Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Le Smoking

The nip of autumn is in the air and yet walking by pub and office doors there is never a shortage of huddled, pinched bodies, stamping their feet, grabbing a quick smoke. Who would ever have predicted the rapid demotion and devaluation of the leisured activity with so much cachet - le smoking? Once, smoking necessitated a wardrobe of its own, complete with hats like these, lovingly embroidered, betasselled and bequilted. The one above is in a Locke and England auction on 29 October. It is lot 147 and comes with an estimate of just £20 - £30.
In the 1850s, the Gentlemen's Magazine of London defined the smoking jacket as a kind of short robe de chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino or printed flannel, lined with bright colours, ornamented with brandenbourgs, olives or large buttons.
Whether this might be deemed a wee bit de trop these days is the question. Particularly when one has witnessed the damage done by sparks of ash landing on cloth and the tarification of all surfaces subject to prolonged tobacco fumigation. We need to remember that these elaborate garments were worn to protect habitual clothing against such disasters!
This rather elegant smoking jacket of the 1870s-1880s is item 4144 for sale at Vintage Textiles with a price tag of $1,500.
But hang the expense of clothing, my dear, what about the Smoking Room? Above you can see a smoking room from Cardiff Castle designed by William Burges. Now in the past I confess (why confess?) I have enjoyed after dinner Turkish cigarettes, but never in such fantasiaical surrounds - and this is just the Summer Smoking Room - below is the Winter Smoking Room.
But returning to the role of the needle in Le Smoking - were there any other accoutrements to this activity that you recall which were worked with a needle? Were stitched covers for cigarettes ever made - rather like TV Times covers? Ash-tray covers? Little pockets for matches?

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