Sunday, March 10, 2013

What the Stable-Boy Wore, c. 1765

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Isabella reporting,

Thanks to our friends in the historic trades program in Colonial Williamsburg, we've seen what several ordinary women might have worn in 18th c. England and North America, including a housewife, a mantua-maker's apprentice, and a blacksmith. Today we're outfitting some of the male servants in a wealthy household: the grooms and stable-boys who looked after the horses and carriages.

This stable jacket is a reproduction based on original garments, cut, tailored, and stitched entirely by hand. It's one of the first projects for the shop by apprentice tailor Michael McCarty, who is also shown wearing the jacket. It's made from red and white striped twilled woolen, cut with the stripes running horizontally, and lined in cotton fustian that is napped on one side for additional warmth. The buttons are wrapped thread, red and white to coordinate with the striped fabric.

While servants who worked outside the house did not wear livery, the master usually provided smart stable jackets like this one  as a kind of uniform for his grooms and stable-boys, and to reflect well on the household in general.  The jackets are often seen in the paintings by English artist George Stubbs (1724-1806.). Here's an excellent example: Lord Torrington's Hunt Servants Setting out from Southill, c. 1765-8.

Stable jackets were closely tailored to the body, with the narrow shoulders typical of 18th c. gentleman's coats. Yet as Michael demonstrated to me, there was still plenty of room for the movement necessary for work in the stables. While this is long before the ease of Lycra, the sleeves are cut on the bias (the diagonal), which provides a woven stretch to the fabric. The jacket's cuffs, below right, are cut on the straight of the grain to keep the bias-cut sleeves from stretching out of shape.

Stable jackets could be worn either simply over a shirt, or as a warmer waistcoat with sleeves beneath another coat.  They were also occasionally tucked into to breeches, giving the jacket the cropped look that often appears in paintings of jockeys.

But just as modern young bankers will affect cowboy boots or heavy overalls on the weekend, "buckish" young gentlemen in the 18th c. wore stable jackets, too – albeit bespoke versions from their London tailors. They were particularly popular with sporting gentlemen with a love of racing, expensive horses, and gambling.

The photograph, top, recreates a classic Stubbs pose, with Michael dressed as a stable-boy, wearing the stable jacket, linen shirt, sheepskin breeches, and a round cap. The gentleman on the horse is interpreter/actor Mark Schneider (and another of our CW friends - remember him here with Loretta? ), and the horse is Toby, also a CW employee.

Many thanks to Michael McCarty and Mark Hutter for their help with this post, as well as the photographs here. For more pictures of the stable jacket, see the tailors' Facebook page - and please give them a "like" while you're there.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

Super fascinating - sleeves on the bias for the stretch needed. Thanks for the sweet info. The buttons are beautiful!

Ana said...

I want that jacket!

Jeanne_Treat said...

Interesting post. Shared.

Jenna said...

I live only 20 minutes from CW--must go on my own fact-finding mission now that I'm on break. These jacket details are exactly what I needed for a current WIP. Thank you so much!

Isobel Carr said...

Part of the mobility is also in how high and tight the arm’s eye is (think fencing jacket). When I’m making costumes for men, they always balk at how “tight” things feel when I’m draping the pattern. They want the loose feel of their modern clothes. Luckily most of them adapt once they realize I’m not really forcing them into a straightjacket, LOL!

Love this example. I’ve never seen one recreated before. THANKS!

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