Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Thomas Jefferson is arguably the most highly regarded and studied revolutionary and post-revolutionary politician after Washington himself. And as with politicians today, Jefferson had both a private persona and a well-crafted public image. This public image is encapsulated in his writings and the many portraits for which he sat: dressed and posed in a manner intended to impress for both his contemporary audience and for posterity. However, in the absence of modern audio, photographic, and video recording technologies, we have much less insight into the life of Jefferson the private citizen, particularly after his time serving as President. In this context, we present a detailed examination and analysis of a blue coat (see attached photo) that dates from his retirement period. The fabric details and construction elements of this garment provide a window into textile and tailoring practices of the early 19th century. But more interestingly, the garment's series of stylistic and functional alterations and repairs - it's repurposing if you like - are consistent with a man with a more frugal attitude to private attire rather than public image.