From France to Harlem…Sheila Bridges Toile De Jouy


Though toile is said to have been produced in Ireland in the mid-18th century, research pins its earlier origins to France in the 1760′s. Also known as ‘ toile de jouy ’ which in French means, “cloth from Jouy-en-Josas” after a town in the south-west suburbs of Paris, its style of print is characterized by vignettes scattered over a white or off-white cotton background in a type of repeated pattern depicting a fairly complex scene generally of a pastoral theme. But more recently, the single colored palate [most often black, dark red, or blue] has given life to another scene. Harlem, NYC.


J&O toile fabric

Popular during the Colonial Era in the United States, toile is highly associated with preservationist towns and historical areas such as Colonial Williamsburg. American toiles were distinctive for their use of American themes, and included vignettes celebrating a variety of places and people, such as the American Revolution, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin and Tom Sawyer. Toile prints were also the perfect medium for spreading not only populist themes, but political messages and recording historic events in both America and Europea as well. In upper-class European society, toile was often seen on dresses, wallpaper, or aprons used at such events as country-themed garden parties or tea parties. In some societies, it still is.


sheila bridges harlem toile

Sheila Bridges Harlem Toile de Jouy


Toile has also made its way to the runways over the years offering a vintage flair to a modern design and telling its own little story within its detailed artistry. Fast-forward to modern-day Harlem where one such story has been shared by notable Harlem designer Sheila Bridges through her Harlem Toile Collection which lampoons some of the stereotypes deeply woven into the African American experience there. Born out of a desire to see stories of her own people depicted in the tradition of the toile de jouy of the 18th Century, Sheila decided to honor the richness of the Harlem Renaissance and beyond through imagery on bedding, wallcovering, umbrellas and clothing. Featured in the Musee De La Toile De Joy in Jouy-en France as well as several art museums in NY, Sheila has put the history of Harlem on the map, tied present with past, and breathed new life into an old Century design.


Drawn to the design of toile de jouy fabric yourself?

Check out some toile inspired creations below to spark a creativity all your own.

Reupholstered Harlem Toile Chair


toile pillow throw set

Toile Pillow and Sheeting


Toile apron


DIY  pot folder


Toile bag and sneakers

toile divider

Toile Divider



Check out J&O Toile fabric here

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