Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stable Jacket or Underwaistcoat? A look at the levelling (or elevating) of outer and inner garments, Part I.

The jacket, worn by the lowest of the low:
Sailors and Stablehands, objects of scorn and derision. [1]
        The sleeved waistcoat seems to be the common answer for the living historian who doesn't have the time or inclination to make or purchase a coat.  I have always scornfully wondered at this, since I understood that the waistcoat was considered an under garment.  The jacket was certainly worn by the working classes and the lowest of the low.  Then comes the question, what is the difference between a sailor's or jockey's [stable] jacket and the sleeved waist coat.  Were they worn by the middling classes, country people, on the frontier?  Should it be worn with a short waist coat underneath?  What station would have worn these garments?

Detail from "The Soho Masquerade", c 1770. [2]

        In Wheatley's Cries of London, the sleeved waistcoat cum jacket is indeed worn as an outer garment...

Hot Spiced Gingerbread, Smoking Hot, Cries (After Wheatley) [3]

but also-a very peculiar fashion-as an under garment.  Or is it peculiar? 

Old Chairs To Mend, Cries No. 10 (After Wheatley) [4]
Notice the man, wearing a red waistcoat over a grey sleeved waistcoat and body shirt.

        Runaway advertisements from the later 18th century in Virginia support the use of the waiscoat as an undergarment, specifically referred to as an "under waistcoat", worn in addition to other articles of small clothes.

        "RUN away from the Subscriber, in Amelia County, near the old Courthouse, on the 18th of June last, a Negro Man named JOE, about five Feet five Inches high, and about thirty five Years of Age; he is a thin made Fellow, and has lost most of his Teeth. He had on when he ran away a spotted Ermine under Waistcoat, and a Negro Cotton One with a small Cape bound with red, also the Sleeves; he had on also a Shirt of Cotton and Tread, and a Pair of Rolls Trousers. I imagine he is now lurking about in the County of Westmoreland, as he was once the Property of Colonel John Lee, deceased, of that County. I will give FIVE POUNDS Reward to any Person that will bring me the said Runaway." [5]

        "COMMITTED to the Jail of this County, on Thursday the 3d Instant, a Negro Man about five Feet ten Inches high, of a slender Stature, a small Scar between his Eyes, and a Scar on his left Cheek, has on a blue Halfthick Waistcoat with Metal Buttons, a white under Waistcoat with the same Buttons, a Pair of Trousers, Shoes, Stockings, &c. He says his Name is JOE, and that he belongs to Peter Binford of Prince George. The Owner is desired to prove his Property add pay Charges." [6] 

Detail from "A Republican Attack", Gillray, 1795 [7]

    "COMMITTED to the gaol of Prince George two Negro men, one of whom calls himself DAVY; he appears to be about 25 years of age, is about 5 feet 7 inches and a half high, and had on a broadcloth coat, red waistcoat, duffil breeches, cotton gambadoes, shoes and stockings, and a hat. The other calls himself SAM; he appears to be about 20 years of age, is about 5 feet 3 inches and a half high, and has on an old blue Newmarket coat, cotton waistcoat and breeches, a red under waistcoat, shoes and stockings, and a striped Holland shirt. They say they belong to Griffin Stith, in Northampton. The owner is desired to take them away, and pay charges to HENRY BATTE." [8]

        "RUN away from the subscriber, living in Cumberland county, on Thursday the 9th of December last, an Irish servant man named NICHOLAS M'CARTNEY, about 27 years of age, about 5 feet 8 or 10 inches high, pretty much pitted with the smallpox, of a fair complexion, with short black hair, and is by trade a shoemaker; has on a short brown coloured duffil coat, lined with plaid, a Virginia cloth under waistcoat, cross barred with red worsted, and an old pair of leather breeches. I will give a reward of FIVE POUNDS to any person that will secure the said M'Cartney so that I get him again." [9] 

         "RUN away from the subscriber, living in Sussex county, about the 18th of February last, a likely negro fellow named JAMIE, of a very yellow complexion, about 5 feet 3 or 4 inches high, about 23 years old, has a remarkable long head, and his teeth very open before; had on when he went away, a blue fearnought upper jacket, and an under waistcoat of yarn Virginia cloth, a shirt of blue striped Virginia cloth, a pair of negro cotton breeches, gambadoes of the same, and an old hat. Whoever brings the said fellow to me shall receive a reward of 10 l." [10] 

Detail from "A pretty maid buys a love song", Walton, 1779. [11] 
 Notice the tapes in lieu of buttons to close the waistcoat.

      Yet the wearing of the sleeved waiscoat was not restricted to servants and under classes, suggesting-surprise-cold did not discriminate between classes.   For example, Thomas Jefferson layering his clothes for warmth, and his (the only extant garment I can find) "under-waistcoat".

Jefferson Under-Waistcoat[13]

        "His dress when in the house, is a grey surtout coat, kerseymere stuff waistcoat, with an under one faced with some material of a dingy red. His Pantaloons are very long, loose, & of the same colour as his coat. His stockings are woollen, either white or grey, & his shoes of the kind that bear his name. His whole dress is neglected but not slovenly. He wears a common round hat. He wears on horseback a grey strait bodiced coat, & a spencer of the same material, both fastened with large pearl buttons. When we first saw him he was riding, & in addition to the above, wore round his throat a knit white woolen tipet, in the place of a cravat, & black velvet gaiters under his Pantaloons."  [12]

The white lining of the the garment is pulled back to reveal
Jefferson's initials on the "stocking lining". [15]
       According to Taylor's research at Monticello, Jefferson's under-waiscoat was an alteration from a longer waiscoat, previously having a vented back (1770's?).  Lined with what appears to be worsted and what is certainly, old pairs of woolen socks pieced together.  It is Jefferson's initials on one of the socks, along with the above quote from Daniel Webster, that confirms the provenance of this undergarment. [14]

       I had produced sleeved waiscoats before, but always as a working class outergarment.  The Wheatley prints, as well as the Jefferson underwaistcoat, demonstrate that it could be worn under the waistcoat, even perhaps beneath the body shirt?

       In any event, I endeavored to make a reproduction of the the Sage of Monticello's underwaistcoat against the cold Virginia winters (the hunting shirt just doesn't cut it).   Finished it last night, albeit with a few I'll have more on the process, once I get the photos downloaded.


             "A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not; but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth." 
                                -Proverbs 14:6

[1] Artist unknown, "Jack Junk leaving on a Cruize" Sidebotham, London, 1807. Retrived from, 13 Feb 13.
[2] Unknown Artist, "The Soho masquerade conference between the premier and his journeyman", London, 1770, retrieved from, 13 Feb 13.

[3] Giovanni Ventramini after Wheatley, Francis R. A. Hot Spice Gingerbread, Smoking Hot, Cries of London, 1785, 1796, National Gallery of Art, retrieved from, 18 Jan 13.

[4] Giovanni Ventramini after Wheatley, Francis R. A., Old Chairs to Mend, Cries of London Number 10, 1785, 1795, National Gallery of Art, retrieved from,  18 Jan 13.

[5] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, 20 August 1772.  retrieved from
[6] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, 24 March 1774.

[7] Gillray, James. "The Republican Attack"  H. Bland, London, 1795., retrieved from, 13 Feb 13.
[8] Virginia Gazette, Rind, 13 January, 1774.
[9] Virginia Gazette, Rind, 17 February, 1774.
[10] Virginia Gazette, Pinckney, 12 Jan, 1775.

[11] Walton, Henry. "A pretty maid buys a love song", Carrington Bowles, London, 1779. Retrieved from, 13 Feb 13.
[12] Daniel Webster, retrieved from, 17 Jan 13.
[13] Webarticle based upon is based on Carrie Taylor, Monticello Research Report, 2002., retrieved from, 17 Jan13.
[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

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