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Sprays of flowers embroidered with paste, silver spangles and purl decorate the pocket and hem of this velvet coat of the 1780s. Glass paste was first developed in the 1670s as a substitute for diamonds in jewellery. By the 1770s, it was a popular medium in embroidery. Glass pastes usually had a backing of thin metal, either silver to heighten its brilliance, or coloured foil to imitate other precious stones. The pastes on this coat have clouded and the silver backing tarnished, but when new they would have sparkled like diamonds. Once a bright turquoise, the dye colouring the silk velvet has faded, giving the coat a greenish hue.
When Beatrix Potter visited the V&A Museum in 1903, looking for inspiration for her children’s story, The Tailor of Gloucester, she was shown this coat. It appears on page 12, as a backdrop to an illustration of a little mouse wearing an 18th-century gown and cap.
Place of Origin
Man's court coat and waistcoat, French, 1780s; turquoise (now faded) silk velvet, cream silk, embroidred with silver thread, spangles, pastes
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Avril Hart and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th centuries, London: V&A, 1998, p. 146
Textiles; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project
Textiles and Fashion Collection