Levin’s Tunic, 1871-1881

Lionel Henry Mocatta Levin (1849-1886) enlisted into the 1st Battalion of the Green Howards in 1870. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, the son of a wealthy Jewish merchant. His family emigrated to Britain in the early 1860s. A photograph in the museum’s collection shows Lionel wearing this tunic. It was probably taken after he was promoted to Lieutenant on 28th October 1871.

Civilian fashions had moved towards single-breasted, thigh length jackets known as sack coats, although highly tailored garments were still popular. This tunic corresponds to this style and the well known ‘red coat’ has become a symbol of the British Empire. A rounded chest shape is retained by extensive padding and quilting on the chest panels. Although the tunic is largely machine stitched, the quilting has been done by hand. Sleeves are cut generously with only slight narrowing towards the cuff. The back is cut in a natural shape to allow ease of movement.

The cuffs and collar of the tunic are green, the colour assigned to the Green Howards, and known as facings. This is the way in which regiments are identified. The cuffs are elaborately decorated with gold braid and lace created through two techniques called goldwork and couching. Goldwork is a technique where metal is wound around a thread to create a thick metal thread which can be stitched with. The strand is then ‘couched’ by making a stitch over the top of a piece of card or cord, which raises the stitch to create a pattern.

Further information and technical detail (PDF)

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