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Friday, 6 June 2014

Fashion Museum Research: Late C18th Waistcoat


Let's take a look at a men's waistcoat from c.1785-95. I viewed this beautifully embroidered waistcoat last week at the Fashion Museum, Bath, UK. Likely to have been made in France, the waistcoat is of woven silk, embroidered in silk. The reference number is: BATMC II.32.40.

I love embroidered buttons! I find it interesting that they are placed much closer to the edge than we would have them in a modern garment.


It's very easy to book study time at the museum. Just email them and ask when they have dates available. It's best to contact them about two months in advance, as spaces book up quickly. In a two-hour period you can view up to 6 garments. The collections assistants are lovely (special shout out to Elaine!) and via email you can request items or discuss the kind of garments you want to see. Wearing appropriate gloves, you get to handle the garments, sketch and take photos. A collection of books is available to view as well, sporting a ton of great information. It's a fantastic service, and I've met lots of wonderful people there too!

Okay, so back to the waistcoat. Click on the images to see a bigger version.
The front.

The back.


The inside. The lapel is embroidered on both sides because it would have stood proud of the neck when worn (with a cravat tucked in the neckline as well) and it would have been possible to see both the inside and the outside when looking at the wearer from different angles.

Detail of the awesome embroidered roosters. Note the texture of the trees,  made with at least two different textured stitches (I don't know what the stitches are, though, sorry!). 

Detail of one of the large flowers. I think the colour combination is gorgeous.  The main embroidery stitch here is satin stitch, with stem stitch and some French knots. It's more colour blocking than silk shading, in my opinion, with the colours being quite separate to each other like a colour-by-numbers painting.
Inside the pocket, plus detail of the background sprigs that fill the main expanse of the fronts.

The collar. You can see that the decoration doesn't extend all the way around the back.

The edging is a strip of woven tape, embroidered into place. I think (though it was hard to tell either way) that the surface decoration is put on after the tape is tacked into place and the slanted satin stitch done.

Buttonholes! Everybody's favourite :D I guess after a while of cutting and stitching them, through the embroidery (eeek!) you would get used to the fear of the embroidery falling apart...
I hope you enjoyed seeing this piece up close :)

xx