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Rare 1795-1805 embroidered sleeve 'Habit' Or is it?

Rare 1795-1805 embroidered sleeve 'Habit' Or is it?

The Mary Ireland collection - see Blog.

This is amazing! I have never found one before and am unlikely to see one again. And I am not at all sure what to call it! Mary Ireland has written full notes about it and calls it a 'Habit'. But Habit Shirts were garments that provided detail around the neck, and were usually known for riding attire.

I have searched and searched, and still cannot find a name for it, so I will not argue with Mary. But it is actually a set of decorative sleeves for wearing with a sleeveless dress - what I would call a 'pinafore dress'.

The best image I can find dates to 1801 and comes from James Laver 'Costume Illustration: The Nineteenth Century' Victoria & Albert Museum 1947. See image. He calls the dress 'of the simple nightgown form'. The image shows the dress being very simple, with seams at the shoulders, and sleeves of a completely different design, presumably embroidered in drawnthread work.

Ladies did wear sleeveless gowns during the dates here, but they are difficult to find. This garment, part undergarment, with sleeves to be on show, was made exactly for such a purpose.

The main 'body', which barely covers the breast and is very wide necked, is made of cotton, beautifully finished inside as you would expect. The back is so narrow it could be for a child, but the underarm sleeve measurement is 25 inches! So, so long compared to the average ladies underarm measurement of 18".  Just amazing.

The embroidery to the sleeves is absolutely late 18th Century. The little motifs, each with infils, are so 18th Century they make me smile out loud!!!

The front sections, when laid flat, seem to cross over each other but this is so narrow I wonder if they really do on the young lady of appropraite size. The centre fronts would be pinned and completely hidden by the overdress. Only the sleeves would be on view.

I absolutely love it! Not a tucker. Not really a chemisette. If any of you know the correct name I would be thrilled to know.


    Fabulous condition. Gloriously milky white. A few very mild age stains of no consequence [ the most noticeable being to the centre front tabs where it would have been pinned.] No damage at all!

    Other measurements to this tiny item - Shoulder 1", Underbust 25". Oh my!

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