Wardrobe – History


A large, tall cabinet in which clothes may be hung or stored

The wardrobe has a long history & one in which its usage, & the word itself, has meant a variation of things. Geoffrey Chaucer, commonly regarded as the instigator of contemporary English literature from the middle ages, used the word to mean toilet. For others in the time period, the word & furniture type was representative of the entirety of a room or space; the wardrobes of royalty in England required the entirety of a room to open & move around in.


The wardrobe unit itself was known as a press, which amalgamated both a clothes storage & roller for laying them out flat. Around the 16th century, this piece of furniture was separated into two separate forms.

17th & 18th Century

By the 1600s, the wardrobe was a word applied to what would contemporarily be recognised as a clothes storage unit. Whereas originally, the very wealthy people who had owned wardrobes had seen their doors personally carved into, the new units possessed attractive & intricate marquetry.

In a number of instances, the wardrobe was incorporated into the panelling of bedrooms, set back from the space itself. Other units possessed a press that had shallow cupboards on either side.

19th & 20th Century

The wardrobe became a commonplace piece of furniture in the 1800s, in a time period that more people began to purchase more volumes of clothing. It was in this time period that the wardrobe became a piece of furniture typically presented within the bedroom. A number of these wardrobes were large, ornate & incorporated a number of accessories, including drawers & washstand.

It is in this time period that mirrors also began to be affixed to the units.

‘Eight Small Men’

One common practise among those constructing wardrobes in England in the 18th Century was to base the size of the unit on the 8 small men technique. This was in constructing units that could contain 8 small men within; a considerable size.

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