Wednesday, February 26, 2014

History's Runway: The Monkey Waistcoat, 1780-9

The Victoria & Albert Museum

I wish I had an image of the entire garment, but this detail from the V&A is intriguing enough as it gives a glance at two playful monkeys gathering fruit from a palm tree. This whimsical scene is embroidered in colored silks beneath the pocket of this 1780s waistcoat of ivory ribbed silk.

The original design for this image, known as “Les Macaques,” can be found in a pattern book of embroidery designs for waistcoats in the Musée Historique des Tissus, in Lyon, France. The book’s many patterns are executed in watercolors. Further adornment on the waistcoat comes from a design of palm fronds, sprays of grass and floral sprigs.

Other embroidery patterns from this book are tigers, dogs and scenes from the opera, as well as lions, air balloons, architectural ruins and pastoral scenes.

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