Sunday, November 13

Gentleman's Silk Coat with Matching Waistcoat 1770-1780's

Baroque Elegance for a Gentleman

'Gentleman's coat in sage green silk faille, tambour embroidered with delicate flowers and leaves.  Ivory faille waistcoat tambour embroidered with scattered flowers in soft palette (matching the coat), a wonderful woodland scene with two figures below each side pocket.  It is possible that this was embroidered in India, due to the tambour work and dark skinned figures wearing turbans depicted on the waistcoat. 

 To achieve such incredible  
designs often required a workshop of artisans, who embroidered the fabric before the coat pieces were cut - such a shop is illustrated in Diderot's 1751 Encyclopedie, which can be viewed here. Once the pieces were embroidered, the customer could make his selection and have it sent to his tailor, to be cut out and made up into a perfectly fitted, custom-made suit in a matter of days. 

The coat is an absolutely lovely example of its period, with thin wool padding on the shoulders and upper chest to fill out the man "where nature hath failed him," and it is interlined in linen as most are, but (unusually) also lined in a lightweight silk for extra luxury and comfort. The waistcoat, with its tiny, industrious natives, is quite unusual - the most common motifs typically found in these garments are flowers, plants, even insects, but rarely people or animals. 

Also rare is the preservation here of two associated pieces, quite unusual since these garments were often worn well 
after they fell out of fashion, for fancy dress balls or theatrical costumes. 
The outer silk of the coat and its embroidery are excellent. The lining has some minor splitting at the collar seam and pin sized holes throughout (normal for a garment of this age). 
The waistcoat is good, with only minor discoloration due to some dye bleed on the right pocket flap, from some water damage in the same area (see photographs). 
Tailoring in the 18th century was a closely guarded art. It required an apprenticeship of 7 years, during which time the aspiring tailor began by performing menial tasks, gradually progressing up through the ranks until he was ready to cut and fit the complex 3-piece suits of his day. Each customer's measurements would be kept on file on long strips of paper, marked with lines corresponding to the necessary cuts and seams, however what measurements each represented was kept quite secret, so no other tailor could steal a customer without first laying all new groundwork.'

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