You are on page 1of 93

Clothing Blog Posts, for both Modern and Historic Garments

By Jeffrey Hopper


Table of Contents
A Scottish Interlude
The Tale of a Plunge, ordering a kilt
Published 12/5/12 on…………………………………………....5
My kilt arrived, but I think I left my sporran at the Athenaeum
Published on 7/10/13 on…………………………………………8
Harris Tweed and a tail of vents
Published 1/22/13 on
The Long Eighteenth-Century and other Observations
Beau Nash Invites you…but not your sword, or I lost my sword in the 18th century, but still
had time for tea
Published on 6/14/13 on…………………..16
A Summer Surtout, c.1760s
Published 4/19/13 on……………………………………….….18
Monsieur Fauteil! Your arm’s in the way of my pannier! A tale of the male pannier, otherwise
known as the lost garment of the eighteenth-century
Published on 5/17/13 on……………………………………….22
One Two buckle my shoe, To this day some of us do.
Published 6/26/13 on…………………………………………..28
An “Honest” Garment: What Became of the Shepherds Maud or Plaid ?
Published 9/14/13 on (………………………………………....30
The Tableaux of Life Unfolds Before My Mask
Published 10/31/13 on (………………………………………..34
The Other Civil War
Published 11/14/13 on (………………………………………..38
Soucis d’hanneton, or Soucil de hanneton, or Floss Fringe, or Fly Fringe
Published 11/22/13 on (……………………………………….42
Truth in Marketing, A Strange Bedfellow for History
Published 12/16/13 on (………………………………………..46
Lord Clapham’s Justacorps and A Marlburian Uniform
Published 2/20/2014 on……………………………………….49


George III, Tartan Archer
Published 4/1/2014 on……………………………………….55
Georgian Brilliance: Lacquer, Japanning and Vernis Martin,
or Get the Matte Out of Here!
Published on 5/22/2014 on ………………………………… 59
Stilettoes, or Something Like It
Published on 6/6/2014 on …………………………………...65
A Concealed Shoe on the Cusp of a New a Century
Published on 8/22/2014 on …………………………………68
Would you prefer to wear a Glof or a Handschuh?
Published on 9/192014 on ………………………………....72
"Well, if ever I do go to court again..” Horace Walpole Opines on Fashion
Published on 10/22/2014 on ……………………………….83
Scottish Needlework at the Wemyss School
Published on 11/5/2014 on ………………………………...86
Haute Couture and the Métier d’Arts
Published on 11/17/2014 on ……………………………….89


A Scottish Interlude


The Tale of a Plunge
This is the tale of a plunge. Two weeks ago a friend in the building trades told me that one of the
local lumber companies was closing. Not so odd given today‟s economic climate, but it is or was
one of the last lumberyards in this area that was also a lumber mill. I used some of their true
2x4‟s in work on our circa 1914 house, no need to thicken to modern 2x4‟s, these were the real
thing with their furred edges. The same day I heard this I read that the Dalgliesh Tartan Mills,, in Selkirk, Scotland had almost finished their last run in 2011. The
tartan mill was saved, at least for the time being, but the lumber mill was not.
This is a fashion blog about the old and new so herein hangs the tale. Learning of the loss of the
lumber mill, I ordered 6 yards of tartan to be woven in a slight variation of the Ancient Campbell
tartan and a kilt will be made from this weaving. D.C. Dalgliesh Mills will receive the order
some time this autumn and if all goes well the run will be finished in early winter. Matthew
Newsome,, of North Carolina will tailor the kilt in the knife pleat
style and it should be finished sometime in the spring. I‟m a Yank so the idea of a kilt is in itself
questionable and will be met with some derision, so be it. I‟ve thought about this for a while, but
it wasn‟t until the lumber mill closed that I realized how dependant we are all on use. We need to
use materials such as lumber or cloth in order for them to exist—no demand, no goods, no
market. I‟m not sure how I am paying for this, but it will happen.

Ancient Campbell from D.C. Dalgliesh LTD
I chose a kilt because for the first time in years I need evening attire. Recently I became a
member of our local Athenaeum and there is a formal gathering during the Christmas season. It‟s
been awhile since I had a tux and even longer for a set of tails, but I thought why should I settle
for either of those when a kilt can be worn. I have enough Scottish ancestors to at least make the
pretense of this move, on top of which when asked, my wife and other women I know all said
there was something about a man in a kilt—we‟ll leave it at that. However, it‟s more than that. If
I need to dress for the evening, why am I still dressing as my great-great-grandfather would have
done? I understand the kilt has the same limitations, it duplicates a nearly two hundred year old
tradition, but it isn‟t as pervasive as the black evening attire of the past two hundred years in


American-European circles. I cannot image a man of 1890 wearing the evening attire of a man of
1690, yet somehow we are there.

John Singer Sargent
by Giovanni Boldini circa 1890, private collection

Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax
by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 
 oil on
canvas, circa 1690-1695. NPG,

Fashion comes and goes, no news there, and the materials that make fashion possible are just as
fleeting. The other reason for the kilt was the tradition of weaving. The Black Watch and
Stewart tartans will live on in shirts, skirts, jackets, coats, dresses, and all manner of products
until we tire of pattern, but the lesser known tartans or plaids only live as long as people use them.
Most cloth and patterns may be timeless, but they are not perpetual—no use, no need. All right,
the Campbell tartan isn‟t going away, its other incarnation is Black Watch, but the desire to
commission a one-off was still strong. My tartan will be woven on a 27-inch loom producing a
woven selvedge on both sides, with the result of no hem. (My preference is for a kilt that is
tailored to measure, not finished to measure.) The color choice will be a slight variation of the
present ancient Campbell, so in this instance it will be a special weave. Will this one commission
save a weaving house, not possible, but the idea that consumers of fashion should be responsible
to the craft of the trade is possible.

A Dagliesh woven selvedge


So there it is—the plunge, a special weave, a kilt and who knows what else—a floodgate may
have opened. In the end, it‟s in honor of my paternal grandmother whose great-great grandfather
was born a Campbell in Edinburgh. She had a lust for life, obtained a degree just as women got
the vote, didn‟t drink until it was illegal, didn‟t smoke until it was rationed, and received a
Christmas card for years from her bookie. How could I not wear a kilt in honor of that woman?
Now go out there and commission someone to create something for you. It will give future
generations something to ponder.


My kilt arrived, but I think I left my sporran at the Athenaeum.
As the cold air of the North Atlantic finally broke through the hot July air mass sitting over
coastal New Hampshire my new kilt arrived from the North Carolina kilt-maker, Mathew

The kilt label
In a trade route nearly 400 years old, funds went to Scotland for cloth (D.C. Dalgliesh of Selkirk,, which was then shipped to the Carolinas for tailoring and then finally a
completed garment was sent to New England. A double dose of history, kilt and trade, delivered
on a summer‟s day.
After many years of thinking about getting a kilt the day of reckoning had arrived. I opened the
package and pulled out the kilt. I am going to wax lyrical about this for a short while because it‟s
just one of those moments in life when touch, smell and fit lift you from the everyday world. The
cloth is exceptional with a weight and drape that met every expectation, and reminded me of why
I prefer pure wool to blends. The hem is a selvage and the sunlight caught the nuanced reflection,
visible to the owner, but not the world, a subtle reminders of tailoring to the cloth. Trying on the
kilt for the first time was a moment of sartorial bliss. It looks grrreat, sits rrright, as it should be
but isn‟t always.


The Kilt with the flashes
For the first time since receiving it as a generous birthday present from my wife, I was able to use
the sporran from McRostie‟s. (We both rode horses for years and for a
moment, the smell of this sporran made from bridle leather combined with the wool kilt reminded
me of crisp autumn canters and cold winter gallops, a memory, not bad poetry.) I wore my new
kilt to the Athenaeum to show a friend and enjoyed a day of unexpected encounters.
While descending the parking garage staircase, a woman saw me and reminisced about how years
earlier she and a girl friend saw a very handsome man in a kilt at a gathering of the clans who
turned out to be a minister, which in their youthful innocence surprised them. Later I stepped
into a local Celtic shop to ask if they had a kilt hanger and I got into a conversation with a local
police officer, who spoke from experience, about the merits of a good hanger for such an
important purchase and the need to keep the pleats in good shape; just two of several
conversations that I had during my travels today sparked by the kilt.


The new kilt
To end it all, today was a very humid day and I needed to consult with a colleague on a project, so
I used the Athenaeum lavatory to change from the kilt and jacket into summer clothing We had
our meeting, parted and I stopped at the house to drop the kilt kit. When I opened the garment bag
on the bed to lay everything out, then put it all away, there was no sporran. While having one of
those a mind-panic conversation‟s that you have with yourself, as you attempt to justify to the
nonexistent passenger in the car why there is no longer a sporran in the house, I slowly drove
through the summer-time crowds who were crossing every street in town with willful abandon.
The city parking garage placed the “garage is full” sign in the entrance just as I was ready to use
it. Then as I turned down the one-way street that I knew would hold the one parking unknown to
most people, a car was coming toward me in the wrong direction. I stopped and shook my head
no, as I could not back into the tourist thronged sidewalks without hitting someone and in the
summer the town awards no points for hitting potential money spenders. The other car
maneuvered off the street and I saw, then took the parking spot. Once in the Athenaeum I ran to
the third floor to check the tables where we had been working, nothing was there, and then I
remembered the lavatory, and at that moment so did 4 other people. As I stood talking to another
member regretting not skipping the line, a man came out of the lavatory and asked the woman


ahead of him if she had left her pocketbook, which in all fairness to him with it‟s thin leather
strap, the sporran could be mistaken for a small shoulder bag--but it‟s not.

The Sporran
I spoke up and said, “No, that‟s my sporran.”
With a look of incredulity, he said, “Your what?”
I said, “My sporran.”
Again he said, “Your what?”
Once more unto the breach, “It‟s my sporran.” And with that I started to put it over my head and
arms letting it fall over my madras shorts, and he said, “Oh, the pocketbook that you wear in front
of the kilt.”
“Yep, that‟s it.”
I had it back and could breathe again, when from across the room came the question, “Which
tartan were you wearing this morning?”
“Ancient Campbell,” and to myself, “I‟m beginning to feel that way.”
I have never had so much traction from a suit of clothing. I kind of like this.


Harris Tweed and a tail of vents
It‟s odd but I‟ve been thinking about tweed for the last couple of years and suddenly it seems to
back in the style. There are many tweeds, but Harris Tweed through their long history and grasp
of market identity,, is the fabric that stands out in my mind. It‟s one of
those fabrics with its own panache, irrespective of the fashion trends surrounding it.
My appreciation of Harris Tweed began in my early teens with a cap; one of those flat caps that
were as ubiquitous to me then as base ball caps are now. I remember the salesman showed me
how to fold the cap in half and tuck the brim under the back of the cap so it could fit it in a jacket
pocket, then in one graceful motion how to release it, snap it in the air, and place it on my head.
Some lessons once learned are never forgotten and that day the adult air of insouciance was
There is nothing charming about Harris Tweed, but it is a beautiful fabric all its own. It is rough,
stiff, and often colored like peat and heather—a very organic fabric. The fabric reminds me of
that moment when land meets water. Even the herringbone weave of the tweed nods to the sea
with its repetitive wavelike pattern. Tweed is rough country fabric not in tune with the current
soft synthetic apparel predominating the market. This is a personal bias, but to me, unlike
modern fabrics, tweed grows with you. Many Harris Tweed jackets outlast the original owner
and go to a used clothing store, just as they are coming into their own. That is the beauty and
failing of tweed, it tends to grow with you and does come into its own until it is time to move on.
I firmly believe that tweed should be worn for ten years before it is ready to be really worn, if that
makes any sense.
Recently I bought a used Harris Tweed jacket that was from the 1970s, a new Harris Tweed scarf,
and a book on Harris Tweed—nothing like excess. Today I will write about the jacket, which
was purchased because it was in the green family (there seems to be a dearth of green tweeds, at
least for the moment) and it has a double vent. Actually now might be a good time to look at
vents which is the other reason I purchased this jacket.

Front view

Back view with double vent


Men‟s jackets either have a single vent down the middle of the back, a double vent with a vent on
either side of the back, or no vents. When purchasing a jacket in the US, the styling breakdown is
roughly, a single vent--primarily American, a double vent--primarily British, and no vents-primarily European tailoring. This is a rough guide and there are variations within each of these
tailoring traditions. The important part in all of this for me is that for whatever reasons, a jacket
with a double vent lies flat on my backside and a single vent has the tendancy to pucker and flare.
This was true when I was young and as thin as a rail and now with weight gain and age. Double
vents are increasingly hard to find in the US, at least when I sporadiacally go looking for a jacket.
There is alot of lore about the vents, but it all usually falls back on seats, saddles and horseback
riding. The conventional wisdom is that a single vent allows the jacket to fall to either side of the
saddle and the back of the horse. A double vent falls over the saddle and covers the back of it.
I‟m not a great horseman, but I have ridden with both types of venting and oddly enough they
both work. The venting styles are old enough that there are undoubtably more reasons than these
such as the military influence on clothing or original use--did a jacket worn for many hours every
day perform better with one cut over another.
With that in mind, a short diversion--a number of years ago I wore an 1870s riding coat and
breeches to a Victorian Christmas party. Everyone had to come in some sort of costume from the
period. I stumbled on a private fashion collection whose owner wanted people to wear and enjoy
the original garments, but that story is for another day. What I can say is that the jacket had a
single vent with swallow tails, and it was tailored so that while I could hold the reins correctly
for English style riding, I could not lift my arms much above the elbow without tearing the
garment. Additionaly, the seams and darts were constructed to make me sit bolt upright. The coat
was constructed to make the wearer move in a proscribed and very stilted manner; in essence the
male version of the the female stay. I spoke to a female friend that night who had borrowed a
dress with whale bone stays and we both agreed that the only comfortable way to sit was on the
front edge of a chair, slouching was inconceviable as was any grand gesture. The clothing
controled us far more than we controlled it While I am sure the whalebones were more
uncomfortable, I will never forget how uncomfortable seams could make a garment. So did this
make the single vent perform better on horseback? I‟ll never know the answer to that, but I can
tell you a single vent in this constricted jacket made it easier to lift the swallow tails of the jacket
and sit on the edge of the chairs. That simple garment made me realize that even if we wear the
same general shapes today, the initial tailoring behind them may have shifted so much over the
years that what we are left with may have little to do with the original construction and intent.


This 1810s hunting coat, or shadbelly coat, or swallow tail coat is in the collection of the V & A
Museum. I do not have a photo of the 1870s coat I wore. However, it was similar to this in its
silhouette, please note the thin tubular sleeves. The major difference was that the 1870s version
was single breasted with a row of 4 or 5 buttons, a form of which is shown in the next illustration.
(As a note, the use of a red hunting coat by a member of a hunt has its own etiquette, here the
illustration of the coat is for form not color.)

These coats from 1900-30 are also in the V&A collection and help to show the look of a single
breasted jacket and how the sleeves apper to be fuller and shorter, yet they are all considered
hunting coats. As
I look at this photo if the middle coat was modified slightly with longer tails and a tighter fiting
torso then it would look more like the coat from the 1870s.
So back to the jacket, I‟m happy to have a Harris Tweed jacket back in the clothes closet. Like a
blazer it is a staple in some wardrobes, casual, but comfortable enough to go just about anywhere;
in fact its iconic enough to worn with aplomb by some individuals everywhere, and that after all
is the essence of style.


The Long Eighteenth-Century


Beau Nash Invites you…but not your sword, or I lost my sword in the 18th
century, but still had time for tea
Details define the man; a signet ring, an earring, a pocketknife, or a sword each speaks to a
different audience and at once can give clues to membership with a particular social group. Prior
to the nineteenth century, a sword worn at the side was the mark of a gentleman, much like a
blazer or jacket is today. Even if a jacket is not normal wear for the individual, donning it
creates instant acceptance in certain social gatherings. Just as with a jacket today, so at the court
of Versailles, any man dressed cleanly and with the requisite sheathed sword worn at the side,
whether owned, borrowed, or rented could enter the chateau. Not to worry, swords could be
rented at the chateau, which of course is how it should be done if it is required. As a student, and
before it returned to fashion, I remember meeting friends at the London Ritz for tea in the Palm
Court. A friend and I arrived without jackets and were informed we could not enter, however we
were referred to the coat check desk. We went and the attendant lent us the requisite jackets. (If
an establishment requires specific garments, it is incumbent upon them to provide something,
since the object of the requirement is to make everyone feel at ease by appearing to look the
same, not to insinuate that they are not.)

Costumes civils et militaires des Français à travers les siècles.


Which leads to the point of this blog…Beau Nash, the master of ceremonies at Bath in the
beginning of the eighteenth-century forbade the wearing of a sword for men at social gatherings
at the spa. The point of social gatherings was social exchange and while any man could rent or
own a sword, he felt only the nobility and gentry knew how to move in a room with one. The new
comer, unused to the movement of the side sword was instantly recognized as an interloper, not
as a member. There are of course a thousand ways that members of a group spot an interloper,
but by forbidding the sword Nash in effect established that an invitation was the criterion, not the
accoutrement. By leveling the field a bit civility stood a better chance of developing.
In time, particularly in civilian life, the sword would be required only at court functions, where it
remained as a mark of chivalry. However, at the beginning of the eighteenth-century the
requirements of etiquette were in flux, but the idea of civility was not. Conceivably, the rented
sword at Versailles allowed any man, by blending into the crowd of hundreds or even thousands
of similarly dressed men, to visit and see the court with some degree of comfort. Conversely by
banishing the sword Nash provided a degree of comfort in smaller quarters and instigated a trend
that would in time become the established form of social dress. Although differing in approach
both options provided greater attendance, which is the object of most public gatherings.

V&A Museum, T.357-1980. Man‟s coat 1700-1720, (with cuff alteration from the 1750s)


A Summer Surtout, c.1760s
Paris, Friday 11 July 1760, heading for that special enlightenment salon this evening, but it‟s too
warm for a complete habit à la française, why not try the demi-habit this summer and stay cool as
the champagne fizzes and the bon mots sizzle.


This 1760s man’s coat sold at the Hotel Drouot in Paris in 2010. The fabric is a lightweight
striped silk taffeta in shades of green and pastel pink; it has wide lapels and an attached vest.
(Some of the buttons for this garment are missing.) The two front sections of the vest are sewn
directly to the armholes of the coat, so there is no back to the vest, just the coat itself. According
to the auction catalog this is a rare example of a coat for the summer or the French Colonies. This
utilitarian combination allows for a degree of formality while alleviating a least one layer of
clothing. Oddly, this appears to be more akin to a formal banyan, if such a creature ever existed,
than a day coat. Makes one wonder at the number of novel solutions for comfort and conformity
lost to time.
Here is an example of a banyan created from a blue dragon robe with a matching long sleeved
waistcoat, which also straddles the formality line.


Another example of a banyan, but more in keeping with the accepted idea of the style.

Banyan of brown woollen damask, front view: 18th century (1739-1741)
© Museum of London

I would like to thank Alain Truong for the use of the photograph of the striped silk coat, as it was
the only copy that worked for me. His blog archive is:


Monsieur Fauteil! Your arm’s in the way of my pannier! A tale of the male
pannier, otherwise known as the lost garment of the eighteenth-century

In his book “French Furniture Under Louix XIV”, Roger de Félice provided several illustrations
of the shift from the earlier fauteuil [define briefly] with its combined front leg and arm support to
the separation of the front leg from the arm support [to accommodate] the pannier. He observed:
“ „These panniers are a frame of Whalebone, or sometimes of wicker, covered with linen and
put by women under their skirt, and by men in their coat-skirts, to keep them stiff and standing
out. The machine is considerably developed at each side of the wearer, bat (sic) very little at
front and back, so that a lady from her slender waist and huge panniers looks like a
washerwoman‟s paddle.‟ The poor woman bundled up with this were never able to find room in
an arm-chair; so they were perforce reduced to chairs, as their great-great-grandmothers had been
by their farthingales. A gallant upholsterer in an ingenious turn devised the remedy; he set back
the consoles of the arms, and the panniers could spread themselves at their own sweet will in
front of the chairs.”
(Roger de Félice,“French Furniture Under Louis XIV”, Heinemann, London 1922. P. 135)
Thirty years later Pierre Verlet wrote, [again making note of the key relationship between
costume and specially designed furniture:
“The shapes [of the chairs, furniture in general] remained heavy, ample, and monumental.
They did lose some of their austerity, however, thanks to the rapid development of subtle
undulations: the pediments of wardrobes began to curve, the legs of chairs and tables ended in
goat's feet or sometimes volutes, the line of chair backs undulated more or less in an embrace,
while seats took on a slight barrel curve. Women's fashions alone would have forced menuisiers
to revise their formulas, even if they hadn't wanted to: the fullness of the hooped skirts that came
into fashion in 1718 obliged menuisiers to alter the location of the arms of their chairs, setting
them back from the two front legs. X stretchers between the legs tended to disappear, giving
chairs a less constrained, lighter appearance from about 1720—30.“ (Verlet 35)


Paniers à charnières, France, vers 1775-1780. © Les Arts Décoratifs / photo : Jean Tholance
Furniture builders adapted the armchair form to accommodate panniers, usually described as a
woman’s undergarment constructed of wire or cane that widens the hips. However, Felice also
indicates pannier’s for men. While he does not name his source directly, he does acknowledge
several sources in the beginning of his book. Thirty years later, Verlet notes the shift in arm
placement, but only refers to women’s hooped skirts, or panniers, as the reason. So why does
Felice reference male panniers? Did such an undergarment exist for men, or does pannier in this
instance refer to the result, but not the mode?
London 1711
According to a reader of Addison and Steele‟s Spectator, there are wires in the coat skirts of
fashionable London men of 1711. (The underlined section does not appear in the original, but is
here for ease and emphasis.)
I and several others of your Female Readers, have conformed our selves to your Rules, even to
our very Dress. There is not one of us but has reduced our outward Petticoat to its ancient Sizable
Circumference, tho' indeed we retain still a Quilted one underneath, which makes us not
altogether unconformable to the Fashion; but 'tis on Condition, Mr. SPECTATOR extends not his
Censure so far. But we find you Men secretly approve our Practice, by imitating our Pyramidical
Form. The Skirt of your fashionable Coats forms as large a Circumference as our
Petticoats; as these are set out with Whalebone, so are those with Wire, to encrease and sustain
the Bunch of Fold that hangs down on each Side; and the Hat, I perceive, is decreased in just
proportion to our Head−dresses. We make a regular Figure, but I defy your Mathematicks to give
Name to the Form you appear in. Your Architecture is mere Gothick, and betrays a worse Genius
than ours; therefore if you are partial to your own Sex, I shall be less than I am now
Your Humble Servant.


The Spectator, No, 145 August 16, 1711. Steele

Paris 1720
In or around 1720, Jacques Rigaud (1680-1754) left Marseilles and traveled to Paris, where he
created a series of engravings of the city’s environs. Based on this success he then created a
series of engravings of the royal palaces of France and in 1730 he was invited to England to
create a series of engravings there. These series of engravings display a cross section of dress
within and across the social milieu during this period.

Vue de la Bastille de Paris, de la Porte St. Antoine d’une partie du Fauxbourg by Jacques Rigaud
(Author’s collection)
Rigaud‟s „Vue de la Bastille de Paris, de la Porte St. Antoine d‟une partie du Fauxbourg‟ of 1720
shows the St. Antoine gatehouse, one of the entrances to Paris, which was located next to the
Bastille. ( While there are a number of men in coats, two
figures in the lower right of the engraving are of particular note. Seated with their backs to the
viewer their coats display an odd shelf, which seems to resemble a posterior pannier. It appears
that some type of form holds the backs of the coat skirts in a rigid manner. How is this form
maintaining its shape under the weight of the fabric and the positioning of the bodies? Is this the
pannier that Roger de Félice references? It may be contrived, but it seems an odd affectation in
an otherwise mundane view of travel and commerce. The following images are from the

View of the two men


Close-up view of the yellow jacket

Close-up view of the purple coat


A view of other members of the party
To date, any examples that I have found of early 18th century male coats note an inner layer of
buckram or horsehair, but no other forms of manipulation. This engraving seems to indicate that
more than starched lining is being used to create a panniered appearance. So where have all the
wires and whalebone gone?
The history of the male pannier has been considerably shrouded, perhaps in part because so few
examples remain extant - coats were costly, constantly updated to the current styles. As I have
discovered, the fullest accounts appear in relation to furniture adaptations or in prints. It appears
that this aspect of male attire occurred primarily in the first half of the eighteenth century,
paralleling that of women's fashions.
This is excerpted from a forthcoming article.


One Two buckle my shoe,
To this day some of us do.
Outside of the long eighteenth-century, what man buckles his shoes? Those paste and steel
buckles so evocative of the Age of Reason, yet so antithetical to its tenets--a lace or piece of
string is after all much easier to find and use than a buckle and so much more scientifically
rational in its simplicity.

Buckle shoe, mens, leather / silver braid, with detachable buckle, copper / steel, maker unknown,
England, [1761] / c. 1780 (Powerhouse Museum Collection)
“This buckle shoe was probably made in 1761 for the coronation of George III, in the style
imitating the previous coronation of 1728.”
Yet for all the simplicity, stylistically, the laced shoe leaves something to be desired. For the
modern male foot the buckled loafer might be considered the equivalent of the eighteenth-century
shoe, but the loafer buckle is decorative, not functional. The shoe that still uses a functional
buckle without appearing strictly nursery bound is the monkstrap--a side buckle shoe with a name
that predates the Age of Reason. The conservative nature of men‟s clothing over the last three
centuries may be the only reason it still exists, in not one, but two forms the single and double
strap with buckle.


A single buckle monkstrap shoe (author’s shoes)

The double version (author’s shoes)

The utilitarian buckle allows the strap to be tightened in the summer with lighter socks and
loosened in the winter with heavier socks, much as I suppose must have happened in the
eighteenth-century with woolen or silk hose. I wonder if Addison or Steele ever wore shoes that
required two buckles? Hmmm……


An “Honest” Garment: What Became of the Shepherds Maud or Plaid ?

James Hogg by Sir John Watson Gordon 1830
A shepherds maud or plaid
and the shift from the age of reason to the modern.

Words are as odd as garments, just when you think you now them they throw a curve. I came
across the word maud the other day and thought I knew its derivation, wrong. A maud is a
shepherd‟s plaid, which is Gaelic for blanket. I‟ld never seen the word before last week. It is


Scots and derives from the word maldy, which is a coarsely woven grey colored cloth, common
to the region in the pre-industrial world. When I first saw the word, I thought it must have some
link to maudlin, but that word is linked to 16th and 17th century paintings of Mary Magdeline with
her overwrought emotions. Still it is odd that the two words are so close with their overlapping
connections, common people, native emotions, and shepherds; yet seemingly they are not related.
Oh well, a maud is a shepherd‟s garment that was worn throughout the lowlands of Scotland and
neighboring Northumberland in England. The pattern most associated with the maud, is the
shepherd‟s check, also known as the Border tartan, the Falkirk tartan, and/or the Northumberland
tartan. So many names for a simple check, but as far as I am concerned a pattern this good, and it
is, deserves as many claimants as it can handle. For such a small pattern, no pun intended, its
claim to originality is ancient, pieces of this pattern were found with coins dated 260 CE in a jar
in the Falkirk area of the Antonine Wall in Scotland. The cloth now resides in the National
Museum of Scotland, in case anyone wants to visit it. Certainly pattern weaving of this type is
not unique, the Thorsberg cape fragments, circa the 5th century CE are another example of a
checked pattern. Now, to throw one more word into this mix, the pattern was also used, circa
260, CE to create a scutulata, or a checkered garment. I‟ll come back to this word later.

Weaving Pattern for shepherd‟s check
The shepherd‟s check is primarily woven in black and white. The conventional wisdom on this
color choice is the ease of collecting wool from white sheep and black sheep without further color
enhancement. Of course black and white are relative color terms in this case, due to the organic
nature of the material, but the outcome is a cloth that is readily recognizable. The shepherd‟s
check was woven into a long plaid or blanket. These could be as large as 58 inches by twenty
feet and provided the shepherd with protection from the elements and a means of transporting lost
lambs back to the fold. A pocket of fabric created a place to hold the lamb against the body. At
the bottom of this post is a list of links that far better explain than I do how this works. Used for
hundreds of years this traditional garment faded from use by the 1960s.


So why is it modern if it‟s gone? Look at James Hogg‟s portrait at the head of this blog with a
shepherd‟s plaid wrapped around him. Hogg (1770-1835) an author best remembered for “The
Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner,” worked as a shepherd in his youth. For
his portrait, Hogg is wrapped in the “honest” daily apparel of the shepherd, not the worsted wool
of the established merchant or the silk of the urban sophisticate. By the end of the 18th century,
the English style in men‟s clothing was established, but it was the use of traditional fabrics, wool
twills or tweed in stripes, plaids or checks that solidified this position. By establishing the use of
utilitarian or “honest” materials for men‟s clothing the market eventually accepted khaki and
denim. The odd thing for menswear is that while the cloth is accepted for use the garment is not.
Shepherd‟s check and its variation houndstooth is used for garments from chef‟s trousers to
traditional suiting, but the shepherd‟s plaid like all men‟s shawls in the western world is gone.
It‟s understandable given the nature of the modern world that mauds or plaids are gone, but it is
sad to see a garment that protected shepherds and their lambs for hundreds of years become
redundant and fade from memory. Urban fashion designers where are you?

200 year old shepherd‟s plaid from the Heriot-Watt University Textile Collection
Oh, about scutulata, it‟s latin and means checkered garment. The use of checkered garments
predominated in the northern regions of the roman world (remember Thorsberg). It‟s purely
conjecture, but Scoti the Latin name for the northern tribes (first the Irish, then the Scots) is an
odd word in the Latin with no apparent root, could it be a corruption of the name for the
checkered cloth. I‟m sure it‟s a silly thought with no merit, but I for one wouldn‟t mind that a
people were remembered for their woven designs, not the land they inhabited.

Thorsberger prachtmantel (splendid cloak) (The work is in German, but the images are
informative, as is the text for that matter, viel Glück!)
Rather than decant their work please visit the following blogs and sites to learn more about the
shepherd‟s plaid.


The Tableaux of Life Unfolds Before My Mask

An 18th century English fan mask
Hmm, the mask and all its uses remind me that the number of costumed festivals has dwindled to
Halloween and the pre-Lenten festivities. Even by the eighteenth-century the sets and costumes
that Inigo Jones created for the masques of Charles I were gone, although that being said, one of
the last great masques occurred in the middle Georgian period and left us with the song Rule
Britannia. The mask certainly remains in use to the present day, but it would seem that the 18th
century used it most effectively for both the masquerade and evening festivities at the pleasure
gardens of Europe. If life is a theatrical experience, then anonymity has its uses.


Carlo Scalzi, circa 1735 By Charles-Joseph Flipart (1721-1797)
It has been remarked that during the Georgian period members of society understood the
theatrical nature of their lives. Certainly in an age delineated by patronage all members of society
needed to understand their role and how it must be acted. Today we all network to enhance our
positions, but at some level we believe that our talents will carry the day, at least some of us
believe this. However, in a world controlled by patronage the rules are more sharply defined, or
at least the consequences of one‟s actions are more sharply defined. You may well ask, “What
does this have to do with fashion?” It has to do with expectations. We need to reflect that what is


odd to us was not as odd to the Georgians, particularly if we view some of the fashions not only
as trends but as costume, meant to create a an impression regardless of the opinion. An actor,
whether professional or amateur, uses costumes to establish or disregard convention. The image
at the top of the blog is that of the 18th century castrato Carlo Scalzi, and while it is over-the-top
as everyday wear, it is in fact merely an extension of prevailing fashions of the 1730s with flared
coat skirts. The mask on the table while flamboyant would hardly have been out of place at a
masked event at Vauxhall or Versailles.

Vauxhall Gardens, London by Canaletto 1751

As Halloween approaches a new book on fêtes, Magnificent Entertainments, Temporary
Architecture for Georgian Festivals, by Melanie Doderer-Winkler, is due in the stores and
perhaps I shall see a copy under the tree at Christmas.



The Other Civil War

Cuirassier, Netherlands or Savoy 1620-45 (author‟s photo)

This past weekend, after many years of talking about it, we went with friends to the Higgins
Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. It has been open for 83 years in a building
designed to house the collection, but financial demands have forced the board to close the
museum at the end of 2013. However, the collection will be transferred to the Worcester Art
Museum where a library will be converted into new gallery space to house the collection and the
library will move to new quarters. So at least the collection will remain in the New England. As a
child I had knights and a castle, so this was a delightful afternoon. I knew that armor was used for
centuries, but it was the section of mid-sixteenth century armor the struck a cord.


Pikeman circa 1630 (author‟s photo)

The distance between the 1640s and the 1740s is in certain ways immeasurable (the divine right
of kings and the modern political era is one example), but thinking specifically about the years
1646 and 1746 took me aback for a moment. As fate would have it, in 1646 Charles I was still
trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to contain the revolutionary forces that would eventually unseat and
behead him and in 1746 George II was in pursuit of Charles Stuart better known as Bonnie Prince
Charlie, the great grandson of Charles I, in order to maintain his crown and the Hanoverian line.
In those one hundred years troops in woolen redcoats replaced regiments in armor, and the battles
that consumed nations now consumed fields. I find it somewhat ironic that the redcoat that began
with the Parliamentarian forces of the Civil War (1640s) would in time signify the King‟s own
troops (1740s), but history is full of such details.


From the Museum of London‟s Collecton file:
This uniform was worn by the British Army officer, Richard St George. He was a Colonel in the 20th Regiment of
Foot between 1737 and 1740 and later commanded the 8th Dragoons until 1755. Dragoons were trained to ride on
horseback but to fight on foot as infantrymen. St George may have served at the Battle of Dettingen during the War
of the Austrian Succession.

As I looked at the armor and the martial paintings that accompanied it, I wondered, in addition to
all the other factors that influence how we perceive and dress ourselves, if the defeat of the
Stuarts was one of those watershed moments that go unnoticed. Was this the end of the fantasy of
the feudal order and all of its accoutrements? The sword, a significant and evolved feudal
emblem as any, was still used by some, but not required outside of the Court, a sure measure of
its decline. Certainly by the 1750 the attitude in men‟s clothing began the slide toward dominant
and increasingly conservative uniform--the suit. While the fabric of men‟s clothing during the
second half of the long eighteenth century might still be more decorative than any modern
concoction, the flair began to subside particularly with the growth of the middle-class. Was the
defeat of the Stuart pretensions the last nail in the coffin of the medieval and renaissance
ostentatious male display? It is hard to say, but the distance between 1646 and 1746 was never so
apparent to me as it was on that Saturday afternoon.
This all leads to the last thought of this exercise and that is, a question that often is asked of
museums, or rather the employees of museums...“What was the point of the exhibit and did it
reach its intended audience?” I can‟t think that anyone really sat down and created an exhibit to
trigger my experience with 17th century armor. That to me is the telling bit; education or the
sharing of information is informed as much by the knowledge of the audience as it is by the
knowledge of the institution and that the unintended outcome, although seemingly valueless to
the perceived outcome, is of importance, at least the mind engaged with it. Would I have made


the connection without the exhibit, perhaps, but as I am not surrounded by either the 17th or 18th
centuries, I think it would have taken longer, if at all. After all, information without connection is
simply a list of facts.
Now a simple repast,

Helmutt the dog in modern armor created at the Met in 1942 and based on a 16 th century example at the Higgins
Armory Museum. Even your best friend could go out in style. (Author‟s photo)


Soucis d’hanneton, or Soucil de hanneton, or Floss Fringe, or Fly Fringe

William Hogarth, A Fishing Party, 1730-31
It would be so much easier if the names of things came with a history, “fly fringe” is the problem
of the moment. A simple piece of passementerie, easily made and applied either as a bon mot or
as a string or cluster of fringe, the name seems to refer to fishing and hand-tied lures, but is it?
There is no doubt as to its existence in the 18th century, but the name shifts over time. The earliest
references, using the term „fly-fringe” that have surfaced so far are from the beginnings of the
20th Century. On page 399 of The Lady’s Realm, volume 14 1903 there is a description of an 18th
century gown that uses the term fly-fringe to describe the trim. The Century Dictionary, NYC,
1906, page 2295 defines it as, “A trimming for women‟s dress worn toward the close of the
eighteenth century. It was made of floss-silk, the spreading and projecting tassels of which were
suppose to resemble flies.” According to the crafting site of Colonial Williamsburg the term for


this type of decoration in the 18th century was floss fringe. The Two Nerdy History Girls in their blog of
January 13, 2013 mention the use of the term French fringe during the eighteenth-century.
On to France…..The French use the term soucil de hanneton to for this style of fringe, which
translates as the eyebrow of the cockchafer, or May beetle. In the fourth edition of the
Dictionnaire de L'Académie française (1762) one of the definitions of soucis d‟hanneton is, “Les
Frangers appellent Soucis d'hanneton, Des franges qui portent de petites houppes.” This
translates roughly as, “The fringes known as Soucis d‟hanneton are small tassels.” Houppes can
be tassels, or tufts or puffs take your pick. Regardless of the nomenclature, by 1762 the phrase
was used for a specific type of trim. (Please note the shift in French usage from 1762‟s “soucis
d” to the 20th century‟s “soucil de,” is not a typographical error.) The European May Beetle is not
the American May Beetle; they are two distinct families. The European was invasive and very
common in the spring, thus a visually well known insect. So what does one look like….

Hanneton (fr) or Cockchafer (eng) or May Beetle or Bug
Looking beyond the bug, which has a certain charm, imagine the two antennae, which are the
large orange fan-like projections as a silk strands joined together with a knot in the middle—fly


fringe or soucil de hanneton. I really like idiomatic descriptions and this is a great one—
beetlebrow for silk trim.

Pieces from 18th century dresses, the white pieces have sourcil de hannneton applied
discriminately to the edges.
The French still use this term to describe this trim, but English speakers do not. Whether or not
we retain foreign words or phrases seems to have no logic. The May Beetle was as well known in
the UK as in France, so why not keep the name? It may be that the finished product resembled
the hand tied flies used in fishing as much as they did to a beetle‟s brow to the British. Certainly
to an American who had no experience with the European beetle there would have been no
connection to tie the image and a word together—a fly would do as well, or even better than a
beetle to describe the fringe.



Unfortunately this is all conjecture, at the moment there seems to be no direct connections
between the use of the term fly-fringe and the 18th century. Compounding this is that the term
fly-fringe most directly relates to the fringed band or crocheted bonnet that horses wear to keep
flies away from their faces and is known as fly fringe. Take your pick horses or fishing, both
were pursuits open to women in the 18th century and may have ultimately provided the term flyfringe. Certainly by the beginning of the last century the notion that the trim resembled flies was
solid enough that it required no further definition when used in The Ladies Realm article. That
being said the 18th century term most resembling the technique is soucil de hanneton, but I don‟t
see that one overtaking fly fringe in the near future.


Truth in Marketing, A Strange Bedfellow for History
On a cold grey December day that mirrors one I remember from long ago, oddly not far from the
site of this scene, I found myself looking at a 1930s poster created for the LNER by Doris
Zinkeisen (1898-1991). I enjoy posters and when this image fell into my lap the other day the
theatricality of the piece captured me. It reads far more like a cartoon for a stage set or a
historical romance film than a poster for a major rail line. The hat on the red-coated gentleman is
reminiscent of John Hurt and Tim Roth‟s characters in the 1995 version of Rob Roy; it‟s strange
how the mind works. Well it seems that Zinkeisen was not only an artist but also a set and
costume designer. Then I looked at the text below and to the right of the image, which describes
the scene as the secret signing of the article of Union between England and Scotland. (I have
absolutely no comment on the current referendum) Having read Scottish history shortly after this
event occurred it struck me that I had never heard of it, and for good reason, it didn‟t happen.
As Dr. John Young, Sr. lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, recounts in an online article
from 2009, the tale seems to have been invented in the late nineteenth-century and has survived
into the twenty-first. As the article points out, some parliamentarians may have taken refuge from
a displeased Scottish mob in the cellar during negotiations, but no treaty was signed there. The


full article is an interesting read and can be viewed here:
Nice piece of theatrical puff, a good poster, an interesting image and the kind of thing that drives
some people daft. But it happens all the time, or at least so this week. Kimberly recently posted a
piece about the business card William Hogarth‟s created for his sisters‟ clothing business. Their
shop was located near the gatehouse of Little Britain and it caught my eye. (It‟s area of London
that intrigues me.) I found a description of the area in London Past Present: Its History,
Associations, and Traditions by Henry Benjamin Wheatley in 1891, who updated an earlier
version of the book by Peter Cunningham in 1849. On page 406 of the book the Hogarth business
card is mentioned, but at the same time dismissed as, “probably an Ireland forgery.” The name


Ireland refers to Samuel Ireland, who was a prominent collector of Hogarth in the 18th century.
For those interested, there is a book based upon this collection, The Graphic Illustrations of
Hogarth published in London in 1794. Back on track, at the present time, the card is considered
real, but sometime in the 19th century at least one person thought it wasn‟t. (I cannot find a
reference to this in Cunningham‟s Handbook of London (1849 or 1850), so it may be Wheatley‟s
opinion in 1891…?)
Both pieces were produced for travelers, the first to entice and the second to inform.
Romanticizing the past can capture an audience and may lead to a genuine enquiry. We can not
know everything about the past so we need to remember to objective lest the relish becomes the
joint. Opinions and stories shift throughout history or the understanding of history and there are
moments when a new twist influences our perception of the truth, transforms a fact and sends us
down a different path. No treaty was signed in the cellar, but did parliamentarians seek refuge
from angry mobs in 1706. Similarly, was there concern in the 19th century that an 18th century
collector was manufacturing Hogarth‟s work and passing it off as original, or was it an expert
establishing his turf? Another day, another quest…
Peter Cunningham, Handbook For London, John Murray, London 1849, enlarged 1850.
Henry Benjamin Wheatey, London Past Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions,
Cambridge University Press, (1891), reprint 2011


Lord Clapham’s Justacorps and A Marlburian Uniform

Lord and Lady Clapham, London, circa 1700


Looking for an example of a Marlburian uniform I came across this happy looking couple from
circa 1700. Known as Lord and Lady Clapham, they reside in the collection of the V&A and are,
I am sure, well known inhabitants of South Kensington. Never met them until now, but happy to
make their acquaintance. Dolls normally leave me cold, whereas dioramas captivate me, odd
since both essentially represent life in miniature, but that‟s the mind for you. However, this
couple enchanted me lock, stock and barrel. The description from the V&A notes that these
belonged to the Cockerell family who were related to Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) through his
grandniece who married into the Cockerell family of Clapham (south London). The dolls were
named the „Lord‟ and „Lady‟ after the family‟s resident town. Dolls of this age are rare enough,
as is the clothing for either a doll or a person, so this is a rare artifact indeed.
Lord Clapham‟s
justacorps immediately
caught my eye. The
flare of the wee man‟s
coat is dramatic. In part
this may be due to the
flattening of the fabric
over time and the
exaggerated pressed
bell-shape that results,
but also due to the
circumference, which
displays the stylistic
difference between the
beginning and end of the
18th century. This early
18th century justacorps
has a lush fullness that
is the antithesis of the
shadbelly silhouette of
the 1790s. Men must
have moved differently
in this part of the
century, or rather
clothing moved
differently on them.
Lord Clapham, the wee man and his clothing Perhaps it can be
likened to the shimmy of a woman‟s fringe tiered dress from the 1920s, which encapsulates a
style, a period, and a way of moving through space. I look at this coat and the term swagger
comes to mind, the self-possessed not the pompous definition of the word. It illuminates that
moment of confidence that propelled the 18th century out of the turbulence and political quagmire
of the 17th century and into the enlightenment, inquiry and reason that become the hallmarks of
the 18th century. To my eye there is a raw exuberance in this period‟s clothing, which disappears
with the studied elegance of it


fin de siècle cousin.
Conceptually, they are
of the same family, but
the stylistic refinement
of the later leaves me a
bit cold. It is a personal
conceit and I can
understand the
fascination with the end
of the 18th century, but
perhaps I am too much
of a Whig at heart to
surrender to the
As this started with a
quest for an example of
a Marlburian justacorps
I need to be mindful of
the military aspect of
this period with the
triumph of Marlborough
and the allied armies.
England entered the
War of Spanish
Succession (1701-1714)
as a realm fearful of
French and Spanish
Continental domination,
but finished it as a
united kingdom of
England and Scotland
triumphant on the
European battlefield.
This engraving by Jean
Dubosc, created after a
painting by Louis Leguerre, of the battle
of Taniers (currently Malplaquet) (1709) shows how voluminous justacorps could be. The
pleating of the coat skirts displays a kilt-like density.


This color version done later is easier to read than the black and white original, at least for my
purposes and close-ups follow.

Battle of Taniers, after Dubosc, Robert Wilson


Close-up views


Lord Clapham‟s justacorps interior view
While only a vestige of the full scale rendition, Lord Clapham‟s justacorps and vest with their
tight but closable tubular torsos and voluminous skirts are indicative of the of the stiffened coat
skirt that waxes and wanes for the next fifty years. Was the use by men of coat skirt stiffeners a
martial fashion response to this triumphant military decade? Was the reintroduction of side
padding by women at this time a nod to martial influenced fashion? Questions for another time I


George III, Tartan Archer

Royal Company of Archers‟ Coat

If it isn‟t obvious by now, I am intrigued with Scottish History, but I hope to use that interest as a
springboard for more expansive thoughts. History is about particulars, but equally it is about the
expansion of the general from the particular. A case in point is an object in the collection of the
National Museum of Scotland. While searching for information on the early Jacobite rebellions I
came across an archer‟s coat. It is a tartan coat of the Royal Company of Archers and according
to the museum archives if is from circa 1750. At first glance that would be as wrong as anything I
know. The style of the coat is at least 75 years older than that, and in fact I have seen this same
coat on the Internet dated as being from 1715, which still seems only slightly less jarring. So what
is it, 1715 or 1750 and how long were the archers and their tailors living in the hills? The search
was on for information about this coat, which led to the family portrait illustrated here.


The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales, by Barthélemy Du Pan

The painting appeared in several online articles, but I couldn‟t find an attribution. Finally one
posting attributed it to Du Pan, who it developed was Barthélemy Du Pan and the subjects were
the children of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The figure in the tartan archery uniform is the future
George III. His outfit is that of the Royal Company of Archers, who are the ceremonial
bodyguards of the sovereign in Scotland. Formed as a society of archers in the 1670s they
obtained a charter from Queen Anne in 1704 and letters patent as a royal company in 1713. The
uniform of the company was created at or about this time and is a “plainer” version of the
uniform worn by the young George. This uniform was the standard though his time and then
lapsed until 1789 when a more contemporary version was created. Preparing for the visit of
George IV in 1822, a uniform was created using black watch tartan for the trews and short jacket.
This is a synopsis of information that comes from an article concerning the Archers on the web by
Peter Eslea MacDonald and is well worth a full read. The author goes into detail about the tartan
and the history of the company. He says it much better than I.
What intrigues me is that without the supporting evidence of the Archer‟s use of historical
costume, as a uniform, the dating would look wrong. The fact that the uniform was unchanged
for decades and was stylistically dated when conceived around 1713 creates an anachronism that
can confuse the modern eye. MacDonald creates a visual timeline that places this particular
anachronism within a forty-year span. How often does this happen without our awareness? Were
items of clothing created for a specific purpose that were recognized at the time as being
anachronistic? In an age that saw itself as public theatre are we at a risk of dating too specifically

or rather too knowingly. I‟m not looking to overturn the cart, rather are there groups or events
which create their own timeframe outside of the normal flow for a specific reason, that goes as of
yet undocumented?

Prince George in Archer's Attire
Along those lines and back to the painting for a moment, I was somewhat troubled that the future
George III, a Hanoverian, was posing in a tartan archer‟s outfit so close to the aftermath of the
Battle of Culloden. By 1747
Prince George in Archer‟s Attire
the use of tartan was proscribed for most uses
and in common parlance it was outright banned, so why record that image? After all, if time is
everything in history, George is out of cycle. In its day it was a popular print, but I was able to
find the painting in the Royal Collection. Luckily for me the curator answered my nagging
thought and I think it is worth quoting the section in full,
“The inclusion of tartan (worn by Prince George) in a painting executed within months of
the Battle of Culloden excited comment even at the time. In fact this is the uniform of the
Royal Company of Archers, which had been fixed as early as 1713 and included the Stuart
tartan; like all British regimental tartan this escaped the ban on Scottish national dress
which followed the Rebellion of 1745. Indeed it is probably that this painting is a part of

the process of assimilating Scottish identity as something manly and romantic, rather than
threatening and rebellious.”
Odd isn‟t it that an archaically styled uniform of a vanquished group was seen by the victor to
offer the promise of reconciliation? This is why I often prefer history to fiction. Here is the image
of the future George III, the farmer king, in a stylistically archaic tartan uniform 70 odd years
before his more sartorially recognized son, George IV, wore tartan so famously in 1822. George
IV and Sir Walter Scott, the marshaling force behind the 1822 visit, have been criticized for their
unbridled creativity and reinvention of costume. Maybe they did, but they were hardly new on the

George IV, by Sir David Wilkie


Georgian Brilliance: Lacquer, Japanning and Vernis Martin, or Get the Matte
Out of Here!

Sedan Chair attributed to Christophe Huet, circa 1750
Vernis Martin is on exhibit at Les Musée Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In English we might call it
Martin‟s Varnish, but instead we group all such decorative techniques under the heading
japanning. Japanning or Vernis Martin is imitation lacquer and it captured the imagination from


the mid 17th century through the early 19th, encapsulating the long 18th century. Lacquer arrived in
force during the early to mid 17th century from Japan via Dutch and Portuguese traders. The
lacquered chest on stand is an example of 17th century Japanese work sitting on an 18th century

17th century Japanese chest sitting on 18th century stand.
I can only imagine the brilliance of this piece when it landed at the London docks. New lacquer is
dazzlingly brilliant. I have seen a few examples of late 18th and early 19th century lacquer that
rarely saw the light of day or dust and they seemed to float in space. The black ground that forms
the color absorbs the light at the same time that the clear lacquer layers above it reflect the light.
Add gold and the pieces nearly vibrate. Additionally the black in these pieces falls into the blackbrown family rather than the black-blue family of modern blacks. (Black-brown can look warmer
to the eye than blue-black, providing counterpoint to the brilliance of the finish) The surface of
most of the 18th century lacquer we see in museums has been abraded by centuries of dusting and
cleaning lessening the reflective quality of the finish. The 17th and 18th century Beau Monde

went mad for lacquer, but it was an expense reserved for princes. The other problem was that it
didn‟t match anything anyone had. (A piece or two of Asian furniture is nice, but where is my
chair and footstool, please.) There were early attempts to send unfinished European Furniture to
Asia to be lacquered but the results were unacceptable. Each layer of lacquer required about ten
days to cure and did so at about 90 percent humidity. With transportation, turnaround time could
be three years; compounding this the lacquer fractured with the changes in temperature and
Enter japanning the “new and improved” lacquer. Created with spirit varnishes (alcohol is the
medium) with a short set time, or long varnishes (linseed oil and turpentine are the mediums)
with a longer set time a cheaper alternative was developed and the rage began. Initially, long
varnishes, less susceptible to moisture, were favored for exterior application such as coaches and
sleds, but eventually they found their way into interior applications. The trouble with long
varnishes is that they are dust magnets and when you are trying to create a brilliant finish dust is
anathema. There are ways around this such as hanging damp sheets, but you can see where this all
going, more effort than result. (Point of order, the reference to long varnish refers to the
molecular chain not the cure time.) Back to vernis martin, working in Paris, brothers Guillaume
and Etienne-Simon Martin created japanned pieces for the new trade. Each craftsperson, and yes
women were japanners, concocted their own varnish recipes so that as the century progressed
more variations were created. These recipes were considered craft secrets and most of these
varnish recipes died with their creator or with the end of a craft family. Of all the varnishes,
Copal varnishes were prized for their hardness and brilliance. Copal resin falls into several
camps, some copal resins dissolve in alcohol while others require heating and the use of
turpentine and oils, and some can be worked both ways. Most varnishes darken with time.
However, one copal, rhus copallinum, from the American Winged Sumac produced a resin that
according to old recipes created a colorless varnish when dissolved in alcohol. For those
interested, a link below connects to an old encyclopedia of chemistry with descriptions of the
actions required to create copal varnishes.


Commode, Chateau Choisy from the blue chamber circa 1742

Everything was fair game for decoraqting; interiors, furniture, sedan chairs, even snuffboxes
were japanned. In imitation of lacquer, black and red grounds were the initial colorings, but that
soon expanded to blues, greens, yellows and that most elusive of pre-industrial colors—white. It
wasn‟t that white was hard to make there was always flake lead or calcium whites, the problem
was the layers of varnish that covered the grounds. Over time, the natural tendency of varnishes
to yellow or brown only enhanced the black and red grounds and took the candy wrapper edge off
the gilded and bronzed decoration warming them. However, when creating white clarity is all
and yellowing varnishes produce diminished work. The creation of a stable varnish to cover the
white was a ticket to commercial success. Particularly when coupled with the other craze of the
century, blue and white porcelain. Who didn‟t want an en suite collection of furniture and clay
that spoke to their exquisite taste? While the Martin brothers were known for their varnishes and
techniques, they were equally admired for the clarity of their white japanning. One of their
competitors in this aspect of the market as was the Dagly family who worked in Paris and had a
family branch japanning in Berlin. (Lacquer p.189-99) The illustration of the Dagly harpsichord
illustrates the clarity of the desired white.


Harpsichord decorated by Dagly, circa 1710, Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin
The next time you‟re wearing your silk brocade gown or embroidered coat imagine the
counterpoint that was once created by the interplay of textile, paint and gilt-work in a japanned
room with japanned furniture. Some of the boiserie of the Dauphin‟s apartments in Versailles was
painted with vernis martin and the illustration gives an idea of the play of light, color and
reflection that intoxicated the long 18th century.


Dauphin’s Chamber. Versailles
Copal Varnish Link:
An excellent source if you are interested in understanding the how‟s and why‟s of interior color
Ian C. Bristow, Interior House-Painting Colours and Technology 1615-1840 Yale University
Press. New Haven and London, 1996
Lacquer, An International and Collectors Guide, Bracken Books, London, 1984.
For a look at Schloss Charlottenburg:
Exhibition in Paris through 8 June 2014:

Stilettoes, or Something Like It
The Tatler
Saturday June 6, 1710
„A stage-coach sets out exactly at six from Nando‟s coffee-house to Mr. Tiptoe‟s dancingschool. And returns at eleven every evening, for one shilling and four-pence.
„N.B. Dancing shoes not exceeding four inches in height in the heels, and periwigs not
exceeding three feet in length, are carried in the coach-box gratis.”

Men's Shoe first half of the18th Century, Bata Museum
As Shakespeare didn‟t, but undoubtedly meant, to say, “If all the world‟s a stage, then let‟s dress
like it.” At the end of the day, how do you dress if you live in a hierarchical society bulging at
the seams? Some say out—panniers, wires or swords, and some say up--heels and wigs or hats
(?). Steele‟s‟ acidic advertisement in 1710 points to the foibles men will go to impress
themselves and everyone else. Well, as Tripping Knob, a famous, but undocumented dancer of
the 1710s put it, “I may not have the power of the Monarch, a Duke, a General or Councillor of
State, but by g-d I can be taller than all of them combined. If all these persons of rank want land
and space here and abroad, shouldn‟t I be able to colonize some space at home?”


Men's Mules circa 1710, Bata Museum
Knob has a point there (intended), in an age of colonization isn‟t acquiring space of paramount
importance at all levels of society. If Knob wears high-heels and towering periwigs, isn‟t he
colonizing his social space, albeit temporarily? In a questionably upwardly mobile society, social
space may be a limited but accessible playing field. As far as that goes isn‟t Knob‟s paramour,
Mistress Tinder Box, doing the same thing with her panniers and hoops? In hindsight we may
look askance at the backwardness and constraints of our ancestor‟s costumes, but did they? Satire
only works if enough readers or viewers understand the reference, and that only works if the
reference is common knowledge for that group. Someone needs to be wearing these articles of
clothing often enough for the reference to stick. Clearly Steele felt that his readers, London‟s
clever society, would get his jab instantly.


Admiral George Churchill, by Godfrey Kneller
Perhaps this will be a summer of looking at wigs and heels and things that make your space, my
space a la the 18th C.


A Concealed Shoe on the Cusp of a New a Century

This part of New England, where I live, and Northampton UK share a rich history of shoe
making. The Northampton Museums and Art Gallery maintains a collection of shoes both touted
and obscure. The touted shoes can, through elegance or notoriety, elicit an immediate positive
response, but what of the obscure shoes, the concealed shoes, the well worn shoes hidden in a
wall? Worn shoes have been hidden in the recesses of houses for centuries, a practice designed to
protect the house and its inhabitants from evil. As shoes have been discovered some communities
have noted their existence and recorded the information. Happily for anyone interested in
concealed shoes, the Northampton Museum in the UK keeps an index of concealed shoes from
several countries from around the world. The curators compiled a list of categories and attributes
of the shoes discovered over the years. It's worth a look at the the whys and wheres:


So what does this custom have to do with New England? Well, you never know where a custom
may fall. Our house was built in 1914-15 so it‟s on the cusp of its centenary. Over the years
we‟ve removed some questionable bits and added our own. A number of years ago we converted
the house from a two-family house to a single-family house. Never a large house, the rental
apartment could not fit the larger furniture many people owned, which made our decision a little
easier. One of the tasks was the replacement of the ground floor front door leading to the upstairs
unit with a window. Each apartment had its own entrance, so one needed to go. As I removed the
door frame from the wall frame a workman‟s shoe fell from the space between the studs and hit
the floor. Usually these voids have broken plaster keying and bits of wood from the construction,
but this time a shoe!


It startled me, as we have never found anything in this house other than what should be--no
treasures, no forgotten documents, just a house, which is fine by us. So the falling shoe was the
first artifact discovered in the house. When I retrieved the shoe from the floor, I looked inside and
there was a label describing the shoe as, “The Elite Shoe” manufactured in Brockton (MA?). A
utilitarian shoe for a working man, with a hint of style provided by the punched leather detail. Did
the shoe manufacturer decide this touch make it an elite shoe? We may never know.


The beauty of the discovery was not the quality of the shoe but the connection it provided with
the past. A modern shoe transformed to become part of a centuries old tradition--a good luck
token from the builders. It may have been left to protect the house form evil, but how intriguing
that it still occurred in the early twentieth-century, not just the fifteenth-century.

Such a simple, utilitarian and delightful reminder of the power we invest in articles of clothing,
which occasionally transcend time and perhaps even space. For the record another concealed
shoe has been found in another old house.


Would you prefer to wear a Glof or a Handschuh?

Elizabeth I's Coronation Glove (WCG)

What we name a thing can influence it far more than we think. Take gloves. Gloves were such an
important fashion accessory that there was and is a Worshipful Company of Glovers, a guild for
what we now consider a seasonal fashion accessory, and even that I would suspect only in the
northern climes.


James VI/I's (?) Gloves (WCG)

The word glove comes from Old English, that in terms of Anglo-Saxon. Old English is Germanic
in origin, but differs from modern German. The break between the modern and the old languages
is why we have „horses‟ (Old English/Proto-Germanic) not „Pferds‟ (Modern German). The same
holds true for „gloves‟ (Old English/ Proto-Germanic) rather than „Handschuh‟ (German). The
singular of „gloves‟ in Old English is „glof‟, but the modern singular of „gloves‟ is „glove‟ not
„glof‟.‟ This fascinates me as glof/gloves falls into the word group that includes roof/rooves and
hoof/hooves, which are plurals out of Beowulf and must be a bear (another idiomatic nightmare)
for foreign speakers of English. The plural of roof and hoof is now so unusual that my spell check
questions rooves and hooves. (Language intrigues me as much as history)


Charles I"s Gloves (Dents)

The word „glof‟ means, “to cover the hand or palm,” just as the word „handschuh‟ means “a shoe
for the hand, or a covering for the hand.” However, “glof‟ has not real meaning in the modern
lexicon, whereas „shoe‟ does. Perhaps if we thought of gloves in terms of „handshoes‟ we might
view them with more excitement as a fashion accessory. (I do realize the Teutonic heaviness of
the word, but the just go with me for a bit.) Certainly hats have the Ascot and weddings, shoes
have every evening event and then some, but what do gloves have anymore, except shoveling
snow, handling objects in museums and hospitals, or serving take-out food? How the mighty
have fallen.


Victoria's Coronation Glove (WCG)

Which brings me to Dents, the Glovers, located in Warminster, Wiltshire, UK. This summer, I
met John Roberts, of Dents, while he vacationed in the US. I knew of Dents so we had an
interesting conversation. They have a museum,,
devoted to gloves and are connected with the Worshipful Company of Glovers,


A pair of QueenVictoria's Gloves (Dents)

Dents is still using machinery and patterns from the nineteenth-century. Much as their
counterparts in shoes are doing in Northampton. Hmm, is there a pattern here? Yes, they make
modern gloves and are happily churning them out as I write. Some shoes, like gloves are meant to
be snug on the first wear, then over time conform to the owner‟s shape. There are finger stretchers
for gloves just as there are toe and side stretchers for shoes. Gloves come in sizes like shoes and
hats. To determine your size wrap a tape measure around your hand, but do not include the
thumb. Your size in inches would be something like this; 9.25 inches measured would be a 9.5, or
large. You round up to the nearest inch or half inch. I am clueless concerning cm, but it must be
similar, I'm just not sure of the size markers. Dents includes a size chart and how to measure on
the trade side of their website. (A must for the non-bespoke glove and shoe wearer.) Enjoy some
of the images from Dents and The Worshipful Company of Glovers collections.


George V's Coronation Glove (WCG)

Elizabeth II's Coronation Glove (Dents)


Gloves From 1600-10 (WCG)

Gloves from 1685-1700 (WCG)


Close-up of gloves from 1685-1700 (WCG)

Gloves from 1625-35 (WCG)


Close-up of 1625-35 Gloves (WCG)


Ribbon Trimmed Gloves 1660-90 (WCG)

Close-up of Ribbon Trimmed Gloves 1660-90


Late 18th century Cloth Gloves


"Well, if ever I do go to court again..” Horace Walpole Opines on Fashion

Taste a la Mode 1735
A letter from a reader got me thinking about anachronisms and clothing and I remembered some
engravings and a letter from Horace Walpole that I came across for another blog that addresses
this idea from a different angle--not invented anachronisms, but generational ones. Here goes....
When we think of taste in fashion, we imply a sense of the moment. Timeliness is implicit in the
notion of the correctness of fashion. The person who is out of fashion is out of place. Yet also
implicit in this conceit is the notion that some players can step out of bounds, actually should step
out of bounds and not play the game so hard. With age comes the ability to refrain from the
novelties of fashion and to sometimes embrace qualities that once reigned supreme. It is always a
balancing act, but this maybe what is meant by sticking to the classics of fashion taste. Of course,
the classics evolve; they just do so at a pace that allows several generations of players to mount
the stage without anyone appearing too non-courant.


Taste a la Mode 1745

The illustrations from 1745 illustrate the differences between 1735 and 1745 as a form of satire,
but the snippet of a longer a letter from Horace Walpole, the Earl of Orford to Sir Horace Mann
speaks to the at once mocking and yet enjoyable moment of fashion past invading fashion present
at a court levee of George II in the autumn of 1742.
“I HAVE not felt so pleasantly these three months as I do at present, though I have a great
cold with coming into an unaired house, and have been forced to carry that cold to the King's
levee and the drawing-room. There were so many new faces that I scarce knew where I was; I
should have taken it for Carlton House,1 or my Lady Mayoress's visiting-day, only the people did
not seem enough at home, but rather as admitted to see the King dine in public. Tis quite
ridiculous to see the numbers of old ladies, who, from having been wives of patriots, have not

been dressed these twenty years; out they come in all the accoutrements that were in use in Queen
Anne's days. Then the joy and awkward jollity of them is inexpressible! They titter, and wherever
you meet them, are always going to court, and looking at their watches an hour before the time. I
met several on the birth-day, (for I did not arrive time enough to make clothes,) and they were
dressed in all the colours of the rainbow: they seem to have said to themselves twenty-years ago,
"Well, if ever I do go to court again, I will have a pink and silver, or a blue and silver," and they
keep their resolutions.”
Perhaps it‟s me, but too often I forget that the notion of historic fashion covers several
generations at once. What seems quite plausible in real life and literature sometimes disappears in
the quest for historic accuracy, but fashion lingers for decades and generations before exiting.
Perhaps I have lingered too long in the descriptions of the haute mode and have forgotten that
well made clothing lives on and on, altered as the body shifts a reflection of an image of ourselves
caught at just that moment, captured in Walpole‟s phrase, “well if I ever go to court again…,” or
wherever we think we might want to go once more.
1. Then (1742) the residence of Frederick Prince of Wales
(Peter Cunningham . ed.,The Letters of Horace Walpole, The Earl of Orford, Richard Bentley,
London, 1857. Volume 1, page 212.)


Scottish Needlework at the Wemyss School

Wemyss School of Needlework Collection
A reader commented on her mother‟s needlework skills and her lesson sample book from the
1930s and 40s full of “button holes and buttons, collars, French seams fun and fell. using
hemming tape, herringbone stitch pin tucks and smocking.” If memory serves, this reader has
some connection to Scotland, which triggered a remembrance of the Wemyss School of
Needlework in Coaltown-of-Wemyss Fife, Scotland.


Chair Cover form the collection of the Wemyss School of Needlework
Founded in 1877 a scant five years after its more famous cousin the Royal School of Needlework
in London was founded. (The Royal School is currently at Hampton Court.) Wemyss was
founded to help the daughters of colliers and farmers find employment through needlework skills.
This section of Fife has produced coal for centuries and so the need tor full family employment
cannot be overstated. The Wemyss family and the school‟s seamstresses maintained the school
until 2011.

Kit developed from the collection of the Wemyss School of Needlework
In a new century, it is now in the process of preparing a catologue of its collection and moving
forward with improved facilities. It is worth reflecting that no craft thrives without education and
the Wemyss School maintains that tradition with a newly instituted selection of classes, including
Jacobean Crewelwork, Goldwork, Whitework, and silk shading.


Close-up view of needlework
While the school existed and helped needle workers throughout its history, these are the first
classes since the late 1940s. Helen McCook of the Royal School of Needle now oversees the
school. (FifeToday) The school is located in Fife, Scotland (see above) and is currently open
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you enjoy needlework go and see it,
keep these treasures alive! I do not foresee making it there any time soon, but I look forward to
seeing the catalogue when it is finished. Helen McCook of the Royal School of Needlework now
oversees the school. (FifeToday)

Close-up view of needlework


Haute Couture and the Métier d’Arts

Designer: Nelly Saunier
Photo Credit: Alexis Lecomte

Haute couture came up in a conversation last week and it started a search. The phrase is often
taken to mean high-end clothing, but it has a fuller connotation. High-end or haute couture
historical and modern clothing often elicits oohs and aahs for the very thing that, homespun

clothing, ready-to-wear or prêt à porter lacks—details. Some details can be derived from the
construction, the stiches that bind the garment, the drape that defines or hides the body and even
the cut and placement of the material, assuming that it is material.

Designer: Christian Dior
Photo Credit: Sophie Carre

However, it is often the embellishment that captures the eye and the imagination, a cascade of
feathers, a jewel-encrusted torso, or a field of embroidered flowers. The embellishment of
clothing, long the privilege of the aristocracy, became in the nineteenth-century with the advent
of the House of Worth a codified accessory of the titled and the wealthy. Starting in the midnineteenth-century specialist craft houses were established in Paris to create these flights of fancy.
For generations artisans concocted the dreams of the designers, but as the last century ended, the
craft families began to wane.


Designer: Broderies Vermont
Phot Credit: Alexis Lecomte

Karl Lagerfeld, of Chanel, was that appellation needed, I wonder, began to purchase these familyrun ateliers to ensure the craftsperson and the coutiers‟ survival. Several of the established houses
now form the Paraffection branch of the House of Chanel. Their trade is not limited to Chanel,
which would be short sighted, but is open to the other couture houses. A short list of the houses
includes, Legase, embroidery, Lemarié, feathers and flowers, and Maison Michel, milliner and


Designer: Broderies Lanel
Photo Credit: Alexis Lecomte

The search led to several blog sites in English and French that speak to these crafts in more depth
than I can offer and they are listed below. Additionally a new book was printed this season, Haute
Couture Atelier: Artisans of Fashion, by Hélène Farnault and some of the images for this blog
come from that book through a book review at this blog site Mix and Chic.


Designer: Broderies Lanel
Photo Credit: Alexis Lecomte