Shirt

1740-1780 (made)
Shirt thumbnail 1
Shirt thumbnail 2
+10
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The shirt was an item of underwear in the 18th century. It was part of a regime of cleanliness when outer clothing could not be laundered with soap and water. Shirts were purchased in the dozens if the owner could afford them, so that a clean one could be worn every day. They were usually made of linen, a washable and durable fabric. The construction of the shirt was very simple. It was made up of a series of squares and rectangles in a manner so that no scraps were left over after the pieces had been cut from a length of linen. The stitching on 18th-century shirts is extremely fine, so as to prevent seams from fraying during the harsh hand-laundering process. But apart from changes in the depth of cuffs and collars and width of sleeves, the style of the shirt alters little between the 16th century and the mid-19th.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Linen; hand-woven, hand-sewn
Brief Description
Man's linen shirt, Great Britain, 1740-80; no laundry marks
Physical Description
Man’s shirt made of linen known as ‘coarse/medium holland’ with a thread count of 86 warp × 86 weft per inch, 36 inches/one yard (91.5 cm) wide,. The full width of the linen was used for the shirt body but not the sleeves. It is ‘T-shaped’, constructed of rectangular pieces: body, collar, 2 sleeves, 2 sleeve pieces, 2 shoulder straps, 2 cuffs, 2 sleeve gussets, 2 side gussets and 2 neck gussets. The collar is 4 inches (10 cm) deep, fastening with 3 domed, linen passementerie buttons and worked button holes. The wristbands are ½ inch (1.3 cm) wide, with worked buttonholes at each end for fastening with sleeve buttons [cuff links].
Dimensions
  • Overall length: 102.5cm (approx)
  • Shirt body width: 90cm (approx)
Credit line
Given by Mrs H. Egland
Summary
The shirt was an item of underwear in the 18th century. It was part of a regime of cleanliness when outer clothing could not be laundered with soap and water. Shirts were purchased in the dozens if the owner could afford them, so that a clean one could be worn every day. They were usually made of linen, a washable and durable fabric. The construction of the shirt was very simple. It was made up of a series of squares and rectangles in a manner so that no scraps were left over after the pieces had been cut from a length of linen. The stitching on 18th-century shirts is extremely fine, so as to prevent seams from fraying during the harsh hand-laundering process. But apart from changes in the depth of cuffs and collars and width of sleeves, the style of the shirt alters little between the 16th century and the mid-19th.
Collection
Accession Number
T.246-1931

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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