Tuesday, July 30, 2013


In trying to achieve a lower-class look appropriate for our station with the Continental Army, I've found that resources for info on children's clothing are few and far between. I have Anne Buck's Clothes and the Child, which is a wonderful resource, but it covers a bit too much ground to be specific enough. Period images of lower-class children seem few and far between until the later 1780s, so many of my sources are a bit late for my purposes. However, I've decided that a pincloth is a necessity with a messy toddler.

What is a pincloth? I'd like to tell you definitively, but I can only say, "I'm not sure." There are 9 pre-1785 references in the Old Bailey records, with the first appearing in 1754. Unfortunately, they don't give any description of what the pincloths looked like other than to describe the fabric. Kannik's Korner sells a pincloth pattern (scroll down) that is based off of the 1789 "Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor." I've searched and searched for images dated during or just before the Revolutionary War, but they are like hen's teeth.  Paul Sandby drew a couple that I found from 1759, but their sketchiness makes it hard to tell just what the garment looked like.

Detail - "London Cries - Fishmonger" by Paul Sandby, 1759, Yale Center for British Art

On the right side, the striped fabric seems to go under the armpit, but on the left side, that errant(?) blue stripe makes it look like a constructed garment with arm holes.

Detail - Woman and Child Holding a Doll, Paul Sandby, ca.1759 Yale Center for British Art

Either the pincloth above has short sleeves, or the gown has cuffs and the pincloth is inscrutable. I say this is a pincloth because of the drape around the waist - it doesn't look like an apron.

For sheer volume of depictions, George Morland wins hands-down. He painted children in varying types of protective garments over and over. I don't know if it's because he had a closet of "costumes" for his subjects, much like Jean-Baptiste Greuze used the same shoes time and again, or if pincloths were that common. I lean toward common because they're so useful and practical, but they could have been viewed as "rural" or "English" or some other symbolism. Morland's paintings fall a little late for my purposes, but if you want to assume (could be dangerous, I know) that this basic garment didn't change much over the years, then there are at least three types that could have been labeled "pincloth."

First, a square of cloth or handkerchief:

Clockwise from top left, all details from Geo. Morland, late 18th C.
The Deserter Pardoned, Holburne Museum, Bath
Miseries of Idleness, National Galleries of Scotland
The Fair Penitent, Sterlingtimes.org
Blind Man's Bluff, Detroit Museum

Second, a simple garment with slits or holes cut for the arms, per the "Instructions for Cutting Apparel for the Poor":

Clockwise from top left, all details from Geo. Morland, late 18th C.
Youth Diverting Age, Sterlingtimes.org
Blind Man's Bluff, Detroit Museum
Selling Peas, British Museum
The Industrious Cottager, British Museum
Selling Guinea Pigs, Yale Center for British Art
Children Gathering Blackberries, Sterlingtimes.org

The third type has sleeves of varying lengths, perhaps a t-garment cut like a shortgown:

L to R, all details from Geo. Morland, late 18th C.
Power of Justice, British Museum
Last two - Childish Amusement, British Museum

To prove that pincloths weren't a figment of George Morland's imagination, here are a few other rare glimpses of the garment from even later sources:

Detail - engraving from 1795 after Henry Singleton, Lewis Walpole Library

The one above seems to have a draw-string neckline.

Detail - 1803 Print after Wm. Redmore Bigg, UK Gov't Art Collection

This one looks like a handkerchief pinned on diagonally.

Detail - Setting Off for Market by Edward Bird, 1808, Wolverhampton Art Gallery

This shows both the constructed, no-sleeves type and the pinned-on handkerchief.

Detail - Distaining for Rent by Sir David Wilkie, 1815, Nat'l Galleries of Scotland

This little boy appears to be wearing a long-sleeved garment.

For lack of other terms, I'm calling anything that's not constructed like an apron a "pincloth." I have no idea whether all of these things would have been called a pincloth in the 18th Century, but the first type most fits the term while the second type is actually named in "Instructions for Cutting Apparel for the Poor," and the third seems to be just an improvement on the second. If anyone out there can shed any light on this subject, I'd be glad to hear from you!

No comments:

Post a Comment