Why is it embellished with beetle wings?

Beetle wings

The eye of each peacock feather is made from a tiny section cut from a beetle elytra (wing cover). This seems strange and unusual to us today, but beetle wings were, in fact,  a common feature in Victorian embroidery, including embroidery on clothes.

Some claim that the wings are replacements, and that the embroidery was originally embellished with emeralds. This story may have been passed down from eyewitness accounts on the night of the Coronation Ball, on which Lady Curzon’s dress is said to have looked as though it was dripping with precious jewels. Thrifty businessman’s daughter Mary, who once wrote to her father boasting about her fake jewels, would surely have been tickled pink by the illusion!

Examples of historic beetle wing embroidery: One ~ Two ~ Three

Skills

Posted on

July 29, 2014

1 Comment

  1. Dallas Lorain

    I’m watching this fascinating 2014 video on YouTube from Cathy Hay about the reconstruction of the Peacock Dress. My question, if you do get this, do you have any idea if the beetles were killed just to create this gown or were the beetles already dead prior and collected for the gown?

    Reply

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