Franklin's Suit

Franklin's Suit

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This three-piece silk suit, originally a dark plum color that has faded to a brownish hue, consists of a coat, waistcoat, and breeches. It belonged to a Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, and is thought to have been made in France around 1778, the year the Treaty of Alliance between the United States and France was signed. Franklin, the American Minister to France from 1776 until 1785, was a key figure in Franco-American politics and often present at the court of King Louis XVI. This plain suit would have created a stark visual contrast between Franklin and those in the elaborate dress commonplace for the opulent French Court.
Benjamin Franklin was very aware of the messages that clothing could convey to others. He, as well as several other prominent Americans including Washington and Jefferson, was well versed in the fashion and textiles of the time. These educated men selected their wardrobe carefully as to match their social stature and political agendas. Franklin crafted his appearance knowing that it was a powerful visual symbol. This plain, but well-tailored, suit speaks to Franklin as a “simple republican.”
This suit represents one of only three hundred known Franklin artifacts still in existence. It symbolizes not only Franklin’s person style, but also his skill at using clothing as a way to communicate with others.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Suit, 3 Piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Other Terms
Suit, 3 Piece; Entire Body; Main Dress; Male
Date made
associated person
Franklin, Benjamin
Physical Description
silk (overall material)
linen (lining material)
overall: 43 in x 16 in; 109.22 cm x 40.64 cm
coat back: 31 in; 78.74 cm
breeches: 20 1/2 in; 52.07 cm
breeches inseam: 15 in; 38.1 cm
coat arm inseam: 33 in; 83.82 cm
coat arm sleeve (outer seam): 33 in; 83.82 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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