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

Men's waistcoat

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 …


Object No.


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.



490 mm


570 mm




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.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art,

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


Credit Line

Gift of Prudence Dickson, 1991

Acquisition Date

6 August 1991

Cite this Object


Men's waistcoat 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 7 December 2021, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Men's waistcoat |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=7 December 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}