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Costume: The working clothes worn by men changed in appearance between the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Farm labourer with pitchfork wearing a smock
Farm labourer pictured wearing a smock.

Stockings, breeches, wide-cut shirt, waistcoat, jacket and hat were the common attire at the turn of the 19th century. By about 1840, working men were wearing full length trousers. Collarless shirts and waistcoats remained, though the wearing of coloured handkerchiefs tied round the neck became more common. Nearly all men wore hats, the designs of which altered frequently. The young labourer pictured is wearing a smock, perhaps the countryside's most distinctive garment. Smocks were not worn by every countryman, and the smocks of those that did would vary in material, colour and in length. The embroidered patterns on the breast were added to the smock designs during the 19th century.

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The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, UK.
Email: merl@reading.ac.uk Telephone: 0118 378 8660