Sunday, 27 February 2011

A rare example of an original Sussex Smock

I have a great interest in peasant garments, work-wear and the clothing of everyday folk. This is an original traditional English Sussex smock made from heavy, rustic linen in a beautiful shade of whiteish ‘putty’. I too come from Sussex, so the local cultural history of such garments fascinates me. It dates to about 1880-1900. Smocks were originally work-wear, most often worn for shepherding. They were commonly worn in Sussex up to the 1920s, but then were only worn for ‘Sunday best’, eg. church, funerals and formal meetings etc.

This smock has simple smocking detail at the neck front and back, on the shoulders and on the cuffs. It has heavy reinforcing patches at points of stress, eg under the arms, at the splits at the sides and pockets. It buttons at the neck front & back and would slip over the head. The buttons are covered in linen and the entire garment is made by hand with wonderful attention to detail.

I can't of course be sure, but my feeling is that this smock was made as a functional work garment rather than mostly for best, as it has been 'built to last' so to speak with all the reinforcement to stress points, and although the smocking is gorgeous, there are only small areas of simple work, unlike some of the more elaborate smocks that have a more 'ceremonial' air to them, if you know what I mean. The smock is currently for sale in my website.

The second photo shows an old Sussex scene taken from the book A Sussex Garland by Tony Wales: 'A nostalgic and lighthearted collection of rhymes, recollections and recipes of the Sussex year'.

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