Made from fabric of the 1771 wedding dress of its owner's grandmother, the 1839 wedding waistcoat of entomologist John Obadiah Westwood is yet another example of historical recycling. Westwood's character is well documented, including his penchant for re-using materials. In the year of his wedding, he was 34 years old and an established expert in entomology. The location of the wedding, St. George's Church, Hanover Square, is depicted two years later by T.H. Shepherd as that of a 'Noble Wedding' (engraving in additional images) Given his solid standing in society, it seems unlikely that he could not have afforded a new fabric. As described on our website, the choice rather might have been a tribute to his grandmother. In 1839 the floral design would not have given away its previous use on a female garment as flowers were among the most popular motifs for men's waistcoats in the 1830s. Another aspect of his choice might have been that the floral sprigs on cream ground pleased the eye of the scientific illustrator. Compare the example of his own drawings from 1843-5 'British Moths and their Transformations'. The
1770s Portrait of Sarah Greig, nee Cook, by Carl Ludwig Johann Cristeneck shows her in a European court dress of similar fabric design to our waistcoat's (although this one was probably rather brocaded than embroidered). Thinking of the amount of fabric a 1770s dress would have provided, Westwood's wedding waistcoat might not have been the only item made from his grandmother's dress, especially when taking into account that he seems to have been very much in favor of recycling in general. Sadly we will never know - and if so what other items might have been created from the wedding dress.
More information on the painting on the State Hermitage Museum's website.
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