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Life through the Eyes of East Anglian Artists - Object Focus: Smock

26 August 2016

Our spotlighted object this month is the fantastically intricate smock. Traditional smock-frocks were worn by carters and waggoners from the early 1700s, but by the end of the century it was common outer-ware for all countryside workers. Smocks were worn for everyday work by many different trades, including cowmen, fishermen, and shepherds. 

There is a theory that the embroidery on a workers smock indicated what profession they were in – for example wheels on a carters smock – but it has never been proved. It’s a nice idea though! If you wore a smock to work, what would your smock have embroidered on it?

Workers would also have a ‘best’ smock that would not have been worn to work, but to church and on special occasions. These smocks would have been far more decorated than those worn day to day, and would not have been reversible (like many of the everyday ones.)

Life through the Eyes of East Anglian Artistsis open until 31st March 2017 in Abbot’s Hall and is free to visit.

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