Sunday 10 January 2021

Quilted clothing in the Stuart period


Origins of quilted clothing

Figure 1. Nightcap c.1710 Glasgow Museums
In her work on quilting Averil Colby says, “to reverse tradition and trace back a custom to its beginning is much more easily said than done.” (1) There are a few early survivals of quilted fabrics from the archaeological record, and a few medieval survivals such as the Tristan quilt, but for clothing before the seventeenth century you have only military items like the jack of plates or the gambeson, and the linings of helmets.  In the 1579 poem The faerie queen, Giant Monstrous wore “a jacket quilted richly rare,” and the Royal Armouries has a surviving jack of plates dating to around 1560. A few helmet linings survive, again in the Royal Armouries is a 1590s close helmet with a lining of two layers of canvas stuffed with cotton, and quilted in small squares. Below examples of civilian quilted clothing from the Stuart period are examined.

Caps and informal nightcaps for men

These may have started out as successors to the helmet lining. As early as 1541 Elyot speaking of what he would wear on his head to bed, comments “I did throwe away my quilted cappe, and my other close bonettes, and onlye did lye in a thinne coyfe.” (2) There are few later references, until quilted caps appear again in the middle of the seventeenth century. Between 1652 and 1676 James Master purchased several, usually buying two at a time, in 1660 “for 2 quilted caps and 2 holland ones 3s 6d” (3). A quilted white satin cap of about this date survives in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The rise of the quilted cap in the second half of the seventeenth century may well be linked to the rise in the use of the periwig, James Master was an early adopter, men wore the quilted cap indoors when not wearing a wig. At his death in 1698 Montague Drake owned “nine periwigs” and “four quilted night capps” (4) There are several survivals of this type of cap, the one shown in figure 1 is in the Glasgow Museums collections and is a cream plain weave linen in wadded and corded quilting in black silk thread worked in back stitch in a pattern of stylised flowers, leaves and parallel bands. The National Trust has some plain quilted linen examples, including one dated to 1680-1700.

Fig 2. 1640s. Burrell Collection

Waistcoats for Men

In 1618  a “carnacon taffata quilted wastcote worth twenty shillings” was stolen from Charles Chibborne  Serjeant at-Law.  (5)  Very few of these quilted waistcoats survive, there is one in the Burrell Collection that is associated with Charles II when he was Prince of Wales, the waistcoat is a vibrant pink/red silk satin with an interlining of wool and linen, and was lined with a tabby weave pink/red silk, of which little remains except around the buttonholes. It is edged, and the seams are covered, with a narrow silk braid. There are 25 buttons down the front, which are somewhat flat, and are covered with the same silk braid. It is quilted with zig zag lines worked in running stitch. (figure 2)

Waistcoats for Women

Figure 3. Fashion Museum Bath
Quilted waistcoats for women existed, in 1635 Lucy Gobert, a widow left “one quilted taffetie wascoate £3” (6) Several survive from the later part of the seventeenth century both with and without sleeves, there are examples of these in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in The Fashion Museum Bath (figure 3).


Mary Evelyn in Mundus Muliebris 1690 talks of “Short under petticoats pure fine…another quilted white and red;: with a broad Flanders lace below.” (7) A surviving quilted petticoat of this date survives, but in miniature, it belongs to the doll known as Lady Clapham, and is of white linen with corded quilting in running stitch with an all over floral pattern. It has two side pockets, and is gathered at the waist with a centre back tape tie.

Man’s doublet and breeches

Probably the best known quilted doublet and breeches are the 1630s suit in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A believe that this might have been made from a bed cover, because there are seams that do not follow the construction of the doublet and the directions of the quilted pattern vary.  A detail of the quilting is shown in figure 4.

Figure 4. Detail. V&A Museum


1. Colby, Averil. Quilting. 2nd. London : Batsford, 1983.

2. Elyot, Thomas. The Castel of Helth, Book 4. London : s.n., 1541.

3. Robertson, S. The expense Book of James Master 1646-1676 [Part 3, 1658-1663], transcribed by Mrs Dallison. Archaeologia Cantiana. 1887, Vol. 17, 321-352.

4. Reed, M. Buckinghamshire probate inventories 1661-1714. Buckinghamshire Record Society. 1988, Vol. 24, 258-9.

5. Middlesex Sessions Rolls: 1618. In: Middlesex County Records: Volume 2, 1603-25. Originally published London: . [Online] Middlesex County Record Society, 1887.

6. Earwaker, J.P. Lancashire and Cheshire wills and inventories 1572-1696. Manchester : Chetham Society, 1893.

7. Evelyn, John. Mundus muliebris: or, the Ladies dressing-room unlock'd, and her toilette spread. In burlesque. Together with the Fop-Dictionary, compiled for the use of the fair sex. London : Printed for R. Bentley, 1690.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.