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Wardrobe

A wardrobe, also known as an armoire from the French, is a standing closet used for storing clothes. The earliest wardrobe was a chest, and it was not until some degree of luxury was attained in regal palaces and the castles of powerful nobles that separate accommodation was provided for the sumptuous apparel of the great. The name of wardrobe was then given to a room in which the wall-space was filled with cupboards and lockers, the drawer being a comparatively modern invention. From these cupboards and lockers the modern wardrobe, with its hanging spaces, sliding shelves and drawers, evolved slowly.

History

A Chinese Ming Dynasty compound wardrobe made of rosewood, later half of the 16th century.
Intricately carved French Oakley style Tallboy with under cabinet instead of a chest of drawers.

In the United States, the wardrobe in its moveable form as an oak "hanging cupboard" dates back to the early 17th century. At that time it was an early export product from America to England, because English woodlands were over-harvested or reserved for the navy. Consequently, the item was sometimes referred to as an Oakley[citation needed]. For probably a hundred years, such pieces, massive and cumbrous in form, but often with well-carved fronts, were produced in moderate numbers; then the gradual diminution in the use of oak for cabinet-making produced a change of fashion in favor of the more plentiful American walnut. (Ironically, the virgin American forests became successively Oak, then Maple with successive deforestation episodes.)

Walnut succeeded oak as the favourite material for furniture, but hanging wardrobes in walnut appear to have been made very rarely, although clothes presses, with drawers and sliding trays, were frequent.

During a large portion of the 18th century the tallboy was much used for storing clothes.

Wardrobe size: A common feature was to base future size on the eight small men method. A considered good size double wardrobe would thus be able to hold within its capacity, eight small men.

A modern fitted wardrobe.

In the nineteenth century the wardrobe began to develop into its modern form, with a hanging cupboard at each side, a press in the upper part of the central portion and drawers below. As a rule it was often of mahogany, but as satinwood and other hitherto scarce finely grained foreign woods began to be obtainable in considerable quantities, many elaborately and even magnificently inlaid wardrobes were made.

Where Chippendale and his school had carved, Sheraton, Hepplewhite and their contemporaries achieved their effects by the artistic employment of deftly contrasted and highly polished woods.

The first step in the evolution of the wardrobe was taken when the central doors, which had previously enclosed merely the upper part, were carried to the floor, covering the drawers as well as the sliding shelves, and were often fitted with mirrors.

See also

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WARDROBE, a portable upright cupboard for storing clothes. The earliest wardrobe was a chest, and it was not until some degree of luxury was attained in regal palaces and the castles of powerful nobles that separate accommodation was provided for the sumptuous apparel of the great. The name of wardrobe was then given to a room in which the wall-space was filled with cupboards and lockers - the drawer is a comparatively modern invention. From these cupboards and lockers the modern wardrobe, with its hanging spaces, sliding shelves and drawers, was slowly evolved. In its movable form as an oak "hanging cupboard" it dates back to the early 17th century. For probably a hundred years such pieces, massive and cumbrous in form, but often with well-carved fronts, were made in fair numbers; then the gradual diminution in the use of oak for cabinet-making produced a change of fashion. Walnut succeeded oak as the favourite material for furniture, but hanging wardrobes in walnut appear to have been made very rarely, although clothes presses, with drawers and sliding trays, were frequent. During a large portion of the 18th century the tallboy was much used for storing clothes. Towards its bnd, however, the wardrobe began to develop' into its modern form, with a hanging cupboard at each side, a press in the upper part of the central portion and drawers below. As a rule it was of mahogany, but so soon as satinwood and other hitherto scarce finely grained foreign woods began to be obtainable in considerable quantities, many elaborately and even magnificently inlaid wardrobes were made. Where Chippendale and his school had carved, Sheraton and Hepplewhite and their contemporaries obtained their effects by the artistic employment of deftly contrasted and highly polished woods. The first step in the evolution of the wardrobe was taken when the central doors, which had hitherto enclosed merely the upper part, were carried to the floor, covering the drawers as well as the sliding shelves, and were fitted with mirrors.


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