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.
This waistcoat is one of many similar surviving examples made of silk woven to shape in a single colour with a design of meandering flowers and foliage curving around each side of the front, with related bands on the shawl collar and pocket welts, and small motifs on the covered buttons. The colour combination of blue and cream was popular, blue on cream as here, or in reverse as cream on blue. Both the colouring and design of these floral silks reflect those of contemporary women’s wear, as seen on dress flounces, shawls and other lightweight outerwear.
The waistcoat is lined and backed in cotton twill, and has leather facings at the base of each front, characteristic of the second half of the 1840s and first half of the 1850s. The fit of the back is controlled by tabs with a single tape tie, a method that was becoming outdated as buckled tabs were introduced.