The waistcoat was an essential part of a gentleman's dress in the 18th century. It was worn with a coat and breeches, and typically made of a contrasting colour and fabric. The waistcoat was often the most decorative item in a man's wardrobe, and surviving examples in museums reveal a wide range of exquisite fabrics and elaborate decorative techniques.
A brown ribbed silk is richly brocaded with coloured silks, chenille and silver threads. The dense pattern of large flowers is typical of the 1730s, and corresponds to similar designs found in embroidery of the period. The lavish use of metal thread extends to the buttons, which are composed of a wooden core covered with silver foil and thread.
When the waistcoat was introduced in the late 17th century, almost all were sleeved. As the 18th century progressed and coat sleeves became tighter, waistcoats became sleeveless for ease of movement. The inclusion of sleeves on this example suggests that it was a more formal garment, and allows the wearer to show off its lavish fabric at the cuffs.
Copy and photo from the Victoria and Albert.