Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Secret Life of a Waistcoat

This photograph of an eighteenth century waistcoat panel was taken by myself in the Spring of last year. For teaching purposes, I was incredibly lucky enough to be the temporary custodian of this wonderful item for a short time. I carried it carefully home after it had been padded out and wrapped in acid free tissue and placed inside a large brown lidded box.

Along with a large donation of twentieth century clothing to a local museum, this panel was found languishing at the bottom of a box of assorted bric-a-brac. Under the 1970s silver lurex turban, large Minnie Mouse style hair bows, a pair of broken Courrèges sunglasses (not to mention the scarves and a tangle of costume jewellery), was a long picture frame. The glass was smashed and the fixings on the back were rusted, but stretched out inside the frame was this beautiful treasure.

Now it has been properly packed and stored, with rolls of tissue paper protecting every crease and seam to lessen the stress upon them. Having said that, it's still remarkably sturdy; a true testament to it's craftmanship. It is dirty now, but squint slightly and it's not hard to imagine that it was once a bright cream colour. The exquisite embroidery and spangles still sparkle brilliantly. Can you imagine how much more...well, more it would have seemed when new?

I can't help but get a little bit wistful about where this panel came from. How did it come to be removed from the rest of the garment, and why? Not only that, but I would simply love to know who owned this in the first place. A painted and powdered macaroni, perhaps? An elderly gentleman addicted to finery or a handsome young man with a view to impress the ladies?

Where did you go to, waistcoat? What parties did you attend and what scandals were you privy to as you dazzled in the candlelight? I wish I knew...

I confess that I slipped a (careful, as well as gloved!) hand inside the pocket to see if anything had been left behind, but it was empty. So the waistcoat panel keeps it's secrets. In truth, I suppose that I prefer it that way.


  1. Dear Laura,
    Welcome to the world of blogging. How lucky you were to be able to handle and photograph that exquisite wasitcoat. Do you have more photographs of it?

  2. Thanks Ingrid!

    I admit to being extremely lucky to have the panel in my possession, if only for a short time. I do have more photos, but the light was quite poor and I didn't want to use my flash, so they didn't turn out the greatest. The plan is to see what can be done with them and publish them in a separate post soon, with any luck. :)