The John Bright Collection owns a number of fine examples of men’s waistcoats dating from the 1830s to the 1850s. During this period waistcoats provided decorative elements to masculine attire that had become increasingly subdued, employing a great variety of colours, fabrics and decoration.
Like many of the mid 19th Century waistcoats in our collection, this example relates to contemporary women’s dresses, with its bunches of non-naturalistically coloured flowers printed on to a cream ground, and its shallow point at the centre front waistline. Great care has been taken in its construction to match up the pattern of the pocket welts and the covered buttons with that of the body of the garment, although once the buttons are fastened the continuity is not so effective. The shawl collar sits very high at the back to cover the bulky neckcloth that was wound around the shirt collar and tied, sometimes ostentatiously, in a knot or bow at the front. The back is adjusted with a lace threaded through three pairs of handworked eyelets on broad tabs; this method was shortly to be replaced by straps and metal buckles in many waistcoats.