Sample books, originally created for commercial, educational, or scientific purposes, have become valuable guides to understanding the products, technological processes, materials, aesthetics, provenance, and use of objects manufactured in the past. Both the Museum and Design Library have extensive collections of sample books containing diverse groups of samples ranging from paint chips to lace.
This 1903 sample book contains examples of braided straw “tapes,” which would have been used by milliners to make and trim hats. They were also used with sheer dress fabrics, applied in a machine embroidery technique in lace-like patterns. In this example, straw trimmings from a variety of producers were assembled by a French pattern archiving service for distribution to their subscribers. The introduction of sophisticated machinery and unusual natural and synthetic materials in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led to an abundance of trimmings for millinery and fashion.