Friday, March 25, 2011

At the Mayor's Office- working mens' clothing from 1795

A good friend of mine, Tyler,  is currently studying for his masters in material culture at Winterthur, and as part of his thesis is discussing working mens' clothing from the late 18th century.  He is looking at a particular advertisement from 1795 which lists a number of clothes that a certain criminal had made off with... ideally, there would be images of these types of clothes to use as a reference in this thesis.  Unfortunately, there are not a lot of visual references for working mens' clothes from the time, much less ones which contain the exact items listed.

This is where I, as the artist friend, came in.  I agreed to paint several illustration depicting specific articles of clothing mentioned in the ad.

The problem was, I'm not terribly familiar with men's clothing from the 1790s and really didn't want to completely bollocks things up.  Fortunately for me, Tyler knows a great deal about the subject (you know, it being the object of his thesis and all...) and he provided me with some prints and drawings of sailors and slaves, plus the original ad in question.

It reads as follows:

"At the Mayor's Office
Are the following articles of Clothing, all new, supposed to have been stolen out of some slop shops or shops.  They were found upon a Joseph Lone, a convict who not long hence escaped from gaol - They may be seen by the claimants.  Sep. 5, 1795

I pair cotton striped yellow, purple and white trowsers.
3 ditto- yellow and white do.
2 ditto- red and white do.
I ditto- black and white do.
I ditto- plain nankeen do.
I ditto- do with fringe.
2 sailor's jackets, plain nankeen, bound with black silk
I ditto- striped silk
I ditto- plain nankeen
I ditto- Raffia duck, bound with black
I red waistcoat, bound with black
I buff fustian waistcoat, striped yellow and grey
I white waistcoat, with red stripes and spots
I cassimere muff waistcoat, with blue and red spots
I white waistcoat with blue and white spots
I nankeen purple, striped waistcoat
I muslin waistcoat, with red spots
I cotton checked striped shirt
A sheeting bag with a drawing string"

These are the images that Tyler sent me to look at.  It's all his research, not mine!

 British Plenty by Henry Singleton- 1794

 Scarcity in India by Henry Singleton- 1794

 Barber scene by Benjamin Henry Latrobe- 1797

 Seaman by Thomas Rowlandson- 1798

 Industry and Oeconomy by Henry Singleton- 1800

 Making a Compass at Sea, London- early 19th Cen.

For better or worse, I am basing my illustrations off these images, discussions with Tyler, and what I read in the book The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England.  I fully acknowledge that this subject is not my strong point, but as it is, I've already learned a lot from this project.  The biggest thing that has jumped out at me so far is the prevalence of striped trousers.  Of the nine pairs of trousers listed in the ad, only one pair was completely plain.  Seven pairs were striped and one was fringed.

I'd have to look at a lot more ads from the time to really see if striped trousers are that common across the board, or if Joseph Lone happened to steal from a shop owner who was really fond of stripes.  But it's interesting nonetheless.

Next up, preliminary sketches and illustration progress...


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