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Court Suit

1790-1800 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Male visitors to occasions at European royal courts, such as royal birthday balls, were required to wear spectacular, ornately decorated court suits. The style of these continued a long-established tradition and were conservative in cut, as this example shows, retaining curved fronts and deeply pleated back-skirts of suits from previous decades. The high collar of the coat and waistcoat however reflects the changes in fashionable dress of the 1780s and 90s. The suit needed to be worn with a shirt with lace ruffles at the neck and sleeves. Meanwhile, everyday dress for men was much more practical, and consisted of plain wool frock coats, breeches and boots, rather than shoes with silver or jewelled buckles.

Many court suits were embroidered with coloured silk thread in floral patterns. The best embroidery was carried out in professional workshops in Lyon, the centre of the French luxury textile industry. The embroidery on the coat of this court suit is extensive, even edging some of the back pleats, where it would barely be visible. The technical quality of the work is exquisite and is particularly seen in the shading of the flower petals and leaves. The larger flower heads are filled with stitches creating a square mesh imitating the delicate laces and nets used to trim fashionable women's dress.



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

  • Coat
  • Breeches
  • Waistcoat
Materials and Techniques
Silk, linen; hand-woven, hand-embroidered, hand-sewn
Brief Description
Man's court coat, waistcoat and breeches of contrasting silks and matching embroidery, 1790s, French
Physical Description
Man’s court suit consisting of coat, waistcoat and breeches. The coat is made of blue and black silk twill and satin, figured in a pattern of shadowed spots. It has a 3-inch (7.5 cm) standing collar and curving, 2-piece sleeves reaching to cuffs, 4 inches (10 cm) deep. The fronts curve from centre front to the sides, each with a pocket and shaped pocket flap, and 3-inch (7.5 cm) pleats at the side back. The coat is lined with ivory silk taffeta, the sleeves with linen. The collar, fronts, cuffs and pocket flaps are embroidered in satin stitch with silk floss in shades of blue, white, green, yellow and pink, in a pattern of repeating branches of stylised flowers and slender leafy stems, with a border of small blue and white daisies. There are 10 embroidered buttons on the right front, 3 on each cuff, 3 below each pocket and 1 at the top of each set of pleats. Three buttonholes were once worked on the left front, but later unpicked and stitched closed.



The waistcoat fronts are made of contrasting ivory silk twill and satin, figured in the same design; the back and sleeves of linen. It has a 2-inch (5 cm) standing collar, curving fronts, a pocket with shaped flap on each front, and short skirts reaching to the top of the thigh. The waistcoat fronts, hems, collar and pocket flaps are embroidered in same pattern as the coat, with a slightly different palette of silk floss. The waistcoat is lined with linen and faced with ivory silk twill. There are 7 embroidered buttons on the right front and 7 corresponding worked buttonholes on the left.



The breeches are made of the blue/black silk, lined with linen. The legs and waistbands are made of 2 pieces; the back legs longer than the fronts and gathered into the back waistbands. There are two watch pockets on each front of the waistband. The breeches fasten with 3 self-covered buttons and buttonholes in the waistbands at centre front; 1 in each corner of the fall front and 4 embroidered buttons and buttonholes at the knee. The knee bands are embroidered and once fastened with buckles. There is a band for a buckle at the centre-back waistband.



Buttons have been added to the waistband of the breeches for suspenders/braces for fancy dress.
Dimensions
  • Coat length: 129.0cm (approx)
  • Coat, chest under armholes circumference: 99.5cm (approx)
  • Waistcoat length: 69.0cm (approx)
  • Waistcoat, chest under armholes circumference: 103.5cm (approx)
  • Breeches length: 72.0cm (approx)
Gallery Label
Court suit About 1795–98 The royal courts of Europe dictated a dress code of formal silk suits for men, worn with lace accessories and jewelled swords. French court suits were most desirable. They were made for export to countries including Russia and Spain, even during the French Revolution. The cut of the suit, with tight sleeves and a narrow back, dictated the wearer’s posture and movements. Details such as collar height and size of buttons reflected fashions in everyday dress. Probably France Figured silk embroidered with silk thread Made for the export market Given by R. Brooman White, Esq. (09/12/2015)
Credit line
Given by R. Brooman White, Esq.
Summary
Male visitors to occasions at European royal courts, such as royal birthday balls, were required to wear spectacular, ornately decorated court suits. The style of these continued a long-established tradition and were conservative in cut, as this example shows, retaining curved fronts and deeply pleated back-skirts of suits from previous decades. The high collar of the coat and waistcoat however reflects the changes in fashionable dress of the 1780s and 90s. The suit needed to be worn with a shirt with lace ruffles at the neck and sleeves. Meanwhile, everyday dress for men was much more practical, and consisted of plain wool frock coats, breeches and boots, rather than shoes with silver or jewelled buckles.



Many court suits were embroidered with coloured silk thread in floral patterns. The best embroidery was carried out in professional workshops in Lyon, the centre of the French luxury textile industry. The embroidery on the coat of this court suit is extensive, even edging some of the back pleats, where it would barely be visible. The technical quality of the work is exquisite and is particularly seen in the shading of the flower petals and leaves. The larger flower heads are filled with stitches creating a square mesh imitating the delicate laces and nets used to trim fashionable women's dress.



Collection
Accession Number
T.148 to B-1924

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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