Inspirations for Dressed Miniatures

Dressed Prints ~ Mary Way

Dressed prints and other types of early collage art have similarities with Mary Way’s dressed miniatures. Though we ultimately do not know what inspired Mary to apply fabric to the surface of her miniatures, compositions like dressed prints help us to contextualize and understand her work.


19th Century Collage Picture

Copyright Private Collection

What are Dressed Prints?

Simply put, a dressed print is a figural illustration (often depicting fashion) which has fabric applied to the surface to make the figures appear ‘dressed.’ These compositions can have extensive layering, making the image appear three-dimensional.

Sometimes parts of the illustrations are cut out, leaving a ‘window’. Fabrics are then applied to the back of the illustration so that the fabrics show through to the front of the image, thereby creating a two-dimensional form of ‘dressing.’

Dressed prints and fabric pictures vary in size, from tiny miniatures to full-scale compositions.

The Tradition

The tradition of dressing prints began at the turn of the 18th century in France. From there, the fad for embellishing fashion illustrations was carried  throughout continental Europe, England, and ultimately, America. Although it is often assumed that women were the primary creators of dressed prints and fabric pictures, evidence reveals that men were also engaged in this art form.

Although fashion illustrations were commonly dressed, other compositions were created by applying fabric to paper – like a collage. Individual preferences and cultural influences transformed a relatively straightforward artform into a vast tradition. Compositions were created on blank sheets of paper entirely from bits and pieces of fabric. Sometimes real hair was added, in addition to other ornamental materials, like shell, wire, sequins, straw, and seaweed.

Dressed prints and fabric pictures reached the height of their popularity between the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries (with a new form of dressing, the tinsel print) but it certainly didn’t end there. Late 19th century examples also exist and the tradition continues today in many incarnations with collage art and scrapbooking.

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