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91/899 Waistcoat, mens, silk / linen, maker unknown, England, 1770-1790. Click to enlarge.

Men’s waistcoat

Made in England, 1770-1790.
Unlike the more conservative style of contemporary men's fashion, the 18th century gentleman dressed for display with their sumptuous fabrics and trimmings often outshining those worn by women. Embroidered decoration, as seen on this waistcoat, contributed greatly to the general effect of the male costume. Natural themes were a strong focus in European art of the 1700s and the waistcoat has been intricately hand-embroidered with masses of flowers, possibly with designs taken from pattern books. Embroidery is worked as a floral trail down the front openings and around the front of the collar, with separate, smaller motifs worked in vertical bands over the front breast.

Until the late 18th century most outer garments for men in Europe were made of woollen cloth or silk. During the 1780s and 1790s linen, which was lighter and more informal, began to increase in popularity. Silk clothing continued to be worn, however was generally restricted to members of the middle and upper classes and, due to its delicacy and cost, was usually worn on more formal occasions. To make, workshops would often provide customers with a selection of pre-embroidered fabric from which to choose, with floral decoration woven onto a square piece of fabric in the shape of two waistcoat fronts and pocket flaps. The material was then be cut and sewn into position. It is likely that this waistcoat was manufactured in this way.

This waistcoat is an excellent example of men's fashion during the late 18th century and can be used to illustrate important changes and processes in the design, fabrication, function and cultural meaning of men's fashions. It demonstrates the influence that printing and the production of embroidery pattern books had on the dissemination of information, enabling the multiple production and wider distribution of embroidery designs. It also demonstrates the changing role of the 'gentlemen' in society, such luxurious and impractical clothing reflecting the leisured lifestyle of the 18th century gentleman, contrasting with the sobriety and practicality of the 19th and 20th century men's costume. The waistcoat provides context for changes occurring in the production of men's costume from one-off, hand embroidered and constructed clothing to mass produced, machine embroidered and constructed garments. Its fine embroidery and mint condition give it further significance, and it remains a significant item within the Museum's textile collection. In addition, the embroidery featured on this waistcoat highlights the plight of the 18th century needlewoman who often worked long hours for poor wages to produce such work.

REF:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eudr/hd_eudr.htm

Byrde, Penelope, 'The Male Image: Men's Fashion in England 1300-1970', B. T. Batsford Ltd, London, 1979

Byrde, Penelope, et al, 'Museum of Costume', Bath City Council, 1980

De Marly, Diana, 'Fashion for Men: An Illustrated History', Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, New York, 1985

Druesedow, Jean L, 'In Style: Celebrating Fifty Years of the Costume Institute', The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987

Waugh, Norah, 'The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900', Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 1964

Summary

Object No.

91/899

Object Statement

Waistcoat, mens, silk / linen, maker unknown, England, 1770-1790

Physical Description

Mens waistcoat made in cream linen in a fitted hip length style with a rolled collar and a centre front opening fastened with nine embroidered buttons (four are nineteenth century replacements). There are two large flap pockets at the waist. The waistcoat is lined with silk, and the collar, hem and pockets are trimmed in a brown chenille braid. The front of the waistcoat features hand embroidered floral and foliate motifs in polychrome floss silk.

Dimensions

Width

490 mm

Depth

570 mm

Production

Made

England 1770-1790

History

Notes

Waistcoats first appeared in men's wardrobes toward the end of the 17th century, and later became an essential addition to the three-piece suit. Originally having longer sleaves and mid-thigh length the waistcoat gradually evolved during the 18th century into a sleeveless garment that reached to waist The waistcoat soon became a focus of men's dress, featuring highly elaborate embroidery and decoration. The delicacy of both design and material reflects the leisured lifestyle of 18th century gentlemen, however was to gradually diminish throughout the 19th and 20th century, as men's clothing took on a more practical and conservative approach.

This waistcoat was purchased by the donor in Nottingham, England, in the 1920s.

REF:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eudr/hd_eudr.htm

Byrde, Penelope, 'The Male Image: Men's Fashion in England 1300-1970', B. T. Batsford Ltd, London, 1979

Byrde, Penelope, et al, 'Museum of Costume', Bath City Council, 1980

De Marly, Diana, 'Fashion for Men: An Illustrated History', Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, New York, 1985

Druesedow, Jean L, 'In Style: Celebrating Fifty Years of the Costume Institute', The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987

Waugh, Norah, 'The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900', Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 1964

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Prudence Dickson, 1991

Acquisition Date

6 August 1991

Cite this Object

Harvard

Men's waistcoat 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 May 2020, <https://ma.as/118788>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/118788 |title=Men's waistcoat |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 May 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Collection Gallery 3 at the Museums Discovery Centre.

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