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Flamboyant Fashion for a Welsh Noble Man

Kim Thüsing, 22 Mai 2019

Recently, we’ve been privileged to accept a fabulous new accession into our collection.  It is a set of three silk garments which belonged to Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Baronet, who lived between 1749 and 1789.  He owned vast areas of land in Wales, was active in politics and was a great patron of the arts.  You can find out more about him here:

Image of painting of Watkin Williams-Wynn from our 'Collections Online'
Small pastel portrait from the museum's collections

As part of Sir Watkin’s lavish lifestyle came an opulent wardrobe.  The garments we have acquired are a matching set of waistcoat and breeches made from grey silk, woven with silver metal thread, silk embroidery and metal thread trim,








as well as an embroidered waistcoat of flamboyantly pink satin. 

 All three items have passed through the Textile Conservation Studio over the last few weeks to record the garments’ construction, materials, and condition, before packing them up to go into storage.  The grey set of waistcoat and breeches were in remarkably good condition, but I was worried about the embroidery on the pink waistcoat.  The embroidery consists of undulating bands of white net which covers small florets made of paper.  The bands run down both sides of the centre front and across the lower edge as well as across the pocket flaps.  Other embroidery features are foliage and blossoms made from chenille thread and mauve ribbon-worked rosette flower heads. 

The white net is made from silk which has been coated with a stiffening agent.  This stiffening agent has made the net brittle and the yarns have cracked in many places resulting in areas of loss and loose areas.  Those loose remains of the net were vulnerable to snagging and abrasion and I was afraid that further pieces would break off and become lost.  Equally, the paper flowers that lay underneath and were formerly protected by the net were now exposed and also at risk of damage or loss through accidentally brushing against them.  As it was, a number of petals had pulled away from the stitches that held them in place and had curled up and become creased and distorted, with several petals and some entire flowers becoming lost. 

To protect the fragile areas I decided to apply an overlay of very fine white Nylon net.  This net does not disturb the aesthetics of the embroidery while at the same time providing protection to the vulnerable net and paper underneath.  Before I could start, however, I had to humidify the paper petals to re-shape them and arrange them in their correct position. For this, I dampened the paper with deionised water applied with a fine paint brush.  Once it was wet, the paper was pliable and creases could be removed.  To apply the net overlay I stitched it in place with small running stitches using a thin white silk organzine thread.  I used a curved needle as the garment had to remain flat on the table (to avoid unnecessary movement).  It’s only now that it has been conserved that the waistcoat is strong enough to go into storage.

There was something else that was interesting about the waistcoat: The rear panel is made from tabby woven cotton fabric and the lower section is made of cream silk.  As it is now, the seam allowances are facing outwards and raw edges are visible.  It is not unusual that areas of the garment that aren’t on view are made from less expensive materials and that the stitching might not be as carefully executed as on the visible areas, however, the current configuration and some indication of previous stitch holes suggests that the waistcoat would have had an outer back panel and what is visible currently, is simply the back section of the lining.  There is therefore a strong indication that the waistcoat may have been altered and the original back getting lost in the process.


Kim Thüsing

Cadwraethydd Tecstilau
Gweld Proffil


Marc Haynes Staff Amgueddfa Cymru
22 Gorffennaf 2019, 13:34

Dear Hilary Peters,

Thank you very much for your comment. Eighteenth-century silks are particularly fragile and we can only justify putting such objects on display for a limited period of time in order to minimise exposure to light, which can be very damaging to fibres and dyes.

We always aim to rotate our displays, so Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn’s costume may yet go on display at some point in the future. You can check whether the individual items of clothing are on display at any time by looking them up on our website Collections Online. To do this, simply copy and paste the accession numbers in the image captions (for instance, F2019.21.1) into the search bar at

Best wishes,

Digital Team

Hilary Peters
13 Gorffennaf 2019, 11:09
Why put such wonderful items into storage? They should be displayed!
Marc Haynes Staff Amgueddfa Cymru
17 Mai 2019, 13:29

Dear Stephen Foot,

Many thanks for your enquiry. The donor of these items wishes to remain anonymous, so I'm afraid that we're unable to relay this information to you. We're glad that you enjoyed the article.

Best wishes,

Digital Team

Stephen Foot
15 Mai 2019, 18:33
Wonderful, can you tell us where they came from ?
Nid yw sylwadau ar gael ar hyn o bryd. Ymddiheuriadau am yr anghyfleustra.