Evening dress, ca. 1909–10
Here is an evening dress that dates back to the beginning of twentieth century. It features a lavish embroidery made by hand, and the sequins are made of cellulose nitrate.
The first experiments with synthetic fibres took place in the nineteenth century as a substitute for expensive natural materials. Cellulose nitrate was first discovered in 1850 by Alexander Parkes, who named it Parkesine.
From the 1880s on, it was commonly used in photographic film and as an alternative to expensive natural materials, such as mother of pearl, tortoiseshell and bone. this is why it was also taken up by the fashion industry, to recreate the effect of more precious and expensive materials on dresses and accessories, making new styles available to a larger public.
The advantage of cellulose nitrate sequins compared to sequins made from other materials was not just the price, but the possibility of manipulating the size, thickness and colour.