OVERVIEW

Womenswear

Wikipedia writes of womenswear in this period:

“In the early decades of the new century, formal dress consisted of the stiff-bodiced mantua. A closed (or ’round’) petticoat, sometimes worn with an apron, replaced the open draped mantua skirt of the previous period. This formal style then gave way to more relaxed fashions.

The robe à la française or sack-back gown was looser-fitting and a welcome change for women used to wearing bodices. With flowing pleats from the shoulders was originally an undress fashion. At its most informal, this gown was unfitted both front and back and called a sacque. With a more relaxed style came a shift away from heavy fabrics, such as satin and velvet, to Indian cotton, silks and damasks. Also, these gowns were often made in lighter pastel shades that gave off a warm, graceful and childlike appearance. Later, for formal wear, the front was fitted to the body by means of a tightly-laced underbodice, while the back fell in loose box pleats called ‘Watteau pleats’ from their appearance in the paintings of Antoine Watteau.

The less formal robe à l’anglaise, Close-bodied gown or ‘nightgown’ also had a pleated back, but the pleats were sewn down to fit the bodice to the body to the waist.

Either gown could be closed in front (a ’round gown’) or open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.

Open-fronted bodices could be filled in with a decorative stomacher, and toward the end of the period a lace or linen kerchief called a fichu could be worn to fill in the low neckline.

Sleeves were bell- or trumpet-shaped, and caught up at the elbow to show the frilled or lace-trimmed sleeves of the shift (chemise) beneath. Sleeves became narrower as the period progressed, with a frill at the elbow, and elaborate separate ruffles called engageantes were tacked to the shift sleeves, in a fashion that would persist into the 1770s.”

Élisabeth-Charlotte d'Orléans, duchesse de Lorraine, avec son second fils François-Étienne

Fig. 1 - Alexis Simon Belle (French, 1674-1734). Élisabeth-Charlotte d'Orléans, duchesse de Lorraine, avec son second fils François-Étienne, 1722. Source: Grand Ladies

Portrait of the daughter of George II of Great Britain, Princess Amelia Sophia

Fig. 2 - Philip Mercier (French, 1689-1760). Portrait of the daughter of George II of Great Britain, Princess Amelia Sophia, 1728. Source: Grand Ladies

Dress

Fig. 3 - Maker unknown (British). Dress, ca. 1725. Silk; dimensions unknown. New York: The Metropolitan Meseum of Art, C.I.64.14. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1964. Source: The Met

Isabella Farnese, Queen of Spain

Fig. 4 - Jean Ranc (French, 1674-1735). Isabella Farnese, Queen of Spain, ca. 1723. Oil on canvas; 144 x 115 cm (56.7 x 45.3 in). Madrid: Museo del Prado, P02330. Source: Prado

Menswear

Wikipedia writes of menswear in this period:

“The male suit, also known as the habit, made of three parts: the justaucorps, a jacket, and breeches. In the early 18th century the jacket continued to have a full skirt. Fabrics for men were primarily silks, velvets, and brocades, with woolens used for the middle class and for sporting costumes.

In the early 18th century, men’s shoes continued to have a squared toe, but the heels were not as high. From 1720-1730, the heels became even smaller, and the shoes became more comfortable, no longer containing a block toe. The shoes from the first half of the century often contained an oblong buckle usually embedded with stones.

From about 1720, a bag wig gathered the back hair in a black silk bag. Black ribbons attached to the bag were brought to the front and tied in a bow in a style called a ‘solitaire’.

Wide-brimmed hats with brims turned up on three sides into tricornes were worn throughout the era. They were an essential element to the ‘domino’, a stylish costume for masquerade balls, which became an increasingly popular mode of entertainment. The ‘domino’ style consisted of a mask, a long cape, and a tricorne hat, all usually constructed of dark colors.”

Coat and waistcoat

Fig. 1 - Maker unknown (French). Coat and waistcoat, ca. 1729. Coat: silk velvet, trimmed with gold; Waistcoat: silver brocade, trimmed with gold lace; dimensions unknown. Moscow: Kremlin Museums, TK-2909. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum

Sir Robert Throckmorton, 4th Bt (1702-1791)

Fig. 2 - Nicolas Largillière (French, 1656-1746). Sir Robert Throckmorton, 4th Bt (1702-1791), 1728 - 1729. Oil on canvas; 136.5 x 104.8 cm (53 3/4 x 41 1/4 in). Warwickshire: Coughton Court, NT 135620. Source: National Trust Collections UK

Portrait of a Gentleman

Fig. 3 - Fra Galgario (Italian, 1655-1743). Portrait of a Gentleman, 1729. Source: Pinterest

Portrait of a Man

Fig. 4 - Circle of Arnold Boonen (Dutch, 1669–1729). Portrait of a Man, ca. 1720. Oil on canvas; 56.5 x 47.6 cm (22 1/4 x 18 3/4 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 68.190. Gift of Marcel Aubry, 1968. Source: The Met

The French Comedians

Fig. 5 - Antoine Watteau (French, 1684–1721). The French Comedians, ca. 1720. Oil on canvas; 57.2 x 73 cm (22 1/2 x 28 3/4 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 49.7.54. The Jules Bache Collection, 1949. Source: The Met

Coat

Fig. 6 - Maker unknown (British). Coat, 1720s. Silk; dimensions unknown. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982.134.2. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn and Alice L. Crowley Bequests, 1982. Source: The Met

CHILDREN’S WEAR

Wikipedia writes of early 18th-century childrenswear:

“Toddler boys and girls wore low-necked gowns. Leading strings—narrow straps of fabric attached to the gown at the shoulder—functioned as a sort of leash to keep the child from straying too far or falling as they learned to walk.

Children older than toddlers continued to wear clothing which was in many respects simply a smaller version of adult clothing. Although it is often said that children wore miniature versions of adult clothing, this is something of a myth. Girls wore back-fastening gowns, trimmed much more simply than women’s. The skirt of a girl’s gown was not split down the front, as women’s typically were. Girls did not wear jackets or bedgowns. Boys wore shirts, breeches, waistcoats and coats a man would, but often wore their necks open, and the coat was fitted and trimmed differently from a man’s, and boys often went bareheaded. During some decades of the 18th Century, boys’ shirts and coats had different collars and cuffs than a man’s. Even if the size is not apparent, it is usually possible to tell a child’s garment from an adult’s.”

References:

Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1720-1729
Rulers:

Europe in 1721. Source: Emerson Kent

Events:
  • 1721 – Smallpox vaccine developed
  • 1724 – R. Holden of Dundee, Scotland, began bleaching linen with a compound made from kelp
  • 1728 – Silk designer Anna Maria Garthwaite starts work in London

Primary/Period Sources

Resources for Fashion History Research

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Etiquette Books (Digitized)

Secondary Sources

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