Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Mr & Mrs Thomas Sandby. Watercolor by Paul Sandby. RCIN 917875, Royal Collection Trust.

Mr & Mrs Thomas Sandby. Watercolor by Paul Sandby. RCIN 917875, Royal Collection Trust.

On Saturday, Sew 18th Century and I went out for lunch and fabric shopping. Along the way, I brought up pinner aprons, and that I’d seen them in British prints. She said, “You should blog about that!” and I went back to check my sources. Fail! There was an English print after a French original, and that doesn’t count!

So I shelved that idea, and went about looking for more Paul Sandby images of soldiers and maids and tents, and found instead Mr and Mrs Thomas Sandby. Ahem. Pinner apron alert.

Fluke, right? Well, no, not exactly.

Lady Chambers and child. Watercolor by Paul Sandby, RCIN 914409. Royal Collection Trust.

Lady Chambers and child. Watercolor by Paul Sandby, RCIN 914409. Royal Collection Trust.

Because here is Lady Chambers and child, with Lady Chambers in a pinner apron.

The thing to note, though, is that “apron” here is a decorative, almost ceremonial garment made of black silk, while the maid engaged in Domestick Employment is wearing a working garment of [probably white] linen.

Domestick employment, washing. Mezzotint by Richard Houston after Phillipe Mercier, 1736-1775. British Museum 1876,0708.23

Domestick employment, washing. Mezzotint by Richard Houston after Phillipe Mercier, 1736-1775. British Museum 1876,0708.23

Well, can I wear a pinner apron as a Continental army laundress or not? Probably not, though I will be going back through all the images of laundering I can find. It would be so useful and protective a garment!

No, instead, it looks as if the black silk pinner apron was a fashion adopted by the British upper class probably in imitation of the aprons worn by young girls. These fleeting, black silk accessories were probably adapted to some other use when the fashion had fallen from favor. (You could make a lot of mitts out of one of those.) Sadly, I don’t care enough about the elite to go chasing inventories and more images, but someone else can. I think I have seen a few other examples of this style, but cannot immediately place them. My sense is that these are not common.

I’m much more interested in laundresses and maids. Doesn’t she look sassy? We could call her Bridget. 

A country girl, full-length, facing front, leaning against a fence & a tree. Watercolor by Paul Sandby. RCIN 914438. Royal Collection Trust

A country girl, full-length, facing front, leaning against a fence & a tree. Watercolor by Paul Sandby. RCIN 914438. Royal Collection Trust