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 herewith 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.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.