Historical Fashion – The Spencer Jacket

The Spencer jacket dates from around 1790, the definition is a tailcoat with the tails removed, originally made for men it was short waist length coat. The tails of the frockcoat were retained and up cycled to a larger collar and sleeve cuffs. The name came from George Spencer, 2nd Earl of Spencer who was a very distant relative of Diana Princess of Wales. It was reported that he made it famous after his tails from a frock coat were burnt by coals from a fire. 

Although it was started by men, women took it to another level. The coat was shorted even more to the underbust or the empire line as a short fitted jacket. Often refered to as a ‘bosom friend’. 

There were many additions to the women’s spencer jacket, with elaborate cuffs, Brandenburg piping, closing and epaulettes echoing the mens military jacket.

The practical side of the jacket was to add warmth to women’s wear – the muslin dresses which were popular at the time must have been cold at times other than summer. They were also used for indoorwear and evening dress.

The popuar choice for dresses was white and a coloured spencer jacket was one way of injecting colour to an outfit. 

The spencer jacket fell out of fashion as the waistline fell in 1820.

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