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Costumes - Coats, Buttons, Shoes And Gloves

( Originally Published 1902 )



HAVING spoken of fashions and of the tailors who made every effort to secure them promptly, a few specific examples of what some individuals actually owned will prove of interest. We can hardly wonder that the owner of the coat described below as lost in 1746 was anxious to recover it :

" Last night was taken out of a house in this city, supposed by a Mistake, a blue Broadcloth coat, with light blue silk frogs on it, with a double cape and silver Hooks and Eyes, the Binding on the right side is much wore." Ten shillings is offered and no questions asked.

In 1760 and 1763, we find two other announcements of stolen clothes that are descriptive of the articles. The first reads :

"Stolen from Jonathan Grimes of Second River in New Jersey, supposed by an Irishman named John Smith, a few days ago the following articles, viz. A light coloured Broad cloth coat with blue Lining, white buttons and button holes, two pair of Pumps, one pair of blue serge Breeches with white Lining, a white Shirt and a pair of large Brass Buckles." Z3 reward is offered for the thief.

The second plea is as follows :

"Lent to a gentleman some time ago, a blue cloth surtout coat with metal buttons. As the coat has not been returned, it is supposed the gentleman forgot where he had it. This is to desire the gentleman to send it to John Crawley's, at the New York Arms, whose property it is and it will be received with thanks."

The surtout, mentioned in the above advertisement, had been a very fashionable garment for some time. The hard-hearted Miss Modish, as we have seen, compelled her admirer to adopt one. The fashionable surtout that was worn in 1762-'3, had four flaps on each side called " dog's ears." The long cloak had not been abolished, however, even if the great-coat had won its way into popular favour. In 1760, the owner of one thus advertised its loss :

"Dropped from behind a Sleigh on 22 of December, between the hours of ten and eleven at Night from Windmill House to the Fly, a large Spanish Cloak of brown Camblet lined with green Bays, with a large Hood of the same almost ripped off, and ripped at the Seam on the right Shoulder. Whoever has found said Cloak, and will bring it to the Printer hereof, or to Mr. David Cox, Peruke-Maker, in Broad Street shall receive sixteen shillings reward."

In 1764, a gentleman lost "a brown camblet cloak lined with red baize " and in 1765, another gentleman, "a large Spanish brown Camblet cloak lined with Green Baize, with a large Cap to it," for which he offered four dollars reward.

The wardrobe of an ordinary New York gentleman about 1740 consisted of a suit of blue broadcloth trimmed with silver, a suit of black broadcloth, a suit of camlet trimmed with silver, a fustian coat and breeches, a green coat and breeches, a new broadcloth trimmed with gold, three pairs of silk stockings, five pairs of worsted stockings, a pair of silver shoe and stock-buckles, a pair of brass knee-buckles, and three wigs. This was not excessive. Handsomer costumes were sold at Moore and Lynsen's Vendue House in 1764, such as a suit of superfine white broadcloth trimmed with gold ; a scarlet vest laced with gold ; a suit of silk trimmed with silver ; and a suit of superfine blue "trimmed with gold vellum holes."

On page 195 is shown a fashionable costume of about 1760, worn by Richard Ray of New York. The coat and trousers are of bluish green, with gold buttons, the waistcoat is white satin trimmed with gold lace. The stock, neck-cloth and sleeve - ruffles are white. The portrait is owned by Miss Ellen King.

We may now turn to the unpublished inventory of the belongings of an officer in the Royal Americans,—Capt. T. Parker of the Fourth Battalion, who died in Martinique in 1762. He was the brother of Elisha Parker, mentioned on pages 302 and 303. This list includes : " 1 red surtout coat ; 4 cloath waistcoats ; 6 pair breeches ; 2 pair gloves ; I pair leggins ; 1 pair mackisins; 2 plain hats ; 1 blue surtout ; 1 muff; 1 pair silver shoe buckles ; 29 shirts ; 2 pairs linen drawers ; 18 nightcaps ; 4 handkerchiefs ; 6 white linen waistcoats ; 2 flannel waistcoats ; 5 pairs silk stockings ; 13 cotton stockings ; 13 worsted stockings ; 1/2 doz. waistcoat buttons ; 3 doz. white buttons ; 2 sword belt ; 1 pair leather gloves ; sash ; 1 gorget ; silver mounted sword ; clothes brush ; 2 shaving-boxes, and shaving-brush."

And now let us pause to examine some of the more expensive materials that were imported by and for the tailors, omitting all such goods as fustians, camlets, friezes, sateens, serges, etc. It will be noticed that the button was of great importance, as it formed a trimming for coat and waistcoat, especially during the reign of George III., who was himself so fond of making buttons that he was laughed at in a satire called The Button Maker's jest-Book. " Vellum-holes" were also used for decoration.

We find among the lists : New fashion buttons and mohair, 1732 ; silk camlets with silk and hair buttons to suit, striped linsey coats, Scotch plaid, snake-skin coatings, light and cloth-coloured sarsenet, silk and hair buttons, gilt buttons, 1743; worsted plad water'd grograms, scarf buttons, 1745 ; fine embroidered waistcoats, metal and gilt buttons, new fashioned coat and waistcoat buttons, fine silk and worsted patterns for waistcoats and breeches, silk and worsted waistcoats and breeches pieces, mens knit waistcoats, black and white stript lutestrings, and Turky Tabby buckrams, and breast and shirt metal buttons, 1750 ; black silk knit waistcoats and breeches, scarlet and black knit worsted waistcoats and breeches, Saxon green knit waistcoats, 1751 ; an assortment of yellow and white metal buttons, 1752 gold and silver wire and mohair buttons, and death's head black vest buttons, 1754 ; coloured thread, metal, worsted, and death's head buttons, nankeens and breeches patterns, damask of sundry sorts for vests, black, blue, white, scarlet and crimson silk and worsted breeches pat-terns, black, blue and cloth coloured best Manchester velvet, Manchester velvet shapes for vests, gilt and plated buttons, silk twist buttons, gold and silver lace, silk and hair grogram and corded tabby, blue and crimson Genoa velvet, and remnants of velvet of all colours for caps and collars of coats, 1760 ; gold and silver buttons, best London gilt and plate buttons ; three cord silk twist buttons, Prussian mold and basket buttons, 1760 ; crimson, scarlet and black silk breeches patterns, 1761 ; basket and plain gilt buttons, silk breeches patterns, 1762 ; plaited basket coat and vest buttons, 1764 ; blue and scarlet new-fashioned Bath coating, newest fashion gold, silver and metal, scarf, basket, death's head, mohair and other buttons fit for slop shops, horsehair buttons and other trimming for hatters, gold and silver shoulder knots, gold and silver shoulder straps, knee garters, blue, black, buff, crimson, scarlet and cloth coloured worsted breeches patterns, blue, black, buff, crimson, scarlet and cloth coloured silk breeches patterns, corded tabbies for men's vests, 1767; silk clouded vest patterns richly embroidered and spangled, gold spangled frogs for clothes, 1771 ; and royal ribbed and Macaroni velvet, feather velvet, figured Manchester velvet, 1775. In 1773, John Laboyteaux, tailor, promised " Any gentleman that chooses to have buttons made of the same cloth can have, them worked with purl and spangles with any sprig or flower that they choose, as neat as those made in London." A handsome white silk waistcoat embroidered in colours appears on page 189. It belonged to a Col. John Brown who died in 1781.

Steel buttons are shown on page 179. These be-longed to William Beekman and were the same that trim the waistcoat he wears in his portrait on page 183. It will be noticed that he carries his cocked hat under his arm in the fashionable style. The shoes of the men, generally speaking, were like the women's, with high heels, high vamp and buckles on the in-step. In 1753, the beau wore :

" A pair of smart pumps made up of grained leather,
So thin he can't venture to tread on a feather ;
His buckles like diamonds must glitter and shine—
Should they cost fifty pounds they would not be too fine."

All through our period, there were importations of fine stitched pumps, neat channelled boots and pumps, turned pumps ; and double and single channelled pumps, and in 1763, Alexander Montgomery, at the Fly Market, next door to Mr. Brovort's, opposite to Mrs. Rutgers, offered " a parcel of greased leather double and single channelled pumps, stitched high heeled shoes and pumps of the very best sort, from fourteen shillings to sixteen shillings per pair."

The buckle was the important ornament of the shoe : these were of diamonds, paste, gold, silver, open-worked polished steel, pinchbeck, or black. The high top-boot with its upper part of light leather, was worn by huntsmen, and the dashing bucks and dandies of the day often appeared in them. Of course, spurs were fixed to them. These boots were worn by the officers, for, like the Kevenhuller cocked hat, they were distinctly military. There were numerous shoemakers in New York, but probably not very many who had the courage to expose their patrons, as one of them does in 1749:

" This is to give notice to the person who calls himself a gentleman of the city of New York, and who was pleased to send me so many messages concerning the making of his extraordinary shoes, that they are now done and finished, there-fore pray him to come (tho' not without money) and fetch them, for as I have known him a bad paymaster some years, do not care now leather is dear, to let them go without, and as they are made the one larger than the other, on account of his sore foot, beg that he would not let them lie on my hands, lest I expose him more publicly."

Stockings were invariably of silk with clocks, and until the last years of George II. were rolled beneath the knee and kept in place by the garter and knee-buckles, which were similar to the shoe-buckles, but larger. Knee-garters were of silk. Cloth-coloured knee-garters appeared in 1760, and we even find among the goods that Mr. Stuyvesant advertised for sale in 1764 " ladies' and gentlemen's silk garters with mottoes." Large bunches of ribbons, or strings, decorated the knees of the Macaroni.

The shirt was always of fine linen, 0r cambric, and was frequently trimmed with a frill when a small cravat was worn. During some seasons the black solitaire that was fastened to the bag-wig was preferred ; at others, a stock and stock-buckle ; and, finally, in the Macaroni period, the style was to wrap oneself in a large neckerchief, which was tied in a bow under the chin. Specimen stock, knee and shoe-buckles appear on page 191 ; and a pair of paste knee buckles on page 179.

Ruffles always framed the wrists and these were often of rich lace. " Gentlemen's ruffles of blond lace" were sold by Nicholas Stuyvesant in 1764.

There were many varieties of handkerchiefs, such made of various kinds buckles, watches with a bunch of seals (the Macaroni wore two watches) and rings. The men, of course, wore swords, and carried canes and walking-sticks and often umbrellas. The canes and walking-sticks were gold, silver, or ivory-headed, and in 1745 sometimes had small compasses fixed upon them. An ivory headed walking-stick that belonged to William Beekman appears on page 179, and other examples, with a sword, on page 263. " Umbrelloes of all sorts" were imported in 1761 by John Hammersly and Company, near the Coenties Market, and in 1764 silk umbrellas were advertised.

The pocket-book was of red Morocco with silver clasps, such as the one lost at the Play House in 1761, or of shagreen with silver or pinchbeck clasps. Frequently in the pocket an essence-bottle was carried, and, of course, the snuff-box. The latter was of every variety : gold or silver, plain, chased or jewelled, set with precious or semi-precious stones, or paste, of tortoiseshell, of china painted and enamelled, and of French paper. A very handsome one was described on Dec. 5, 1748, as " a silver snuff box of an oval figure ; the lid, mother-of-pearl, with a shell carved upon it." A collection of tortoiseshell-boxes appears on page 376.

Although the period under review was essentially one of splendid attire and ceremonial robes, yet in New York, a democratic tendency towards a neglect of form was sometimes observable. As early as 1747, a writer who calls himself Thomas Trim speaks of the great uneasiness he feels when he observes the con-tempt with which the people sometimes treat their elective magistrates. The fault he said lay entirely with the latter, because they did not maintain the dignity of their office, but consorted with the lowest of the people. Another cause that contributed to the contempt of Corporation Magistrates was the robes they wore in the distribution of justice. Thomas Trim went on to say :

" To see an alderman sit or stand in the seat of Justice, and award the payment of 5S 6d to a person of his Ward that comes to him for relief, in the pompous robe of a greasy woollen cap and a tettered Banjam jacket, must certainly command the greatest respect, both to their knowledge and good manners. Yet I have seen one of these robed magistrates vouch-safe to powder his wig and put it on, without quitting his Ban-jam, to sup with one of the Ward upon the profits of his daily labour, provided the feast was graced with some good oysters, a pipe of tobacco and a mug of strong beer. I am not for becoming a slave to the fashion, or making dress the whole business of my life ; though at the same time, I think every person that appears in public, clothed in authority, should be decent and clean. The people in general love show, and always pay a greater regard to a magistrate in his proper robes than when he thinks proper to appear in the dress of a smith, mason, or carpenter. I will venture to affirm, no magistrate ever lost a vote by putting on a clean shirt when he was dirty, or clothing the seat of his brain with a powdered wig instead of a dirty cap, or even by keeping of good Company."



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