Loretta and I have a well-documented weakness for the male peacocks of the 18th and early 19th c., gentlemen who took pleasure in the perfectly tied cravat or extravagantly embroidered coat.
The detail, left, is from a waistcoat (that fabric! those buttonholes! those wrapped buttons!!) that's part of the Snowshill Costume Collection, and is currently on display at Berrington Hall. I say "currently," which is true today; the small show of 18th c. waistcoats, entitled Wearing the Garden, closes on June 30. If any of our English readers can race on over to Berrington to visit it, please go, and share your reactions.
But for the rest of us mired on this side of the Atlantic, the Collection has thoughtfully posted these splendid images on their blog here, plus many other photos as well. The blog post, written by Althea Mackenzie, Curator of Costume, also contains much fascinating information of the Nerdy History variety.
For example, several of these waistcoats were fortunate to have escaped the popular practice of "drizzling", described by Ms. Mackenzie as "the practice of pulling out gold and silver threads from brocades to sell back to the silver and gold lace maker." Apparently this was a popular pastime for ladies and a few gentlemen, who even had special "drizzling tools." The practice was not only considered suitably genteel handiwork, but was also a way to earn a bit of extra pin money - even as it destroyed the once-costly-but-now-unfashionable brocade.
The Collection is rich in waistcoats, and they've written about other examples on their blog as well as the ones in the exhibition. Click here for an archive of all their posts related to these gorgeous garments.
Top left: Detail, damask waistcoat, 1770s style from 1755 fabric. Snowshill Costume Collection. Right: Detail, pocket, waistcoat, 1780-90, Tamboured lozenge design with sequins, Snowshill Costume Collection. (See here for more about tambour embroidery.) Lower left: From the exhibition "Wearing the Garden" at Berrington Hall, May 1-June 30, 2014.
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.