Georgian Era Muffs, Tippets and Furs

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Having seen Faith Evans on the red carpet of the 2016 Grammys, sporting a sleek black ‘fur’ accessory, we thought we would take a look at the muffs, tippets and the use of fur, which were extremely popular in the Georgian Era even though today the wearing of fur is somewhat controversial to say the least.

The tippet was an item of clothing worn that today we would refer to as a stole or scarf, but was largely made from fur.

The Great Boa Tippet 1829 © The Trustees of the British Museum
The Great Boa Tippet 1829
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Porcupine, Tuesday, December 2, 1800

Fashion for December 1800 – Miscellaneous Observations

The fashionable colours are scarlet, purple, puce and Mazarin blue. The fancy article generally adopted are blends of various colours, as amber, scarlet, pink and rose; plain and figured, feathers of all kinds, flowers, gold and silver trimmings. Weymouth tippets instead of long tippets.

Oracle and Public Advertiser, Monday, January 15, 1798

Oracle and Public Advertiser Monday, January 15, 1798

We have yet to find out what a Weymouth tippet was and how it differed from the long tippet – maybe one of our readers will know.

Morning Herald, Saturday, November 9, 1799

The cold weather has begun to make an extraordinary change in the dress of the Ladies of Haut Ton: a tippet or two yesterday appeared in Bond Street and some females in defiance of fashion, had actually made to their chemise the addition of a petticoat!

We were quite interested to find out the cost of such items and thought you would be too, even then they were using fake fur rather than the real thing. Sable tippets and muffs price from 1 shilling, 5 pence (around £5 in today’s money) up to 16 shillings (around £60 in today’s money).

Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser, Friday December 10 1756
Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser, Friday December 10 1756

Morning Post and Fashionable World, Thursday, November 19, 1795

Muffs, Tippets, Trimmings of fur of every denomination: Very handsome bear muffs at 12 and 14s such as have always been sold at 18s and 21s. Fox muffs at eight shillings.

1780 British muff Met museum

The muff was a ‘must have’ fashion accessory, maybe one that we should revive for cold winter’s days. It was a cylinder of fabric or fur which was open at both ends, but provided a way of keeping the hands warm. The concept dated back to the 1500s and was used by men and women. Muffetees were a type of shortened muff, worn not only for warmth but also to protect the wrist ruffles when playing cards. There were also small muffs which were closed at one end with a thumb section.

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The newspapers regularly carried ‘fashion of the month’ reports so that women knew exactly what was in vogue – hair style, dress colour, shoes, muff or no muff … so that one wouldn’t be caught out wearing the wrong outfit! Have times changed, probably not!

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

At the other end of the spectrum was came across a book entitled  Instructions for cutting out apparel for the poor which provided the cost and instructions of how to make cheap tippets for poor girls in 1789, priced at 3 old pennies, that’s a mere £0.70 in today’s money!

1789 Instructions for cutting out apparel for the poor - 1

1789 Instructions for cutting out apparel for the poor - 2

The Fox Muff, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

We always find that our research leads us in the most unexpected directions and this time we ended up in the law courts. At the Old Bailey we came come across quite a few cases of theft of muffs and tippets. If found guilty the sentence ranged from prison/hard labour or transportation for a period of 7 years.

13th December 1786

Ann Ward was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 24th day of November, a red fox fur muff, value 20 shillings, the property of Joseph Thomson, a haberdasher in Oxford Street. Ann stole a red fox skin muff. – Verdict Guilt – Sentence – Transportation

25th February 1789

Amelia Morley, alias Amie Lovel, was indicted for stealing, on the 3d of February, one muff, value 18 s. and one tippet, value 5 s. the property of Daniel Bumstead. Verdict Guilty, Sentence imprisoned for 6 months

Our final newspaper article is a somewhat sad one, someone had gone to a great deal of care to ensure that the infant was well dressed. Sadly we’ll never find out what happened to the child .

Morning Herald, Friday June 6 1800
Morning Herald, Friday June 6 1800
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15 thoughts on “Georgian Era Muffs, Tippets and Furs

    1. All Things Georgian

      We came across several different ‘varieties’ we’re hoping someone can enlighten us on the difference between them all. It looks likely that spencer was yet another variation … can feel another blog post coming on with the answers at some stage 🙂

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  1. Or it may be a derivation from a palatine, ‘a fill-in or small scarf of tulle worn round the neck to cover the low neckline of dresses of mid 17th c’ [Fairchild’s dictionary of fashion] which as pilgrim tippets might be plain or fancy and are described as being ‘in any colour’ is suggestive that they are tulle or lace and more fancy wear than practical.
    From usage, I’m guessing Weymouth tippets may have been shorter and wider? more like a cloak?

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    1. All Things Georgian

      It could well be, the newspaper article says ‘Weymouth tippets instead of long tippets’, but nothing more specific.

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  2. I can’t find any advert before 1807 for a Weymouth Tippet [and in 1807 I also found a Spanish tippet] but I am wondering, as Princess Amelia had been ill, whether this was named after something she wore, as the Royal Family retired often to Weymouth? if she wore a wider, warmer wrap after her bout of illness in 1804 it might have caught on? I am clutching straws here!

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  3. Stephen Barker

    Just to point out that the sable tippet in the advert you quote is £1 and 5 shillings price. Comparison of prices and values are difficult to calculate. but the weekly salary of a skilled workman in the building trades at that time would have been around 20 shillings a week. Ordinary labourers earning about half that.

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    1. All Things Georgian

      Yes, you’re quite correct, oops misread shillings for pounds, thank you for correcting. It is difficult to find comparisons in terms of buying power so that is a really useful piece of information, thank you for sharing that 🙂

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