Online Encyclopedia

WARDROBE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 323 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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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 (q.v.) was much used for storing clothes. Towards its end, however, the wardrobe began to develop into its modern form, with a hanging cup-board 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. WARD-ROOM (i.e. the room of the guard), the cabin occupied by the commissioned officers, except the captain, in a man-of-war. In the wooden line-of-battle ships it was above the gun-room.
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