Male visitors to occasions at European royal courts, such as royal birthday balls, were required to wear spectacular, ornately decorated court suits. The style of these continued a long-established tradition and were conservative in cut, as this example shows, retaining curved fronts and deeply pleated back-skirts of suits from previous decades. The high collar of the coat and waistcoat however reflects the changes in fashionable dress of the 1780s and 90s. The suit needed to be worn with a shirt with lace ruffles at the neck and sleeves. Meanwhile, everyday dress for men was much more practical, and consisted of plain wool frock coats, breeches and boots, rather than shoes with silver or jewelled buckles.

Many court suits were embroidered with coloured silk thread in floral patterns. The best embroidery was carried out in professional workshops in Lyon, the centre of the French luxury textile industry. The embroidery on the coat of this court suit is extensive, even edging some of the back pleats, where it would barely be visible. The technical quality of the work is exquisite and is particularly seen in the shading of the flower petals and leaves. The larger flower heads are filled with stitches creating a square mesh imitating the delicate laces and nets used to trim fashionable women's dress.


  • Title: Formal ensemble
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1790/1800
  • Location: France
  • Provenance: Given by R. Brooman White, Esq.
  • Medium: Spotted twill silk, embroidered with silk thread, lined and backed with silk and cotton, hand-sewn.

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