Wednesday, August 17, 2016

An Exceptional Embroidered Silk Waistcoat Worn by Lt. Gov. William Tailer, 1720s-1730s

Lieutenant Governor William Tailer’s Embroidered Silk Waistcoat (by 1730)

As part of my research fellowship at the Massachussetts Historical Society, I spent time examining two waistcoats in the collection – one owned by Andrew Oliver and the other by William Tailer. Lt. Gov. 
William Tailer's stunning embroidered waistcoat with metallic thread and spangles, c. 1720-1730, is housed in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  Born into the wealthy Stoughton family, he served as Lt. Gov. of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Tailer died in 1731/32. He was the father of Rebecca Tailer (Byles) whose 1747 wedding dress is also preserved at the MHS, along with family papers, letters and copy books, adding to the rich documentation available for this merchant elite Boston-based family.

The embroidery is on a heavy white/off white silk and is complex, with naturalistic rococo floral motifs, including some lovely shading of the leaves and flowers. Most likely from England or from France, inspection reveals the garment was altered - let-out- in the sides and along the neck/shoulders to accommodate Tailer’s increasing girth. The alterations were skillfully done and would not have been visible under his coat. 

The waistcoat features actual pockets (rather than ornamental pocket flaps). The buttons are backed by gold foil and feature metallic thread over a wood core. The buttonholes are meticulously finished, also with gold thread.
The waistcoat is in fine condition and I will share more as my research progresses.

Thank you to Curator Anne Bentley for her assistance and for sharing her knowledge.

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