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  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1866-1890 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Welch, Margetson & Co. Ltd (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Starched cotton, pearl

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the manufacturer

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125b, case 3

Object Type
Dress shirts were usually made of white linen or cotton piqu‚. The shirt fronts were sometimes perfectly smooth, sometimes slightly pleated or frilled, and always starched. Armour-like shirt fronts also helped give a more fashionable line to the clothes.

Ownership & Use
By the 1880s elaborate shirt fronts had become a necessary adornment to a fashionable gentleman's dress shirt. The gentleman who wore this one may have possessed several similar shirts. This is because they had to be laundered, starched and ironed regularly to retain their brilliant whiteness, pleats and frills. For those who could not afford the expense of purchasing and laundering fancy evening shirts, there was always the separate shirt front or 'dickey'. These were detachable and would hide a dirty shirt, transform a daytime shirt into evening dress, or even hide a coloured or striped shirt. Nearly all shirt manufacturers made them; they were held in place by a combination of tapes and loops which passed over the braces.

Materials & Making
In the late 19th century most fashionable shirts were made by firms such as Welch Margetson, Foster Porter & Co. and McIntyre Hogg & Co. Cassell's Household Guide (1869-70) reported:

'Shirt-making at home has fallen into disesteem, a result chiefly referable to two reasons. First, on the part of men, because home-made shirts are so ill cut as to be uncomfortable, untidy, and soon soiled; second, because the labour of shirt-making is close and unpleasant, and undoubtedly, trying to womankind ... The supremacy that shop-made shirts, as they are called, have obtained over home-made, is due to the superiority of their cut. Home-made almost invariably bag""" as the expressive term is at the front or breast. This is because they are cut too wide at the breast. Many of the dress shirts are made with a fine cambric half-inch wide frill very neatly hemmed and whipped in down the outer edge of the front full enough to allow it to be small fluted with an Italian iron. Some dress shirts are embroidered in raised work in satin-stitch over the plain front; but perfectly plain fronts secured with studs are also worn for full dress and are simple yet stylish in effect.'

Physical description

Shirt made of white cotton, with a starched and double pleated breast. Trimmed with row of goffered frills. There are holes for studs. The cuffs are also trimmed with a goffered frill and fasten with a pearl button. The collar is attached. Hand-sewn and machine-sewn.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1866-1890 (made)


Welch, Margetson & Co. Ltd (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Starched cotton, pearl


Length: 104 cm, Width: 63 cm shoulders, Length: 64 cm sleeves

Object history note

Manufactured by Welch Margetson & Co. Ltd., London

Descriptive line

Man's cotton shirt, made by Welch, Margetson & Co. Ltd., London, 1866-1890

Labels and date

British Galleries:
It was important for a man in society to dress suitably for each occasion. This shirt might have been worn for going to the opera or for a dinner party at home. The frilled shirt front would have been visible above a low-cut evening waistcoat. It would have been starched to fit well without the slightest trace of a wrinkle. [27/03/2003]


Men's clothes; Textiles; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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