Embroidery Inspiration – Ribbonwork

Ribbon embroidery reached a height of popularity in the 1920s, although it’s actually been around for some time. The three-dimensional texture of these designs is unmistakable, and working with ribbon instead of thread means designs can be completed comparatively quickly. You’ll see it on everything from designer evening gowns to delicate lingerie, as well as handbags and other accessories.

One of the earliest examples I have seen is this 18th c. court suit embellished with garlands and sprays of ribbon flowers, along with touches of the more commonly seen silk embroidery. Hampton Court Palace.

This 1790’s baby bodice is another early example. Delicate ribbon flowers accent the front, sleeves, and back of the bodice. This tiny spray is featured on the center back. RISD Museum. 

This pretty early 1800s velvet reticule is embroidered with a delicate ring of laurels and tiny little ribbon bees. The edges have more ribbonwork greenery accented with red beads. The Met. 

This 1830s pelerine is an impressive example of ribbonwork. Even without the big sleeves and crazy hair popular in the period, this piece would make quite the fashion statement. Each triangular point features a different spray of flowers worked in solid and ombre ribbon. The Met.

A 1902 ballgown festooned with ribbon garlands, ribbon roses, and embroidered leaves. I love how it is sprinkled with silver spangles arranged to look like bees. The Met. 

In the 1920s, the Boué Soeurs became known for the delicate, feminine styles, many of which incorporated ribbon embroidery. This delicately embroidered white gown is brightened up by a dramatic pink bow at the waist and this little bouquet of ribbon roses at the shoulder. FIDM.

They also excelled at the 1920s Robe de Style, which was the perfect backdrop for ribbon flowers of all descriptions.

This 1930’s evening gown is embellished with a garland of ribbon flowers and two large bows. The flowers pick up the colors of the sage gown draped with copper tulle. Augusta Auctions. 

What are your thoughts about ribbonwork? Have you tried it, or do you have favorite examples I missed? I’d love to see them in the comments.

I’ve pinned many examples of ribbon embroidery to my Pinterest page, and will be sharing them throughout the week on Facebook.


A treasure trove of links about ribbon work in the 18th c.



*Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. These are marked with an * after the product name. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers, and I do not recommend products solely to get a commission.

Share your thoughts...

%d bloggers like this: