A curious little catalog came to our attention recently after it was determined that it was in need of some minor conservation. Titled in French, published in Switzerland, written in English and priced in English £s, Broderies Universelles, is a mail order catalog offering “dresslengths” of crêpe de chine and crêpe georgette with fine silk embroidery. Each dresslength of the textile came with a paper pattern, a fashion plate depicting the design, a diagram and a description slip making, “it thus possible for every lady to cut and make up the dress herself, or to have it made up by her dressmaker, in the latest Paris fashion.” Adjusted for inflation today—in US dollars—these silk embroidered dresslengths ranged in price from $325 to $500.
While the catalog is undated, it is numbered No. 1082, which implies that the company Broderies Universelles was an established embroidery house with a significant history; further inspection of this catalog confirms this as tucked away in some promotional text the founding date of the company is given as 1865.
The colorways of these embroidery samples are excellent reminders of the strong, vivid color palettes used during the 1920s; a fact easily overlooked given the black and white photography of the era. The silhouettes and hemlines of the featured dresses date the catalog to c. 1926.