August 12, 2015
The Alice Made This Royal Household collection is inspired by the intricate designs of 18th century courtiers’ waistcoat buttons. The selection of cufflinks and lapel pins in rose gold and silver are precisely decorated and elegant. The perfect statement piece, these designs will complete a refined look.
In the royal courts of the 18th century, style was more than just appearance, it was a representation of your power, wealth, and social standing. Desperate to impress, competition between courtiers was fierce, resulting in great expense. This sense of competition was particularly prevalent in the court of King Louis XVI, and the fashions of the French court trickled through to the English courtiers. Lord Chesterfield, a politician and a member of the nobility in the 18th century, noted that ‘Dress is a very foolish thing, and yet it is a very foolish thing for a man not to be well-dressed’.
The 18th century brought about a number of innovations, including the advent of the metal button, which would be engraved or decorated with silver. The growing prevalence of chandeliers in stately homes and royal residences led to a need for glittering decoration among the courtiers. This started a trend of intricate cut-steel buttons that adorned the waistcoats of wealthy men. Matthew Boulton, a Birmingham born manufacturer, is credited with the production of these popular cut-steel buttons, known as ‘Boulton steels’. At this time, every button was made individually, so each rivet would be cut and polished separately before being attached to the button base. A ‘marchande des modes’ would be responsible for solely the decoration of a garment, after the garment had been constructed by someone else. As the industrial revolution came to life in the 19th century, buttons became more popular because of the possibilities of mass production.
The designs of our Royal Household collection come from original rivet steel courtiers’ waistcoat buttons, which are used as a cast. Using a 5000 year old process called Investment Casting, molten wax is poured into a rubber mould. Once it has hardened, it is attached to a wax sprue, which is placed into an investment mould. The wax is vapourised, and replaced with molten bronze. Once the bronze has hardened, the investment is cleaned away, and the pieces can be detached. The final processes include cleaning, soldering, polishing and plating with precious metal. Our casting house, Just Castings, is based in London’s Hatton Garden and has held a royal warrant since 1992.
Royal fashions have inspired and affected fashion throughout history; the original fashion for leaving the last button of a waistcoat undone comes from Henry VIII, who was too overweight to fasten his, and so his courtiers quickly adopted the fashion, a trend that has lasted for five hundred years. The Royal Household collection is a perfect example of how historical fashions can still influence us today, whether that is what we wear or how we wear it.