OVERVIEW

Womenswear

Wikipedia summarizes women’s fashion of the 1700-1750, writing:

“Fashion in the period 1700–1750 in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by a widening silhouette for both men and women following the tall, narrow look of the 1680s and 90s. Wigs remained essential for men of substance, and were often white; natural hair was powdered to achieve the fashionable look.
Distinction was made in this period between full dress worn at court and for formal occasions, and undress or everyday, daytime clothes. As the decades progressed, fewer and fewer occasions called for full dress, which had all but disappeared by the end of the century.”
And of 18th-century women’s dress, the Victoria & Albert Museum writes:

“In the early 18th century women wore a dress known as a mantua for formal occasions. The mantua was an open-fronted silk or fine wool gown with a train and matching petticoat. The train was worn looped up over the hips to reveal the petticoat. The bodice had loose elbow-length sleeves finished with wide turned-back cuffs. A hoop petticoat and several under-petticoats wore worn beneath the outer petticoat.”

Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family

Fig. 1 - Francis Hayman (English, 1708–1776). Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family, 1740–1. Oil paint on canvas; 99.5 x 125.2 cm (39.17 x 49.29 in). London: Tate, T12221. Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members 2006. Source: The Tate Museum

Mantua (back view)

Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (English). Mantua (back view), 1740-1745. Embroidered silk with coloured silk and silver thread; dimensions unknown. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, T.260&A-1969. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum

Mantua

Fig. 3 - Leconte (embroiderer), Giles, Magdalene (possibly, maker) (English). Mantua, 1740-1745. Silk, linen, silk thread, linen thread, 14 types of silver thread, silver strip, silver frisé, silver spangles; hand-woven, hand-embroidered, hand-sewn; dimensions unknown. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, T.227&A-1970. Given by Lord and Lady Cowdray. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum

Portrait of Maria Teresa of Spain as the Dauphine of France

Fig. 4 - Louis Tocqué (French, 1696-1772). Portrait of Maria Teresa of Spain as the Dauphine of France, 1745. Oil on canvas; 271 cm × 195 cm (106.5 in × 77 in). Versailles: Palace of Versailles. Source: A Most Beguiling Accomplishment Blog

Portrait of Marie Leszczyńska Queen of France

Fig. 5 - Louis Tocqué (French, 1696–1772). Portrait of Marie Leszczyńska Queen of France, ca. 1740. Oil on convas; 191 × 277 cm (75.6 × 108 in). Paris: Louvre Museum, INV. 8177. Source: A Most Beguiling Accomplishment Blog

Menswear

The Victoria & Albert Museum writes of 18th-century men’s dress:

“At the beginning of the 18th century the male silhouette differed greatly from that of today. A typical outfit consisted of a full-skirted knee-length coat, knee breeches, a vest or long waistcoat (which could be sleeved), a linen shirt with frills and linen underdrawers. Lower legs showed and were an important part of the silhouette. Men wore silk stockings and leather shoes with stacked heels of low or medium height. The whole ensemble would have been topped by a shoulder-length full-bottomed wig and a tricorne (three-cornered) hat with an upturned brim.

As the century progressed, the male silhouette slowly changed. By the middle of the century the wig was usually tied back (known as the tye or bag wig). By the end of the century it was out of fashion altogether except for the most formal occasions. Undergarments and knee breeches did not change very much. Coat skirts gradually became less full and the front was cut in a curved line towards the back. Waistcoats became shorter. The upper leg began to show more and more and by the end of the century breeches fitted better because they were often made of knitted silk. Shoes became low-heeled with pointed toes and were fastened with a detachable buckle and straps or ribbon on the vamp (the upper front part of a boot or shoe).”

Suit

Fig. 1 - Designer unknown. Suit, 1740-1760. wool, gilt metal; dimensions unknown. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.117a–c. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest and Polaire Weissman Fund. Source: Pinterest

Caricature of a Man Holding a Tricorne, Walking to the Left

Fig. 2 - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696–1770). Caricature of a Man Holding a Tricorne, Walking to the Left, 1740-45. Pen and pale brown ink; 17.3 x 11.1 cm (6 13/16 x 4 3/8 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.1.462. Robert Lehman Collection, 1975. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dressing jacket

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (British). Dressing jacket, 1725–50. Linen; dimensions unknown. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988.197. Isabel Shults Fund, 1988. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

CHILDREN’S WEAR

Thomas (1740–1825) and Martha Neate (1741–after 1795) with His Tutor, Thomas Needham

Fig. 1 - Sir Joshua Reynolds (British, 1723–1792). Thomas (1740–1825) and Martha Neate (1741–after 1795) with His Tutor, Thomas Needham, 1748. Oil on canvas; 168 x 180.3 cm (66 1/8 x 71 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.264.5. Gift of Heathcote Art Foundation, 1986. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

References:

Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1740-1749
Rulers:

Map of Europe in 1740. Source: Emerson Kent

Events:
  • 1745 – Madame Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Madame de Pompadour, becomes Louis XV’s mistress and exerts tremendous influence on court fashions.
  • 1748 – A craze for costume dress and “masquerade” emerges–in 1748 society hostesses Elizabeth and Maria Gunning attend a ball at Dublin Castle wearing theater costumes.
  • 1749 – Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones
  • Primary/Period Sources

    Resources for Fashion History Research

    To discover primary/period sources, explore the categories below.
    Have a primary source to suggest?  Or a newly digitized periodical/book to announce?  Contact us!

    Etiquette Books (Digitized)

    Secondary Sources

    Also see the 18th-century overview page for more research sources… or browse our Zotero library.

    Online

    Books/Articles
    Pinterest