As I mentioned before, I wanted to do a really complicated project for the Flora and Fauna HSF challenge, but alas, I couldn’t find the right fabric. Instead, I’m saving my energy for two big upcoming projects, and making some fun little things that will make current or future outfits fabulous.
The first of these is an 18th century fur muff. The wonderful Lynne gave me a fur sleeve which had come off of her mothers 1950s fur coat a month ago, and I noticed how wide the lower sleeve was, and how it was a perfectly even tube for the last 14cm, and thought “Ooooh…super easy fur muff.”
Famous last words…
But that was all in the future. First I needed to do a little research on 18th century fur muffs, to determine what the usual dimensions were, if my fur was plausible, and what they were lined with.
After quite a bit of research, I’ve found depictions of 18th century fur muffs ranging from the early 1760s, up to the end of the century. Unfortunately I haven’t found a single extent 18th century fur muff, so I’m going to have to base mine off what you can see in paintings, and extrapolate the rest from 18th century fabric muffs.
In looking at 18th century fur muffs I came to the conclusion that while there were extremes of fashion in muffs, there was also a standard muff size (the logical, practical muff size) in fur muffs that was used throughout the century.
Here is Madame Sophie in 1762 with a lovely dark fur muff. The texture of the fur, and the slight ridges and valleys in the fur, are very similar to my fox fur sleeve. On a woman of my size, a muff the same proportions as Madame Sophies would be between 12″-14″ long, and at least 24″ in circumference. It’s a bit hard to tell as you can’t see the bottom of the muff.
As the century progressed, muffs tended to get larger. Madame Mole Reymond’s fantastic 1780s brown fur muff that is definitely a bit larger than Madame Sophie’s muff:
And while this muff isn’t quite as exaggerated, it is on a slightly larger scale:
While larger seems to have been most fashionable, there are enough depictions of smaller muffs in the later 18th century to make me think that they were still reasonably common:
This is good, because my sleeve isn’t big enough to make an enormous muff! And I’d love it if I could use my muff for different decades in the 18th century.
With size sorted, what to do about the lining? There are a few fashion plates that show the side of a muff, but it’s hard to determine if the dark hole they depict indicated a dark lining, or was just the idea of a hole. I rather suspect it is the latter.
Dark holes aside, the only definitive visual evidence I could find for what a muff was lined with is Lawrence’s portrait of Elizabeth Farren carrying an elegant, oversized muff. Elizabeth’s muff looks like it is lined with a white satin that matches her fashionable hooded cloak.
There are numerous portraits and fashion plates that show matching fur-trimmed cloaks and muffs, and presumably the lining of those muffs also matches the cloaks. My favourite example is Mrs Wilbraham Bootle, with her beautiful fur-trimmed cloak and small brown fur muff – so close to what I hope to achieve. I imagine her muff is lined in the same white satin that lines the hood of her cloak.
I also quizzed the amazing Carolyn of Brocade Goddess as to what an 18th century fur muff would be lined with, and she suggested a thin silk. So, as I’m trying to sew from my stash, I settled on a scrap of white silk-cotton satin left over from Carolyn’s wedding dress.
And then, as I was struggling to figure out how to keep my wool batting from moving around too much between the silk lining and the fur outer, I had a brilliant design idea, and blithely ignored all the historical evidence.
What did I do? I’ll show you tomorrow!
In the meantime, if you want to see more 18th and other century muff goodness, check out my pinterest page.
Need more fashion history reading? The latest issue of Glory Days magazine is out, and my article on The Bifurcated Woman is on page 36.