18th Century Women’s Waistcoats

Last updated: Jun 27, 2022

It’s unclear whether an 18th century English speaker would have called these “jumps” or “quilted waistcoats,” so I’m grouping them all together on one page.

What’s the difference between jumps and a quilted waistcoat?

A New General English Dictionary says:

JUMPS (S.) an inferior kind of ſtays or bodice, worn by ſome women, not ſo ſtiff or full-boned as ſtays, but higher and ſtiffer than a quilted waiſtcoat or jacket.

Johnson’s Dictionary is a bit more vague:

A waiſtcoat; a kind of looſe or limber ſtays worn by ſickly ladies.

When would women wear quilted waistcoats or jumps?

As Johnson’s definition indicates, these were worn by ladies suffering illness; William Butters describes this in his treatise on whooping cough:

Mary Hele ſuffered many hardſhips in the progreſs of her cure from a cold habitation and improper food; but the greateſt hardſhip was, that, after ſhe had been entirely freed from complaints and was recovering her fleſh and ſtrength faſt, her friends, contrary to my ſrict injunctions, and very ſoon after I left her, ſtripped her of the quilted waiſtcoat which was made at my expence, carried her out of doors, and treated her in every reſpect as though ſhe had never been ill: the conſequence of all which was, that ſhe became feveriſh, and was ſeized with a cough which was at firſt inflammatory, afterward purulent, and ſoon ended in death.

On the other hand, in an Eſſay addreſſed to the LADIES, on the preſent Mode of DRESS in The Lady’s Magazine, suggests that French women are wearing them (in 1785) instead of stays:

[Mrs. A—n’s] opinion of the ladies’ ſtays, in general, ſeems to be extremely juſt. Says ſhe, “their intolerable ſtiffneſs, added to the great confinement which they occaſion to a lady, make her unfit for the ſociety of either men or women. If ſhe eats a meal, it is odds but that ſhe is ſick; when ſhe walks, ſhe is ſoon weary, and ready to ſwoon; and if ſhe dances, ſhe is liable to the worſt of conſequences.”

I have ſeen a lady carried out of a ball-room for dead, but as ſoon as the lace of her ſtays was cut, and hartſhorn was briſkly applied, ſhe came to herſelf.

A well-made woman requires nothing to amend her ſhape. The French ladies, who have ſuch an eaſy carriage, and are in general finely made, never wear any thing more than a qulted waiſtcoat, which is called un corſet, without any kind of ſtiffening. Indeed married women in the ſummer generally wear leſs, having even no quilted waiſtcoat.

There are a few records of thefts that describe these sorts of garments. In 1734, Mary Chetwin was accused of stealing a green striped silk satin waistcoat that had been worn about 10 years before by the wife of Thomas Carpenter; in 1735, Catherine Noland was indicted for the theft of a calico quilted waistcoat worth 7 shillings from the shop of Rebecca Ward. Also accused of thefts of jumps, which tend to have vaguer descriptions in these accounts: Ann Powell (1720), Robert Page (1729), Ann Davis (1745), Elizabeth Taylor (1747), Elizabeth & Martin Reynolds (1751), Susannah Barker et al. (1751), Mary Smith (1753), Hannah Hillyard (1755), Jane Hickey (1757), Anne Johnson (1758), William Thwaites (1771), Sarah Wade (1772), Francis Warner (1787), James Dawson (1796).

Extant examples

  • RISD 56.078, linen jumps with silk embroidery, England, late 17th century or early 18th century
  • Nordiska Museet NM.0086478, 18th century
  • Museum of London A7592, “Quilted brocaded damask bodice lined with coarse cotton, printed in madder. The outer silk is a dark green damask, brocaded with a sprig in silver thread (file and frise), this silk probably dates from the 1690s but the quilting obscures the pattern. It is of high quality and could have been an expensive fabric, however it may have been used c. 1700, when out of fashion.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1989-435, cream tabby linen front, back and linings; silk embroidery; light brown linen fringe; England, c. 1700
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-510, cream-color silk satin quilted in small diamond pattern, England, c. 1700
  • PMA 1996-107-2, cotton quilted with silk backstitch to cotton batting and backing, England, c. 1700
  • Meg Andrews 8365, silk quilted jumps, early 18th century; “The striped silk with a pale primrose yellow stripe flanked by narrow navy lines between double cream stripes, all the edges bound in duck egg green silk ribbon, the shoulder straps integral to the main jumps, rounded to the front with a hand stitched eyelet hole, tied with silk ribbon attached to the main section, the front with three ties of ribbon, the lower section rounded at the base in four sections, the whole upper section quilted with a diamond design, the lower with overlapping groups of arches, lined with wool to the top section and glazed linen to the lower curved section, interlined with wool batting.”
  • Kyoto AC5301 86-6-6, England, early 18th century; “off-white quilted linen with plant pattern, tied in front with silk taffeta ribbons”
  • National Trust 1348922, 1700-1720; “Fine linen top and coarse linen underneath, quilted all over with cream 20 ply silk in back stitch. Design of small feathers and 'rose window' marguerites threaded with twisted sheeps wool. Ground of small lozenges. Fronts curve away - slashed at sides and centre back. Sleeveless. 9 eyelets oversewn for front lacings.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-509, white cotton quilted with backstitches in gold silk, England, c. 1700-1725
  • Colonial Williamsburg 2010-120,A&B, a front and back panel from an unmade waistcoat, yellow silk worked in backstitches on linen, England, c. 1700-1730
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1954-1053, linen embroidered with silk, made in England c. 1700-1740
  • National Trust 1367217, 1702-1727; “Beige linen lady's waistcoat, very finely Italian quilted in yellow silk all over. Piped with yellow braid. White flannel lining, nine holes on each side of front for lacing.”
  • V&A 494-1902, linen, corded and embroidered with silk thread, England, c. 1700-1729
  • Chertsey Museum M.2005.01, white quilted linen waistcoat “Shaped to fit and split at the sides and back where it extends to cover the hips. Sleeveless with a low neckline, hand stitched in a simple diamond pattern; c. 1710”
  • Chertsey Museum MT.3042, “Sleeveless yellow silk waistcoat with damasked vertical satin stripes, quilted and embroidered with bunches of flowers in pink silk thread, tied at shoulders with yellow ribbons, fastened front with hooks and eyes, with natural coloured cotton inner lining block printed with maroon stylised rosebuds in diamond trellis, and relined with floral printed natural linen with a brown dotted ground; c. 1720-1730”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1971-1566, white cotton quilted symmetrically in a flowering branch pattern, c. 1720-1750
  • Chertsey Museum, yellow embroidered jumps, early 1730s
  • National Museum of Scotland A.1955.235, a woman’s quilted waistcoat in fine linen embroidered with wine-colored silk in a fishscale pattern, possibly English, c. 1730-1760
  • Christie’s Lot 127 / Sale 4978, a lady’s waistcoat of fine linen, embroidered with a stylized floral motif
  • Woman's quilted waistcoat, white linen, America, c. 1740-80
  • V&A T.87-1978, quilted silk and linen, England, c. 1745
  • Cora Ginsburg, figured silk jumps, mid-18th century; “The fronts of these stylish jumps are made from taupe silk with a subtle, tone-on-tone pattern of stylized umbels on swirling stems and edged with a matching ribbon around the neckline, scalloped tabs and peplum. The figured silk has been carefully and symmetrically pieced on each side, pointing to the recycling of an expensive textile that was common practice in the period. The sides and back, however, are of sturdy, medium-brown linen, indicating that these jumps were likely worn underneath a gown or perhaps a sleeved jacket bodice. Of particular interest are the side lacings that suggest maternity wear; light interfacing under the natural linen lining, which would have provided some support for the body, underscores this possibility.”
  • KCI AC4329 82-19-2AB, England, mid-18th century; “pale-blue silk with diamond-shaped quilting”
  • LACMA M.67.8.84a-b, woman's bodice or pair of jumps, probably Italy, mid-18th century
  • V&A 65-1891, Britain, 1750-1770; “Woman’s waistcoat of fine bleached linen, lined with coarser linen. It is backed-stitched with white silk floss in a diamond pattern and cross-stitched with coloured silks in a pattern of scrolling stems with leaves and flowers. The waistcoat has a 'V' neck, straight front and curved skirts below the waist. The armholes are bound with white silk ribbon, neckline and hem are bound with blue and green silk ribbons.”
  • Amsterdam Museum KA 20112, bodice in white cotton with woven vertical stripes; front bands close with Dorset wheel buttons while sides spiral-lace, c. 1750-1790
  • Brocaded silk faille lady’s waistcoat, c. 1770
  • Met C.I.39.13.43, late 18th century American or European cotton bodice
  • Vintage Textile 1821, Provençal hand-quilted waistcoat, c. 1800-1830; “The waistcoat is fashioned from golden yellow cotton and is lined with beige cotton and a thin layer of batting. The layers are hand quilted together with a diamond pattern of perfect little stitches.”