Wearing the garden

Damask waistcoat in 1770s style, using fabric from 1755. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349699. ©National Trust

Damask waistcoat in 1770s style, using fabric from 1755. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349699. ©National Trust

I just spotted these images of yet more gorgeous waistcoats from the Wade collection at Berrington Hall, on the well-illustrated Hidden Wardrobe blog. I have previously showed some of these exuberantly ‘pre-Brummell’ waistcoats here.

Cream satin waistcoat with copper-plate printed decoration, 1810-20. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349304. ©National Trust

Cream satin waistcoat with copper-plate printed decoration, 1810-20. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349304. ©National Trust

They are on show in an exhibition entitled ‘Wearing the Garden’, about the floral decoration on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century waistcoats. The exhibition is on view until 30 June – just an few days left.

1760s beryl blue satin waistcoat with snowdrops, daffodils and stylised leaves in silver gilt. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349008. ©National Trust

1760s beryl blue satin waistcoat with snowdrops, daffodils and stylised leaves in silver gilt. Wade collection, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349008. ©National Trust

I find it difficult to imagine how men could unselfconsiously wear such sumptuous and theatrical clothes – but they evidently did.

Early-nineteenth-century waistcoat decorated with embroidered flowers and spangles. Wade collections, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349300. ©National Trust

Early-nineteenth-century waistcoat decorated with embroidered flowers and spangles. Wade collections, Berrington Hall, inv. no. 1349300. ©National Trust

I suppose it would have helped that this style and level of luxury was considered perfectly appropriate for a certain class of person in the late eighteenth century.

Cream ground satin waistcoat with floral designs in cut and uncut velvet, inv. no. 1349007. ©National Trust

Cream ground satin waistcoat with floral designs in cut and uncut velvet, inv. no. 1349007. ©National Trust

But even then, as costume curator Althea Mackenzie writes, there were grumblings that it was becoming difficult to distinguish a master from a servant just on the basis of dress.

7 Responses to “Wearing the garden”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Gosh, amazingly well preserved fabrics. 200 to 250 years old, but they look as good as new.

    Difficult to tell master from servant, because the servants were wearing equally extravagant livery?

  2. Nancy Brown Supler Says:

    Are these the type of waistcoat that Beatrix Potter was writing about in the Tailor of Glocester? They are just gorgeous.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, more to do I think with a gradual development during the eighteenth century for upper class dress to become more sober (with Brummell’s minimalist look as the ultimate example, perhaps), and at the same time for the middle classes to become better off and more self-confident and therefore to put greater emphasis on smart dressing.

    Nancy, yes very much ‘tailor of Gloucester’ type waistcoats – and you can see why the tailor had to work so hard!

  4. chasbaz Says:

    Most of these waistcoats were imported from France in the form of ‘shapes’ – i.e., the fronts were woven and embroidered in Lyon and then made up by the tailor in England. Some were also made in Spitalfields but the quality pf the French article was regarded as much better.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    How interesting – so perhaps Beatrix Potter was embroidering (!) the story a bit. And that would mean these fabrics are also part of French textile history.

  6. chasbaz Says:

    If a waistcoat needed fairly simple embroidery it would have probably been done locally, but always by women. Coats (especially for Prinny) often has extra embroidery added after making up, to cover the seams. More details in

    http://prinnystaylor.wordpress.com/

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you.

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