Coat (France), ca. 1790
Medium: silk embroidery on silk foundation, silk lining Technique: embroidered in satin, surface satin, stem and knot stitches with appliqué on plain weave foundation with supplementary warp and weft patterning; twill lining Label: silk compound weave em. Gift of Mrs. Edward C. Post. 1913-33-1
What is this?
Man's coat of blue and black patterned silk with large-scale floral embroidery in polychrome silks with appliqué of silk and silk net. Deep borders of embroidery at the center front edges, back vent, pocket flaps and sleeve cuffs. With matching covered buttons; modern machine-lace at cuffs. Lined with white silk twill.
Why is this important?
This coat, or habit, embodies aristocratic extravagance before the French Revolution. The habit was worn as part of the habit à la française, an early three-piece suit which also included a waistcoat (vest) and breeches. The embroidery is dense with large-scale flowers, scalloped ribbons, and tassels on a silk fabric woven with blue and black chevrons and stylized floral designs. This garment was produced by professionals: men wove the patterned silk fabric, women executed the à disposition embroidery, and a master tailor assembled the coat to fit. Coats such as this were cut to fit to the body closely, gradually curving backward from the mid-chest to the knee. It is thus maneuverable and emphasizes the smooth and flowing movements that French nobles considered pleasing and learned from dance instructors as children. Towards the end of the 18th century, a coat with this magnitude of decoration would only have been worn at exceptionally formal events.