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Calico

Banyan (informal man's robe), mid-18th century, from chintz fabric, tailored in Holland or England. Banyan (informal man's robe), mid-18th century, from chintz fabric, tailored in Holland or England. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, acc. no. T.215-1992.

Calico is originally a cotton cloth imported from the East (India). It is named after the Indian city of Kozhikode (Kerala State; known by the English as Calicut) in southwestern India. From about 1578 onwards the word calico has come to mean, in England, a plain white unprinted, and unbleached cotton cloth. It may contain un-separated husk parts.

Calico, as described above, is called muslin in the US. In the USA, the word calico refers to a tightly-woven, printed cotton cloth, often known as sprigged cotton in Britain. 

Sometimes calico is written calicot (French). Calico cloth was often glazed and embellished with colourful (floral) prints. These cloths were called chintz (from sg. chint) and became very popular in Europe from the early seventeenth century onwards.

Sources:

  • TORTORA, Phyllis G. and Ingrid JOHNSON (2014). The Fairchild Books. Dictionary of Textiles, London: Bloomsbury, p. 91.
  • Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: ‘Calico’

GVE

Last modified on Sunday, 22 January 2017 11:34