Object of the Month – May 2022

In the early 18th century the waistcoat featured long sleeves, many buttons and large pockets. Elaborately embroidered, they were slightly flared from the hip to allow comfortable movement. The most striking aspect to modern eyes was the length; the cloth would have covered the upper leg and sometimes even the knee. Radical changes occurred from the 1760’s onwards; colourful embroidery gave way to simpler designs and from then until the turn of the century the garment became progressively shorter and the sleeves disappeared altogether.

This waistcoat almost certainly originates from the Regency period (1811-1820). Even shorter than in the 1780’s, cut square and matching the then new frock coat with its short waistline and long tails.

A superb cut, fine cloth and restrained colours were the characteristics of a tasteful waistcoat. Buttons in two rows were often the only decorative embellishment, although the museum’s example has some simple discreet embroidery below the straight pockets and on the lapels.

The waistcoat was originally the property of Dr. Ormerod of Holywell, Oxford and Boars Hill and has his name printed inside it. On his death it was bequeathed to his housekeeper, Mrs Rose Jacques.

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