During the Regency era: "The spencer was worn as a cardigan, or as a short, fitted jacket cut to just above waist level, or, in Empire style, to the bust line, and tailored on identical lines to the dress.
The use of the term spencer continued well into the 19th century to mean more generally any type of short jacket or coat. In Australia and New Zealand the term is sometimes used to refer to thermal underwear.
In current menswear, the term "spencer" is often synonymous with knitted vest or waistcoat."
For more about the origins of the spencer including images of two beautiful examples held at Chertsey museum as part of the Olive Matthews Collection please see: https://stephaniesmart.wixsite.com/thehiddenwardrobe/blog-1/chertsey-museum-fashion-collection-spencer-jackets
I love the styling and luxury of this velvet example:
Walking dress 1821
"A cambric muslin round dress; the bottom of the skirt is trimmed with a flounce of scalloped work, disposed in deep plaits at some distance from each other, and the spaces between left plain; in the middle of each space is a muslin tab. this trimming is surmounted by another composed of full puffings of muslin, with lozenges between and a rouleau of muslin at the top. Spencer of cerulean blue soie de Londres; it is tight to the shape. The waist is finished with a full bow and ends of the same material, corded with satin in the middle of the back. The bust is formed by a fold of satin edged with a loop trimming of soie de Londres, which goes in a sloping direction from the shoulder to the bottom of the waist. The long sleeve is finished at the hand with satin folds and loop trimming; the epaulette is a mixture of satin and soie de Londres. Falling collar, finished with bands of satin and loop-trimming. Headdress, a bonnet composed of white watered grow de Naples; the brim turns up a little, and is ornamented under the edge with a band of blue tufted gauze. A piece of gros de Naples goes round the crown, cut at top and bottom in the form of leaves, and edged with narrow straw plait. A bunch of these leaves and a bouquet of marguerites only on the other. White satin ties in a full bow on left side. Black kid shoes."
p30 Ackermann's costume plates- women's fashions in England,1818-1828 edited and with an introduction by Stella Blum
The types of trim and structural feats found on spencer jacket's are quite astounding
Please see: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/108019?img=2
Walking dress from the April 1820 La Belle Assemblee
Likewise they were as fully subject to fantastic flights of inspiration from international exotica as was the rest of fashion
"A New Spencer Walking Dress with the Incognita Hat" from the January 1807 La Belle Assemblé
Because of the fashion for military touches, Pelisses and Spencers were commonly covered in decorative braids, tassels, frogging and cords. In time the short decorated Spencer began to be referred to a Hussar jacket.
As well as being worn tighly fitted with military styled fastenings and decoration Spencers were also worn open and looser. These pictures demonstrate the relevence of the comparison with the contemporary cardigan or light jacket:
For more examples of images of spencer's shown in Ackermann's repository illustrations/plates please see: http://www.ekduncan.com/2011/07/regency-era-fashions-ackermanns.html
Earlier styles of jacket, from the mid-eighteenth century, included the Brunswick jacket; often worn as part of a two-piece entitled the Brunswick gown or simply Brunswick. "The Brunswick comprises a hip-length jacket with a high neckline and a hood, worn with a matching petticoat. The jacket sleeves consist of an upper sleeve with flounces at the elbow and a tight, wrist-length lower sleeve. The Brunswick is one of several informal jacket-and-petticoat costumes popular in the later 18th century, derived from working class costume but made up in fine fabrics. Originating in France (based on a German fashion), the Brunswick was also popular in England and the United States as a traveling costume".
Sketch of a Brunswick in the V&A collection dated 1765-75 - the petticoat and lower sleeve extension are missing
This project is being supported by:
Arts Council England, The Textile Society and Great Art