The John Bright Collection owns a number of examples of men’s waistcoats dating from the 1830s to the 1850s. During this period a great variety of fabrics, colours and ornamentation was employed to provide decorative elements to men’s outfits that had become increasingly subdued in appearance.
The fronts of this example are worked entirely in Berlin woolwork, a form of embroidery in worsted wool thread on a canvas ground that was a popular and socially acceptable middle class hobby. Charts of designs were available to buy and were published in women’s magazines, enabling waistcoat fronts and collars to be embroidered to shape at home. Other woolwork projects for men’s clothes and accessories included house slippers and braces (see Related Items). This design is based upon the Fraser of Lovat tartan, tartan at this period being extremely fashionable for both clothing and furnishings. The waistcoat has bound edges and removable buttons, and is lined and backed in cotton twill.