|Dames a la Mode, Lady's Museum, 1804|
Special thanks goes to Sabine, who found these references in a couple German books, and translated for me...
From "Der Sammler," 1809:
"The nankeen is made quite far from here in the Chinese city of Nankeen (Nanking), precisely in the district of Fong-Kiang-Fu. The cotton, from which this fabric is made, is brown and it appears that it only grows in this part of the country.
The colour of the Nankeen is natural, and hence never fades. Most people in Europe do believe that the fabric is dyed, but this is a mistake. Due to the belief that the Nankeen is an artificial colour, Europe has sent an order to have the fabric dyed in a deeper brown, because lately the fabric became paler in colour, but that actually wasn’t related to any dye or lack of artificial colour pigments. When the Americans started to do business with China, the inquiries/orders for Nankeen almost doubled, but they weren’t able to produce that much, because they were lacking the brown cotton in such quantities. They decided to mix the brown cotton with the common white cotton and the colour naturally became paler. But when the demand for Nankeen recently dropped, they stopped mixing the white cotton in and went back for pure brown cotton, the fabric was dark like before. The colour is highly durable and it seems as if the fabric is in use for two or three years, it becomes even darker."
|Powerhouse Museum, 1804.|
Again nankeen boots are mentioned in "Memorials of the Thackeray Family," written in 1879, but referring to 1808:
There are many references to the wider uses of Nankeen fabric, easily found with a quick search through Google Books. This cotton, whether produced in China or Europe, was used for waistcoats, trousers, traveling dress (as referenced above), and of course the shoes, gaiters, and boots, which were worn by both men an women.
|Dames a la Mode, Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1813 - Nankeen (spelled "Nankin" here) gaiters worn over shoes.|
One of these ways, albeit quite space-age in nature, is to spray them with Rustoleum "NeverWet." This stuff is pretty mental - it creates a completely waterproof barrier, but it also means you can never dye the boots.
A period-accurate way to make your canvas shoes water resistant is to wax them. Thanks to Talia for this video:
There are a variety of spray-on waterproofing products, too.
So when it comes to outdoor use of Nankeens, don't be afraid! Ladies of the past wore them outdoors, in the streets, and tromping through the countryside, and so can you!
|Dames a la Mode, La Belle Assemblee, 1815|
|Nankeen Regency Boots by American Duchess|