 1878 Paris Universal Exhibition; and gold again at the 1886 Edinburgh International Exhibition, which was the first of such events to be held in Scotland. The company was described in the official catalogue for the Paris exhibition as ‘down clothing manufacturers’ and ‘inventors’, and their exhibits comprised ‘real Eider and Russian down quilts and skirts. Patent down clothing, silk down toralium quilts and skirts, ladies and gentlemen’s dressing gowns and jackets, vests, chest protectors, smoking caps, tea cosies etc.’ For the Edinburgh exhibition, which was opened by Queen Victoria, the firm made a spectacular and costly eiderdown quilt for display on their stand, which was deep red in colour and had the royal coat of arms and royal monograms embroidered in gold. Spectacle and showmanship was clearly a characteristic of the firm during the life of the founder-owner. 

McLintock quilted garments, which provide rare surviving examples of Turkey red fabric in clothing, were mass-produced for a mainly British middle-class market. They were intimate garments for winter warmth and comfort, signalled in the red colouring. But they were also designed to be seen within a domestic context, with the patterned outer material and decorative braid more expensive than the plainer linings. The Turkey red fabric and the exoticism of the design were intended to signify a hint of sexuality or daring. In contrast, however, and important for the purchasers and wearers of these garment, the written reference to the ‘purified’ down and the official patents on the well-designed labels also created an idea of wholesomeness.

Quilted petticoats had fallen out of fashion by the early twentieth century, but the company survived for decades as manufacturers of down quilts for bedding, which were latterly made with coverings of luxurious satin rather than Turkey red cotton prints. The Utilitas factory finally closed in 1977. 

  • Eight small samples on a page

    Eight small samples on a page
  • Intricate interlocking pattern

    Intricate interlocking pattern
  • Intricate multi-coloured design

    Intricate multi-coloured design
  • Nine small samples, one larger one

    Nine small samples, one larger one
  • Quilt effect with figure in centre

    Quilt effect with figure in centre
  • Small yellow circle shapes on red ground

    Small yellow circle shapes on red ground

Next: Further reading >

Text © Stana Nenadic and Sally Tuckett, ‘Colouring the Nation: Home markets.’

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