Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 2023

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum received the Elizabeth Hammond Grant in 2023 for the conservation of a man’s eighteenth-century suit.

The suit consists of a jacket and breeches constructed from a buff-coloured self-patterned complex weave silk with foliate and floral repeat pattern. The suit is typical of the 1740’s, collarless and with a full pleated skirt, wide and deep cuffs, and decorative pocket flaps. Death’s head buttons constructed from thread wrapped wooden cores are attached centre front, at the top of the cuffs and under the pocket flaps. Corresponding buttonholes decorate these areas with only five cut to button the jacket up at the neck and waist.

Internal padding in the underarms, bodice sides and pleats consisting of a loose weave wool which provides structure and shape, whilst the centre fronts have extra interlining of a coarse bast fibre plain weave. The whole is lined with a twill weave silk through the body whilst the sleeves are lined with a bast fibre plain weave fabric.

The breeches are of a similar construction but have large internal chamois pockets. They are unlined. The centre front flap is lined with a wool serge (twill weave).

At some point in the suit’s life, it has been altered to lengthen the sleeves by 7.5cm with the addition of a tan coloured cotton sateen. Likewise, the breeches have been heavily altered with the addition of an extended waistband and gore in the centre back with the same tan coloured cotton sateen. Metal buttons close the waistband here. There are also alterations at the knee closure.

Before conservation commenced, there was major structural damage to both the jacket and breeches consisting of extensive shredding, splitting and complete loss particularly at the front neckline, armpits (associated with perspiration staining) and the sides of the breeches possibly through wear. There was also some minor structural damage. 

Conservation is now complete, and the suit is in the initial stages of being mounted for display.

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