Pre-Brummell male splendour

Embroidered oak leaf and acorn design on a cream silk tabby waistcoat, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Embroidered oak leaf and acorn design on a cream silk tabby waistcoat, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I have just discovered a blog called The Hidden Wardrobe, which focuses on the costume collection assembled by Charles Paget Wade (1883-1956) which is now housed at Berrington Hall.

Skirt and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with sprays of flowers and leaves on ivory ribbed silk, 1775-85, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Skirt and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with sprays of flowers and leaves on ivory ribbed silk, 1775-85, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Charles Wade was an eccentric collector who amassed a huge variety of historic artefacts at his Cotswold home, Snowshill Manor. He was fascinated by the aura of old, beautiful and well-made objects, and Snowshill is still an extraordinarily evocative place to visit.

Running sprays of leaves in gold purl, passing and sequins on the leading edges of a silver lamé silk waistcoat, 1775-80, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Running sprays of leaves in gold purl, passing and sequins on the leading edges of a silver lamé silk waistcoat, 1775-80, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

After the National Trust acquired Wade’s collections the costumes were taken to Berrington to improve their storage conditions. The Hidden Wardrobe now provides a glimpse of some of the 2,203 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century costume items in the collection.

Buttons and skirt of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Buttons and skirt of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I was particularly struck by these sumptuous men’s waistcoats from the late eighteenth century. I suppose these represented the style that the Regency dandy Beau Brummell was reacting against when he crafted the minimalist look that is still influencing men’s suits today.

Front view of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Front view of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

These pre-Brummell waistcoats, by contrast, project a more exuberant kind of masculinity – more Versace than Armani, perhaps.

Skirts and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

Skirts and pocket of a waistcoat embroidered with leaves and flowers, 1780-90, in the Wade collection. ©National Trust

I am also fascinated by the interaction between the floral motifs, the colours and the background textures of the fabrics. They hint at the artistry of the anonymous tailors and embroiderers who created these items, now once again being brought to public attention through digital means.

12 Responses to “Pre-Brummell male splendour”

  1. style court Says:

    These extraordinary images really do convey the skills of the embroiderers. Love this, Emile!

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I thought you might, Courtney :)

  3. MJH Design Arts Says:

    These waistcoats are amazing-the state of preservation is superb. The owners were proud (in both the positive and negative sense) men. Thank you.
    Mary

  4. Deana@lostpastremembered Says:

    How remarkable, I was just working on a thing about Snowshill and was wondering what happened to all the clothes and how well they were being preserved. I believe he wore some of the things too… he loved to dress up in antique costumes and he and his friends put on dramas wearing them. I can’t believe the condition of the pieces. They are a miracle!

  5. John in California Says:

    How beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    MJH, yes this was not so much ‘heart on your sleeve’ as ‘taste on your waist’ :)

    Deana, yes Charles Wade seems to have been a bit of a Peter Pan personailty, not really wanting to leave the enchanted world of childhood. The Hidden Wardrobe blog has an image of him in seventeenth-century get-up.

    John, thank you.

  7. Jim Parker Says:

    One could really cut a dash in these!!

  8. The Devoted Classicist Says:

    It is amazing that such richness can be achieved with the slightest whips of colored thread. It’s the precision of the well-proportioned pattern that makes it work, of course. But I can almost hear the digital sewing machines reving up.

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Jim, indeed, especially with one’s shoulders thrown back (as was the male fashion silhouette at the time, as The Hidden Wardrobe tells us).

    Classicist, yes I am full of admiration for the ‘design thinking’ (see my previous post!) evident in these waistcoats.

  10. Susan Barsy Says:

    wow. in the US the rise of evangelical Christianity also spelled the end of this sumptuous (and oh-so-lovely) style of dressing.

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes but what about Elvis, Snoop Dogg…? :)

  12. Elizabeth Bethune Says:

    Wow how lovely Emile thank you for sharing. Elizabeth

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