THE HISTORY OF HAND SMOCKING

At its inception smocking offered a functional proposition: elastication before the discovery of rubber. Well before. The first mention of a smock is found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in the Miller’s Tale from 1386. Historically the pleating of fabric was a means of shaping simple early pattern pieces into flattering silhouettes and allowed for stretch in the garment, stretch that was supported by a small army of exquisite zigzag stitches – creating a motif that was as beautiful as it was functional. This use of smocking is sprinkled through 700 years of fashion history – from honeycomb smocking on the folds of Mary Magdalene’s gown in a Hans Memling painting from 1465 (‘The Rest on the Flight into Egypt’) to exquisite labouring overalls in agricultural 19th century Britain – where the loose fit and stretch offered by the pleats made The Smock an ideal, yet exquisite, overgarment for physical labour in the fields. Smocking’s past is lengthy, illustrious and full of joy. But it is its future that inspires us at Smock each day.

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