Let’s take a moment to talk about linings. Specifically, sleeve linings.
How much can really be said about an unassuming piece of cloth, sewn and hidden inside the dark interior of a coat? Most of the time, very little. Many of the coats that I have had the pleasure of examining, both in and outside of this collection, are outfitted with nothing more than a simple cream or off-white cotton. Occasionally this plain or twilled fabric will feature a glazed finish, adding a hint of luster to that which is typically lack-luster. That being said, the “nothing to write home about” cotton lining is not a hard and fast rule with coats from the period.
A new coat has recently found its way into the collection. An amazing 1860's, ready-made, wool satinet frock coat. A single-breasted wool coat. A shining example of a rare garment, likely purchased off-the-rack by a working-class gentleman. Despite its relative plainness, the coat features a strikingly beautiful printed calico cotton sleeve lining. Rich purples and deep blacks, stripes made of geometric shapes and floral motifs. It was this beautiful and elaborate print that drove me back into collections and straight to the coats. How many of ours feature decorative sleeve linings? How many are adorned with silk? Did any of the other coats have calico prints? What about woven patterns or designs?
What I found came as somewhat of a shock to me. Of our nearly 40 woolen coats, over 40% feature sleeve linings that stray away from the assumed conventions of plain white cotton. Within this sample I found an array of colors and patterns: deep crimson red silk, soft lavender prints, and a surprising number of blue stripes. I set about cataloging and taking note of these unique little elements that often go overlooked. In keeping with the institutional objectives of The Merchant Tailor Museum; as important as it is for me to explore these details, it is equally important that we share them with you.
The photos below showcase the array of decorative sleeve linings within The Merchant Tailor Museum’s holdings, and I hope that you enjoy this hodge-podge of period pizzazz as much as I have