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Coat and Breeches

1680 (made), 1700-1720 (altered), 1870-1895 (altered)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Ten small round buttons, worked in silver-gilt thread, ornament each of the pockets of this brocaded silver-gilt and white silk coat. Pockets such as these were intended to remain open and were therefore furnished with purely decorative buttonholes and buttons. Tailors experimented with the shape and position of the pockets as the new fashion of closely fitted, knee-length coat and waistcoat developed during the late 17th century. Some coats have the pockets aligned vertically and others horizontally, although by the early 18th century the horizontal style prevailed.

This coat forms part of the wedding suit of Sir Thomas Isham (1657–1681). He died of smallpox, aged 24, the day before his wedding and the suit was never worn. It is part of the Isham collection, acquired in 1900, one of the Museum’s earliest and most important acquisitions of 17th-century dress.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Coat
  • Breeches
Materials and Techniques
Silk, linen, silver, gold; hand-woven, brocade weave, hand-sewn.
Brief Description
Wedding suit of Sir Thomas Isham, 1680, English; ivory silk taffeta, brocaded with silver-gilt, altered 1700-1720, 1870-1895
Physical Description
Man’s coat and breeches of ivory silk taffeta brocaded with silver-gilt, in a pattern of repeating floral sprigs. The coat is interlined with linen and lined with ivory silk figured in a floral pattern. It has a round neckline bound with ⅝-inch (1.5 cm) wide blue and white striped silk ribbon, straight front edges, curving 2-piece sleeves ending between elbow and wrist, and narrow skirts below the waist. Each sleeve turns back to form a long narrow cuff with curved ends, revealing the figured silk lining. The side and centre back seams are open below the hip. There is a horizontal pocket low on each front, fastening with 10 worked buttonholes and buttons with a wooden core covered with silver and silver-gilt filé; 19 remain. There are 42 buttonholes on the left front, the bottom 10 blind; there are 43 buttons on the right front. There are 15 uncut buttonholes and 15 buttons at the side seam and centre back openings.



The breeches are made of the same silk brocade and lined with linen. They are gathered at the waist, falling to above the knee and turning up with a pointed border, 9¼-inches (23.5 cm) at the deepest. There is a watch pocket of felt on the right waistband and pocket openings on each front; the pocket bags and pocket linings of ivory silk are missing. The breeches fasten with 2 silver and silver-gilt filé buttons and buttonholes on the waistband front, 2 eyelets and a ⅝-inch (1.5 cm) wide blue and white striped silk ribbon at the waistband centre back. There is a buttonhole stand on the left with 4 worked buttonholes and 4 silver and silver-gilt filé buttons on the right. The pocket openings, centre front opening and button stand are bound with the blue and white silk ribbon.



The ensemble was recycled in the early 18th century. A waistcoat of carnation pink silk, figured with white and brocaded with silver-gilt file probably accompanied the coat and faced the turn-up hem of the breeches. The waistcoat and the facings unpicked from the breeches were remade into a woman’s waistcoat, 176-1900. The coat was altered, probably in the late 19th century for fancy dress; remnants of the carnation pink silk were fashioned into cuffs and sewn over the existing ones.
Dimensions
  • Coat, overall length: 104.0cm (approx)
  • Coat, chest under armholes circumference: 94.5cm (approx)
  • Breeches, overall length: 48.0cm (approx)
  • Breeches, waist circumference: 80.0cm (approx)
Production typeUnique
Object history
This suit is reputed to have been made for the wedding of Sir Thomas Isham, which was scheduled for 9 August 1681. However, the bridegroom died of smallpox the day before the wedding.
Summary
Ten small round buttons, worked in silver-gilt thread, ornament each of the pockets of this brocaded silver-gilt and white silk coat. Pockets such as these were intended to remain open and were therefore furnished with purely decorative buttonholes and buttons. Tailors experimented with the shape and position of the pockets as the new fashion of closely fitted, knee-length coat and waistcoat developed during the late 17th century. Some coats have the pockets aligned vertically and others horizontally, although by the early 18th century the horizontal style prevailed.



This coat forms part of the wedding suit of Sir Thomas Isham (1657–1681). He died of smallpox, aged 24, the day before his wedding and the suit was never worn. It is part of the Isham collection, acquired in 1900, one of the Museum’s earliest and most important acquisitions of 17th-century dress.
Bibliographic Reference
Hart, Avril and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries, London: V&A Publications, 1998, p. 96
Collection
Accession Number
175-1900

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record createdAugust 15, 2006
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