Picture of the Month



Man's linen suit, mid 18th century

The suit is exhibited at the costume museum of Ludwigsburg, Germany. The tin buttons have been added by the museum people. Unfortunately, nothing is known about this suit except that it may be from Italy. It's the only extant linen suit I've ever heard of. Most 18th century men's suits are either made of wool or silk.

There are a number of features that suggest that this is a lowerclass garment, viz.: It's made of linen, which was relatively cheap at the time, and a coarse one at that. The dye is uneven and looks as if it had partially bled out or rubbed off as if the dye either was not very fast (i.e. cheap), or the suit had been used and/or washed frequently. Neither blue not the beige of the collar and cuffs were hard to dye, therefore affordable. The overall makeup -is also quite coarse, the stitches being much more visible than usual. Since the sleeves sit high up on the shoulders, the sleeve heads are large and the upper parts of the sleeves, therefore, rather wide, thus giving the arms room for movement.

And lastly, there are the "buttonholes". It was customary on upperclass suits to embroider wide bands of silk or metal thread around the buttonholes, extending the embroidery way beyond the buttonhole itself so that it emphasised the buttonholes, some of which weren't even functional. In this case, the embroidery has been emulated by sewing on leather strips above each buttonhole. Again, the stitches are quite large as if made by someone who wasn't very skilled, and with quite thick linen thread.

This suit has "lower class" written all over it. This, and the fact that it's made of linen, make it one of a kind. The beautiful, embroidered silk suits were much more likely to survive until today because they were treated with care from day one, while lowerclass garments usually were worn to tatters and then used as rags.

Pictures of the month archive

If you want to find older Pictures of the Month, use one of the above links to jump to a previous edition, and from there to yet older ones etc.

  [an error occurred while processing this directive]