NotesThe donor advised that the court suit was made for William Hovell by an English tailor, by the name of Robinson, in Florence on the occasion of Hovell being presented to King Leopold II in 1856. The note states that the English tailor lived beside the Arno River. Hovell's mother-in-law was Italian, which may explain his travels there.
Although often made to be worn together, jackets, trousers and waistcoats from this period were not necessarily made of the same material. This suit has been made according to regulations of the day which detailed the dress requirements for court attire. The suit consists of a single-breasted court coat with standing collar and breeches, made from chocolate brown cashmere. From around 1830 trousers were the usual attire for day wear; however breeches such as these were still worn as court dress.
Worn with the suit is a cream silk waistcoat with silk hand-embroidered floral decoration using satin stitch, stem stitch and French knots. 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 sleeves and being of mid-thigh length, the waistcoat gradually evolved during the 18th century into a sleeveless garment that reached to the waist. The waistcoat became a focus of men's dress, featuring highly elaborate embroidery and decoration. Embroidered waistcoats continued to be worn well into the 19th century, gradually diminishing from popular fashion as men's clothing took on a more practical and conservative approach.
The neckpiece was an essential part of formal attire. This neckpiece is made of white stiffened linen with mechlin lace jabot. Matching the neckpiece is a pair of lace cuffs, attached to white bands. The cuffs exhibit remnants of black cotton thread, indicating that they were originally attached to a garment.
Court suits of this period were commonly worn with black pumps trimmed with buckles. The buckles accompanying this suit are rectangular in shape, and are made of cut steel with black leather centres.
This men's suit and waistcoat has been finely sewn and embroidered by hand. The sewing machine was first patented in America in 1834, and until they became widely available costumes were made to measure.
Byrde, Penelope, 'The Male Image: Men's Fashion in England 1300 - 1970', B T Batsford Ltd, London, 1979
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
De Marly, Diana, 'Fashion for Men: An Illustrated History', Holmes & Meier Publishers Inc, New York, 1985
Perry, T. M., 'Hovell, William Hilton (1786 - 1875)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, Melbourne University Press, 1966, pp 556-557, accessed http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010517b.htm, viewed 19/10/2007
Waugh, Norah, 'The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900', Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 1964