Friday, October 25, 2013

Beautiful 18th c Men's Clothing from Colonial Williamsburg

Friday, October 25, 2013
Isabella reporting,

This past week I've been in Colonial Williamsburg, attending the "Threads of Feeling" conference and doing general research. One of the highlights of my visit was an informal tour of CW's state-of-the-art textile storage facilities with curator Linda Baumgarten. Tucked away in rows of these high-tech aluminum drawers, left, are all kinds of treasures from the 17th to 20th centuries: clothing, quilts, coverlets and bed hangings, feed sacks and tablecloths, ribbons and trimmings.

But what really took my breath away were the late-18th c. gentlemen's coats and waistcoats from court suits. These clothes date from a time when elaborate, elegant (and expensive) men's wear was a sign of power and wealth, status dressing of the highest degree.

While these clothes may be over two hundred years old, they've aged very gracefully. Arranged in their flat drawers, the colored silks and velvets glowed against the acid-proof white tissue paper, the masterful embroidery and embellishment still vibrant and the sequins and beads still glittering – albeit under florescent lighting, not candlelight.

I can't offer more precise descriptions because the garments were in storage, not arranged for display with placards, but I hope you'll enjoy their beauty just as I did. (Please click on the images to enlarge.)

I like to picture the modern curators carefully tucking away these glorious clothes into their drawers, just as the long-ago valets and gentleman's gentlemen did. The silk is smoothed, the velvet is brushed, and the sleeves are folded exactly so, waiting and ready for the next time there's an important audience to impress....

All photographs copyright 2013 Susan Holloway Scott.

12 comments:

Carol Dent said...

The colours are just breathtaking! Thanks for the article - something else for me to drool over...

Karen Anne said...

Wow. When did men decide to be drab:-)

The Greenockian said...

Wow - the embroidery is truly amazing!

Deb Salisbury said...

Gorgeous! Men weren't subtle about showing off their status. :-)

Amy Schwalbert said...

wow, just wow.

Ana said...

I need that first one to STOP BEING SO PERFECT BECAUSE I CAN'T HANDLE IT.

Helena said...

So beautiful. The coats are such a contrast to those worn by Beau Brummell etc a couple of decades later. I hope the embroiderers were able to transfer their skills to women's clothes (and to concentrate on the waistcoats which stayed gorgeous, although perhaps more from fabrics than decoration?).

My favourite is the bottom one.

Mary Jean Adams said...

Absolutely stunning! BTW, I still wish you'd make it easer for me to tweet your posts by adding a tweet button at the end. You have some of the most intriguing posts out there on 18th century daily life. I can retweet what you tweet, but if I don't read a post right away, it's sometime hard to find your original tweet. Alas, I hate it when my world is not perfect!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Helena, I agree that the embroidery is amazing! But you're right - this level of masterful embroidery was soon to fade away. Not only did men's clothing become much simpler and less ornamented, but women's clothing did as well (think of all that unadorned white muslin in the early 19th c.) While elaborate embroidery remained in style for court dress, both in England and in France, there was much less of a demand for it in everyday clothing, and the embroidery trade became much smaller as a result. Very sad to imagine embroiders with this degree of skill being without work, but such are the vagaries of fashion....

Steven Marg said...

Hello,

Wow!! beautifully maintained and well designed blog. All images are appear like real. Sometime printed dresses are like more attractive and beautiful.

Designer Mens Clothing

Anonymous said...

Too bad that those patterns are not available for modern embroiderers.

Anonymous said...

Too bad those patterns are not available now for embroidery....

 
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