Suit thumbnail 1
Suit thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 1

Suit

ca. 1780 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This plain brown wool day suit exemplifies the fashions of middle class Frenchmen in the 1780s, at a time when Anglomania (love of English style) was noticeable in French society, even at the Court. It is the sort of clothing sometimes depicted in the inventories of manufacturers and industrialists, for example. The suit is accessorised with fine cut steel buttons, which may be of English manufacture, possibly Birmingham or Wolverhampton. Cut steel accessories were stocked by high class retailers in Paris,who imported English made-goods, such as Madame Blakey's Magazin Anglois (English shop) in rue des Prouvaires, very close to the prestigious rue St Honoré. Toyware (small metalwork goods such as buttons and buckles) were important commodities in British industrialisation in the 18th century.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.

  • Coat
  • Waistcoat
  • Breeches
Materials and Techniques
Wool, lined with silk and linen, with cut steel buttons
Brief Description
Coat, waistcoat and breeches, dark brown wool, French, ca. 1780.
Physical Description
Where possible the raw edge of the wool is used as the edge to the garments - e.g. the collars, the front edges, the pleats, the bottom edge of the coat and waistcoat and the edge of the waistband. It is attached to the lining in each case by a small running stitch, about 3mm from the edge.
DimensionsMeasured by Conservation in 2012 and Curator in 2013
Gallery Label
Suit About 1780 Towards the end of the 18th century, Europe was gripped by ‘Anglomania’, a love of all things English. In formal men’s attire this could be seen in a taste for simple, closefitting cut and fine woollen cloth in sombre colours. Here, the only decoration is the set of finely faceted cut-steel buttons imported from England. France Wool Buttons: England (possibly Birmingham or Wolverhampton); cut steel (09/12/2015)
Object history
Purchased at auction from Thierry de Maigret, at Hotel Drouot, Paris, 12 June 2009, lot 23.
Historical context
Such suits were the staple daywear of the middling and upper ranks in the late 18th century, both in Europe and America.
Production
The cut of the suit conforms to that shown in the patterns in Diderot's Enyclopaedia in the early 1770s, the only difference being the tightness of fit of the coat across the upper body and the height of the collar, both of which had altered according to fashionable taste by the 1780s. The suit was most likely made to measure by a skilled tailor, newly made ready-to-wear clothing still being in its infancy.



The wool of this coat is an expensive closely woven fabric called broadcloth, a material that was shrunk, napped and shorn to produce a felted cloth which would have been waterproof and hardwearing. This treatment also prevented any cut edges from fraying. It is of a type manufactured in 18th-century France in Elbeuf and Louviers, near Rouen and Sedan in Flanders, and in England in the West Country.



The cut steel buttons are the type of goods classified as toyware in the 18th century. While the French made steel items like this, there was also a substantial trade with Birmingham, Sheffield and London in such goods in which they excelled. Many of those who traded with France were of French Huguenot descent, such as Peter Chamont of Glvoer and chamont in Birmingham. Cut steel looking like either diamond or stone was one of their main specialities, probably reminiscent of the sophisticated buttons on this coat.





Summary
This plain brown wool day suit exemplifies the fashions of middle class Frenchmen in the 1780s, at a time when Anglomania (love of English style) was noticeable in French society, even at the Court. It is the sort of clothing sometimes depicted in the inventories of manufacturers and industrialists, for example. The suit is accessorised with fine cut steel buttons, which may be of English manufacture, possibly Birmingham or Wolverhampton. Cut steel accessories were stocked by high class retailers in Paris,who imported English made-goods, such as Madame Blakey's Magazin Anglois (English shop) in rue des Prouvaires, very close to the prestigious rue St Honoré. Toyware (small metalwork goods such as buttons and buckles) were important commodities in British industrialisation in the 18th century.
Bibliographic References
  • Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal. The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, Yale University Press, 2002.
  • Belhoste, Jean-François. 'Du drap pour habiller les hommes' in Wool: Products and Markets (13th-20th century), eds G. L. Fontana and G. Gayot, Padua: CLEUP, 2003, pp. 1175-1194.
  • Vrignaud, Giliberte. Vêture et parure en France au XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1998.
  • Pérez, Lilianne. 'Steel and toy trade between England and France: The Huntsmans' correspondence with the Blakeys (1765-1769)', Historical Metallurgy, 42 (2), 2008, pp. 127-47
Collection
Accession Number
T.10:1 to 3-2010

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record createdFebruary 11, 2010
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