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Waistcoat

  • Place of origin:

    England (possibly, made)
    France (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1730-1739 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk satin, silver thread, spangles, silk thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered

  • Museum number:

    252-1906

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case CA4

This richly-embroidered satin waistcoat demonstrates the lavishness of court dress during the 1730s. The length of the waistcoat and the sumptuous embroidery and are both characteristic of the period and the rich yellow of the dyed satin was fashionable in men’s and women’s dress from the 1730s until the 1780s.

The waistcoat is embellished with embroidery in coloured silk and silver threads of several textures. The decorative pattern incorporates large stylised exotic flowers and leaves with feathered scrolls, arranged in broad borders down each front, over the pocket flaps and the front of the waistcoat skirts.

The scale of the embroidery pattern, its range of textures and use of metallic threads are reminiscent of the Baroque style, commanding splendid effects in rich materials. However, the design demonstrates characteristic Rococo elements of scrolls, naturalistic ornament and extravagant forms; with the regular sinuous pattern of ornate scroll shaped leaves and diapered infilling introducing the lighter grace of the Rococo style.

This waistcoat is unusually opulent as the expensive satin has been used not only for the front of the garment but also for the back and the three-quarter length sleeves, neither of which would have been visible when worn with a coat.

Physical description

A man’s yellow satin waistcoat, embroidered with coloured silk, silver file thread, strip and spangles and lined with fustian and ivory silk.

The sleeves are three-quarter length and taper to above the wrist. There is no collar but the neck has decorative edging of metallic thread around the front, which continues down the edge of the waistcoat front and along the hem. The scalloped pocket flaps have the same decorative edging.

The back of the garment is slit at each side from the waist to the hem. The resulting flaring skirts have been wired at a later date to make them further stand out.

The waistcoat is embellished with embroidery in coloured silk and silver threads of several textures. The decorative pattern incorporates large stylised exotic flowers and leaves with feathered scrolls, arranged in broad borders down each front, over the pocket flaps and the front of the waistcoat skirts.

Decorative passementerie buttons run the length of the right-side waistcoat opening, trim the edge of the pocket openings and a single button fastens each cuff. Each button is worked with silver foil, purl, filé and a silver spangle. The upper twelve buttons on the front fasten the waistcoat while the lower nine buttons serve only for decorative purposes.

Place of Origin

England (possibly, made)
France (possibly, made)

Date

1730-1739 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silk satin, silver thread, spangles, silk thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered

Dimensions

Height: 1020 mm, Width: 900 mm

Object history note

Purchased from Messrs L & H Nathan, 17 Coventry Street, London W.

Nominal File Reference: MA/1/N91
Note on file reads: ‘See Planché Cyclopaedia of Costume p.110 & 116 (vol. 1) for costumes from 1688-1720.’

Descriptive line

Man’s waistcoat, yellow satin embroidered with coloured silk and silver thread, England, 1730-1739

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

‘Men’s court dress was as lavish as that worn by women. This luxurious sleeved waistcoat of the 1730s is made of yellow satin and embroidered with coloured silks and silver threads including filé, frisé, strip and purl. A pattern of large flowers and leaves with feathered scrolls covers the front edges, the pocket flaps and the whole of the skirt fronts. The silver threads have been couched, while the silk is worked mainly in satin stitch. The heavy borders of plain silver thread have been worked over pieces of shaped vellum or parchment, in a technique known in the 18th century as guipure. In several areas, the metal and fibre embroidery threads have been intermingled, either side by side in narrow strips, or by couching silk threads with silver purl. A honeycomb pattern of silver strip and purl constitutes the centre of the large scrolls and allows the rich saffron satin to show through the needlework. Passementerie buttons, each worked with silver foil, purl, filé and a single silver spangle, edge the pocket opening and fasten the front.

The waistcoat is unusually lavish, the expensive satin has been used for the back of the garment as well as the sleeves. Characteristic of the 1730s are the extent of the embroidery and the length of the waistcoat. To make them stand out, the deeply flaring skirts have been wired at some later date, perhaps for fancy dress.

A man’s waistcoat of yellow satin embroidered with silk and silver thread, lined with fustian and ivory silk.
English, 1730s
252-1906’
Avril Hart and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th centuries, London: V&A, 1998, p. 154
Sarah Medlam and Lesley Ellis Miller (eds). Princely Treasures. European Masterpieces 1600-1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011, p.p. 176-7

Labels and date

Waistcoat
1730–40

This richly embroidered waistcoat is an example of lavish European court dress. The bright yellow colour was fashionable for both men and women. The generous length and the pocket flaps allowed for rich decoration. The design includes Rococo motifs such as a sinuous pattern of scrolling leaves, but the bold treatment and large scale of the vegetation are more characteristic of the earlier Baroque style. The metal threads, when new, would have created a glittering effect.

France or England
Satin embroidered with silk and silver thread, strip and spangles
[09/12/2015]

Production Note

This waistcoat is an extremely oppulent example of court dress during the 1730s, as the expensive satin has been used not only for the front of the garment but also for the back and the three-quarter length sleeves.

Materials

Silk satin; Silk thread; Silver thread; Spangles; Satin; Silver thread; Vellum; Parchment; Silver foil; Fustian

Techniques

Hand sewing; Couching; Satin stitch; Embroidery

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Yellow; Scrolls; Floral patterns; Honeycomb; Diaper; Decoration; Leaves; Saffron; Rococo

Categories

Textiles; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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