M984.150.5.1-2 | Smoking cap and suspenders

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Smoking cap and suspenders
Gift of Mrs. Gordon Dorey
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Ensemble (8)
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Keys to History

Smoking caps were among the most popular accessories embroidered by bourgeois women as gifts.

Women's magazines featured needlework patterns for caps, slippers and many other accessories. Colourful accessories, including patterned dressing gowns, had been worn by European men since the 16th century, when trade with the East brought exotic luxuries such as rich silks to Europe.

Most upper-class Victorian homes had a "smoking room" where men could relax and enjoy the pleasures of a cigar and a brandy without offending the ladies of the house. The smoking cap protected a man's hair from the lingering aroma of tobacco.

  • What

    The smoking cap and suspenders are hand-embroidered in silk on silk satin.

  • Where

    Smoking did not first take place out of doors, but only in boudoirs or special rooms. The first cigarette clubs were opened in the mid-1800s.

  • When

    Caps and accessories were used not only in smoking sessions, but also for travelling in public railway carriages and steamship cabins, where there might have been smoke, cinders and dirt.

  • Who

    Smoking was linked with the male domains of the study, library or club - private and exclusive spaces where men were free of their dull, daily clothing.