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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    mid 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Machine-knitted wool, mother of pearl

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This vest represents a very practical garment in the Victorian woman's wardrobe and an advance in knitting technology. It was worn to provide additional warmth under conventional clothing and has been knitted to accommodate the bust, waist and hips of a female figure. By following the curvaceous outlines of the corset worn underneath, such shaping prevented the vest bunching around the waist in an uncomfortable manner.

Materials & Making
The advantage of knitting over woven fabric was the former's ability to stretch and cover a three-dimensional form smoothly. This capacity was further enhanced by shaping the knitted fabric through increasing and decreasing the number of knitted stitches. The small gauge of machine knitting allowed for very precise shaping, as this example demonstrates.

Historical Associations
Knitwear was a booming British industry and an important representation at the Great Exhibition. In addition to the well-established stocking production, companies were developing new forms of underwear, as well as informal jackets, headwear and gloves. The demand for knitted jumpers, jackets and cardigans would increase greatly in the second half of the century as the growing popularity of sports such as golf, boating, tennis and cycling required comfortable clothing appropriate to the activity.

Physical description

Vest for a woman of machine-knitted natural wool. Fully fashioned. Hip length with ribbed welt, shaped to the waist and breasts, and has a high round neck and short sleeves with ribbed welts. It fastens neck to waist in the centre front with the opening reinforced with a band of fine wool. With cotton placket and mother of pearl buttons. There is an open-work knitted mark on the back right hip.

Place of Origin

England (made)


mid 19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Machine-knitted wool, mother of pearl

Marks and inscriptions

'AP 129 / 3'
Marked on a parchment label attached at the back of the neck


Height: 78 cm, Width: 68 cm with sleeves stretched out, Circumference: 29 in waist, Length: 31 in

Object history note

Made in England

Descriptive line

Vest of machine-knitted wool, England, mid 19th century

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Seven knitwear manufacturers displayed underwear at the Exhibition. Such undergarments replaced traditional woven linen and cotton. These examples show advances in design such as the shaping of women's underwear to fit the female figure or the narrowing of sleeves to prevent gathering underneath clothes. [27/03/2003]


Women's clothes; Underwear; Textiles; The Great Exhibition; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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