English Rural Costume

                                               George Morland - 'A Windy Day'


  • ‘The Dress of the People’ – John Styles

  • ‘English Smocks’ – Alice Armes

  • ‘Smocks and Smocking’ – Beverley Marshall

  • ‘Traditional Smocks and Smocking’ –  Oenone Cave

  • ‘Discover Dorset Dress & Textiles’ – Rachel Worth

  • ‘Dorset Feather Stitchery’ – Olivia Pass

 UK Museums:-

  • The Museum of English Rural Life – Reading

  • Somerset Rural Life Museum – Glastonbury

  • The Museum of Lincolnshire Life – Lincoln


  • ‘Silas Marner’ George Eliot

  • ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ Flora Thompson

  • ‘Still Glides the Stream’ – Flora Thompson

Child’s Linen Rural Smock mid 1800s

This child’s smock was most likely worn for Sundays, when you wore your best/smartest clothes to church. Children would have gone to ‘Sunday School’, which was often the only schooling that they had, their time being spent in the fields or on the farms, working with the rest of the family during the week. Unfortunately this smock has the ink stains to prove it!

Extant English smocks don’t turn up very often these days, most likely as they were worn until they were no longer serviceable. I can imagine a loving mother carefully folding this away, a momento of her child’s early years.

This smock dates from around the 1850s. It goes without saying that the handiwork is exquisite. It is exactly the same front and back, and there are smocked areas to the front, tops of the arms, and just before the wrists. feather stitch embroidery can be seen at the wrists, to the collar and along the shoulder. It is an oatmeal linen, and there are 12 small mother of pearl buttons in total, 6 to the front and 6 to the back. The buttons are closed with handsewn bars. There is a little quirk; there are 2 handsewn holes for a drawstring to be threaded through the hem. Measurements:-From shoulder to hem- 56cm/22″.

Dorset Feather Stitchery – Vintage Calico Apron Decorated with Feather Stitch Embroidery c.1950s

‘Feather Stitch’ is an embroidery stitch which was used on the traditional rural smocks of many years ago. Olivia Pass used the basis of this stitch and a few others (Chain, Lazy Daisy stitch etc) to create some beautifully embroidered items (see her book title above). The 2 copies I have of this book were written in the 1950s. I bought this apron with one of the books, so am guessing that it dates from the 1950s onwards. As well as using these stitches, Dorset buttons are used on items such as clothes, bags and other accessories in the book. A beautiful book upholding this traditional, country craft, albeit moving it gently along into the 20th century