Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Featured Garments: William Wollaston, 1759

The last two featured garments featured hunters--from the same decade, but different cultures and classes; so, this week we'll take it up a few notches by moving up a class and a century.  Thankfully, there should be less guesswork this time around, since the painting is both clearer, and I have more data to pull from.

The topic for this week is a lovely, blue and white suit worn by one William Wollaston, in a painting by Thomas Gainsborough in 1759--can't get that much different from 1640s German working class.  Or can you...?  Commonly, this is close to a style beginning to appear at this time--the ditto suit, where coat, waistcoat, and breeches were in the same fabric.  Obviously, it isn't, since the coat is white, however....

Oil painting of William Wollaston, 1759, by Thomas Gainsboroug. Holbourne Museum.

And yes, I want it.

 You could, and could not get further.  Elements are similar--the leg garments, and....well, that's it.  At least there's one point of similarity, so you really /could/ get further from it.

Anyways, this is a fairly standard suit for the time--what sets it apart is the understated elegance in a period where lavish metallic embroidery and patterned fabrics were common.  The other thing is that is actually has a collar with a fall (or that falls anyways....regardless, anything but a small stand collar is atypical for the 1750s--other than this example, they begin appearing--rarely--in the early-mid 1760s. 

The coat:
This would be a frock coat, a term applied to both the coats of this period, and again to the full skirted body coats of the 1800s.  However, you may also be able to find it by the name, "just au corps" (either as one or three words).

We're looking at a relatively close--neither tight, nor loose--coat with skirts coming down to a bit below the knee (in fact, they appear to be even with the cuff of the breeches, contributing to the cleanness of the outfit); at this point in the 18th century, the frock coat is being toned down, in pattern at least.  No longer are the skirts a full circle (or even closer to 1.5), and with massive cuffs on the sleeves.  Instead, things have been toned down to maybe 3/4 circle.  Interestingly--and unusually--this particular example doesn't appear to actually have cuffs, just slightly widened forearms on the sleeves (although this could be an illusion in the painting).

As said, the most unusual thing about it is that it appears to have a full on collar, which is laying flat.  However, you do begin to see this style a few years later, such as in this detail from a painting dated to between 1762-66. 
The Honorable Henry Fane. Sir Joshua Reynolds.  The MET.
An extremely similar coat, even with the coat lining and waistcoat matching--plus you can more clearly see the cuffs in this example; I suspect that the Featured Garment has similar, just not as visible due to being painted in stark white, and the angles.  There are two other gentlemen in the full painting, both with similar collars on their coats (one with the waistcoat and frock coat lining matching, the other not matching).

I take it back....I would rather make this outfit.  Wouldn't show dirt as easily.

Anyways, as for patterning, your best bet if you want to self draft would probably be to use Nora Waugh's Cut of Men's Clothing (page 72).  The coat is likely made of a lovely, cream coloured broadcloth, with the lining, breeches, and waistcoat in a lighter weight woolen.  As a lovely bit of detail, you can see that all the buttonholes are done in white silk thread.  Buttons appear to be silver.

The pattern for breeches can likewise be found in Waugh; they would--of course--have been front fall breeches. I also want to point out that Mr. Wollaston appears to have his hand in the pocket of his breeches, rather than waistcoat--meaning that there are functioning pockets. 

Shoes are of the latchet type, most likely with a detachable buckle (buckles were expensive, so could be moved from shoe to shoe when the footwear wore out), and stacked buckle.  The stockings would have been finely knitted silk, apparently without clocking.

Such as this pair from Colonial Williamsburg.

 As always, this was written to both further my own knowledge--forcing me to research out of my normal paths (usually), and to provoke discussion (which should take place in the comments below).  The statements are not to be taken as facts unless I sound really certain.

Happy sewing and/or researching!

© John Frey, 2016. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. 


  1. It's a beautiful outfit! I'd wear it, even though none of the garments are black.
    Silver is such nice accent on blue. It reminds me of Thaddeus Burr's magnificent waistcoat that I need to make someday.


    1. Perhaps a black velvet for the fashion fabric of the frock coat? Or a napped wool broadcloth if you can find it (I can, just not in black).

      Woah. That is a gorgeous sapphire blue--have fun sewing that silk satin.

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