This coat, called an habit, embodies aristocratic extravagance before the French Revolution. The habit was worn as part of the habit à la française, an early three-piece suit which also included a waistcoat (vest) and breeches. The embroidery is dense with large-scale flowers, scalloped ribbons, and tassels on a silk fabric woven with a pattern of blue and black chevrons and stylized floral designs. This garment was produced by professional textile workers: Men wove the patterned silk fabric, and then a master tailor oversaw female sewers who embroidered the coat, before he custom assembled it. The coat is cut to fit closely to the body, it gradually curves backward from the mid chest to the knee, and it has no stiffened pleats in the lower portion. The maneuverability and emphasis on movement coincides with French attitudes about posture and gesture in social situations. Smooth and flowing movement, not too broad or agitated, was critical for maintaining a pleasant atmosphere. Towards the end of the 18th century, a coat with this magnitude of decoration was worn only at exceptionally formal events.
Steve Burges earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Archaeology and Art History with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. In 2013 he also entered an Art History PhD program at Boston University, where he studies ancient Roman art and archaeology. Steve participated in the Peter Krueger Summer Intern Program at Cooper-Hewitt in the summer of 2013.