Thursday, 22 February 2018

Gown, cap and slipper sets

What does the early seventeenth century gentleman wear for lounging around the house? Possibly a [night]gown, [night]cap and slipper set, perhaps with a waistcoat. We do have a very few survivals of, and references to, these sets.
Charles, Prince of Wales nightcap. Burrell Collection

A gown, cap and slipper set thought to have belonged to Francis Verney (1584 –1615), the black sheep of the Verney family, is at the family home Claydon House, which is now in the ownership of the National Trust. Unfortunately the items are not on display and there are no photographs of the outfit on the National Trust website. The record on the website says: “A purple silk damask man's robe, cap and slippers. The robe is lined with slate blue silk shag which is a fabric with a long pile simulating fur. The robe is decorated with gold and silver braid and has matching buttons. It was reputed to have belonged to Sir Francis Verney and to have been sent back to Claydon from Messina in Sicily where he died. Sir Francis left England and his family in 1608 and became a pirate on the Barbary coast of North Africa.” Janet Arnold took a pattern of the gown in her Patterns of Fashion, vol 3. (Arnold, 1985) All the photographs of the gown in that book are black and white. There is a colour photograph of the gown here, and in 17th century men’s dress patterns. (Braun, et al., 2016) Also a colour close up of the gown appears in The Art of Dress (Ashelford, 1996 p. 64), this shows the gown as a much more vibrant colour than the full length photo available online and you can see the damask patterning.

Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset has a similar set in his 1617 inventory. The gown is described thus: “one faire tufftaffetie gowne of tawney laced with two faire gold laces about two downe the back and twoe down the sleeves, with faire buttons and loopes made of the same lace, lyned with a tawney unshorne velvet.” The matching slippers and cap appear in the inventory as “one paire of slippers of tawney tufftaffetie laced with six gold laces of a slipper” and “one capp of tufftaffetie laced with gold lace suteable to the gowne”  (MacTaggart, 1980)

In 1634 King Charles I purchased a nightgown “of skiecullor brocated sattin lined with rich aurora cullor plush and a waistcoat to the same of aurora cullor sattine, trimmed with a gold and silver frenchwork open compass lace and buttons.” He also purchases a chamber gown; “ of crimson wrought velvet with two broad laces, and short sleeves laced all over, the lace being six times sewd on verie thicke with bigg buttons and large loopes on all the santes, and all the sleeves lined with plush.” (Strong, 1980)

The online image of the Verney slipper is taken from above which gives it a rather strange aspect. Similar “slippers” do survive. In the V&A museum we have a heeled pair from the 1650s of red velvet with silver gilt embroidery. Another pair with silver gilt embroidery, this time on salmon pink satin, and also dating from the 1650s is in the Museum of London. This slipper in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, has a slight wedge heel and is earlier, from the first quarter of the 17th century. Another slipper, which was found in Scotland, has been dated to 1640-1660. King Charles in one year spends £28 19s 2¾d on slippers.

On a further occasion King Charles I purchases a waistcoat that is the same sky blue colour as his gown. The waistcoat is; “of skiecullor sattin, lined with sarcenet and ratine” and comes with “a nightcapp laced with gould and silver lace all in rich workes lined with taffaty.” The waistcoat and nightcap together cost him £11 16s 3d. Sky blue seems to be his colour for this type of garment as the following year he purchases, “a skie cullor sattin wastcoate with one gold and silver lace in a seame lined with plush, with a nightcap suitable wrought all over in rich workes with gold and silver lace.” (Strong, 1980)

The matching slippers, Burrell Collection

A waistcoat, nightcap and slippers set, reputedly belonging to Charles II when he was Prince of Wales is in the Burrell collection in Glasgow, and I have already blogged about them. The nightcap and matching slippers are shown here.


Arnold, J. 1985. Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620. London : Macmillan, 1985.
Ashelford, Jane. 1996. The art of dress. London : National Trust Books, 1996.
Braun, M, et al. 2016. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
MacTaggart, P and A. 1980. The rich wearing apparel of Richard, 3rd Earl of Dorset. Costume. 1980, Vol. 14.
Strong, R. 1980. Charles I's clothes for the years 1633 to 1635. Costume. 1980, Vol. 14.