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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

20 August 2013

Clothing of the Working Class: The Salop Woman

There’s a LOT going on in this image (another from Pyne’s 1805 Costume of Great Britain). I’m going to ignore the soldiers, as military uniforms are a whole other topic.

The old woman pouring the salop* is wearing a long green bedgown over a blue petticoat, an apron, a handkerchief around her neck, and another tied over her head, holding on her hat. There appears to be a red cloak on the back of her chair, which would be very much in keeping with her class.

Behind her stands what appears to be a member of the watch (he’s leaning against his box; note the lantern hanging there). He has on a great coat and a simple round hat. And it appears he has a handkerchief tied about his throat. You can just see his brogans peeking out from under the old woman’s chair.

Drinking his bowl of salop is a coal dust covered boy. He’s grubby and a bit tattered, in trousers, a shirt with no cuffs, and an open waistcoat. He has a simple knit cap on his head. This is pretty much how I would picture a climbing boy, though this boy was most likely employed in delivering coal, not cleaning chimneys given the tools he’s shown with.

Across from the salop cart is another woman with a basket. She could be a street vendor, or a maid out on a shopping expedition. She has on a brown bedgown over a slightly paler brown petticoat (which is much longer than that of the rabbit hawker we saw yesterday, leading me to believe she probably works indoors). She has a checked handkerchief around her neck, and a simple white cap over her hair (no hat).

*Additional note about salop (aka salep or saloop): This is a fortifying hot beverage with Turkish origins that made it to England before tea or coffee. It was a sold by street vendors in London and after coffee houses made an appearance, it would have been found there too. It is made using orchid tuber flour mixed with milk and sugar. It was very popular and would have been widely consumed, especially by the working class people who couldn’t afford tea and coffee.

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