Spencers were clearly the rage for well over a decade, turning up in satirical prints from at least 1796 (We’ll get to that satire soon). I was wrong when I questioned the Maine catalog record that called a man’s short coat a Spencer: there were Spencers for men.
Here, everyone is wearing a Spencer down to the monkey and the dogs. What I find particularly interesting is that the short Spencer jacket is worn over the men’s coats– this is an entirely new concept to me. Yet, here it is again, in the “Pupils of Nature” print.
Were Spencers were the 18th and early 19th century equivalent of Members Only or Barracuta jackets? (You will know a red Barracuta–even if you think you don’t.) Perhaps. They do seem to be a splashy unisex fad in the late 1790s that gives way to women’s wear, but that’s a thesis in need of more research than Frivolous Friday demands or permits.