I have often found unusual names for fabrics from 18th century archives, but this account shows the wide variety that was available, in a single store. These names reflect the wide ranging sources – of different breeds of sheep that produce the wool, of cotton, of coarse and fine linen, and silks, plus the many names for local styles and widths, and possibly personal specialties that prefigure the age of mass marketing. I am tempted to think some of these are made up, and some sound more like drinks or desserts. This is from Edith Sitwell’s Bath:
“Year by year the city grew in size as it grew in fashion, and the elder Wood, and his son, built those squares in the town, those colonnaded terraces on the hills, which seem, always, to be haunted, sometimes by peaceful Roman ghosts, dark as the trees, sometimes by tittering ladies’ maids in yellow chintz gowns and petticoats, sometimes by ladies in Isabella-colour kincock gowns flowered with green and gold, in yellow Atlas petticoats edged with silver – by ladies dressed in Shaggs and Tabbeys (for country lawns), mohairs (for satyr forests), grazets (for smooth lawns again), flowered damask (for moonlight); by ladies dressed in sarsnets, Italian mantuas, Spanish and Egnlish druggets, calamancoes (for those moon-coloured crescents); by other ghost-ladies in dresses of russets, shalloons, rateens, and salapeens, and those Indian stuffs that they wore on hot summer evenings when the moonlight sighed like a sea in the gardens; bafts and dark baguzzees, chelloes and chintz, mamoodies, guinea-stuffs, nicanees, quilts; pallampores, sovaguzzes, bulchauls and cuttanees, millaes and doorguzzies, gurracs and izzarees, humhums and allejars, atlasses, soosies, pelongs and paunches, succatums, doreas, bafraes and doodanies, gorgorans, sallampores, rehings and romalls, teapoys and china cherrys, humadees, tanjeebs and moorees, anjeringos and seerbeltees, sannoes, coffees, cherriderries, cuttances, cheaconines, jamdannies, chucklaes and mulmuls, culjees and luchhouries, tainsooks and brawls, seerbands and taffaties; – under the moonlit trees those floating glittering air-thin stuff seem woven by the air-thin fingers of Alexander Pope’s sylphs Zephyretta, Brilliante, and Momentilla, in the lines which describe these hovering above the little almost unrippled waves:
‘He summons straight his denizens of air;
The lucid squadrons round the sails repair:
Soft o’er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe,
That seemed but zephyrs to the train beneath.
Some to the sun their insect wings unfold,
Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold;
Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,
Their fluid bodies half dissolved in light.
Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
Thin glitt’ring textures of the filmy dew,
Dipped in the richest tincture of the skies
Whose light desports in ever-mingling dyes;
While ev’ry beam new transient colours flings,
Colours that change whene’er they wave their wings.’