“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.
Necklines on dresses became more open as time went on allowing for greater display of ornamentation of the neck area. A thick band of lace was often sewed onto the neckline of a gown with ribbons, flowers, and/or jewels adorning the lace. Jewelry such as strings of pearls, ribbons, or lace frills were tied high on the neck. Finally, one other large element of 18th century women’s dress wear became the addition of the frilled neckband, a separate piece from the rest of the dress. This ornament was popularized sometime around 1730.”
“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.
Upper class men often wore a cane as part of their outfits, suspending it by a loop from one of their waistcoat buttons to allow their hands to properly hold snuff-boxes or handkerchiefs. The cane was thus less functional and rather for the sake of fashion.
Wigs in a variety of styles were worn for different occasions and by different age groups.
The large high parted wig of the 1690s remained popular from 1700 until around 1720. During this time various colors were worn, but white was becoming more popular and the curls were getting tighter. Later, wigs or the natural hair were worn long, brushed back from the forehead and clubbed or tied back at the nape of the neck with a black ribbon. 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.”
Leading into the eighteenth century, attitudes about childhood were changing (Nunn 98). The shift was sparked by new philosophies emerging from the Age of Enlightenment. For example, in his 1693 publication, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, John Locke challenged long-held beliefs about best practices for child-rearing.
However, that was not reflected in childrenswear of the first half of the century. In the 1730s, traditions for childrenswear were not unlike those at the start of the century.
Infants were swaddled, as was the long-held European tradition (Tortora and Marcketti). Swaddling was the practice of tightly binding an infants’ limbs, so as to immobilize them (Callahan). The Victoria and Albert Museum possesses a finely embroidered swaddling band dated circa 1700-1750 (Fig. 1). Its elaborate floral embroidery indicates that this was a fashionable “outer swaddling band” (Victoria and Albert Museum).
In the early eighteenth century, babies typically outgrew the swaddling phase between two and four months (Callahan). They were then dressed in “slips” or “long clothes” (Callahan). These were ensembles with a fitted bodice and a very long, full skirt (Fig. 2) (Nunn 99). Babies also wore tight-fitting caps on their heads.
Once a child was becoming mobile, they transitioned into “short clothes” (Callahan). These ensembles allowed for greater mobility because skirts were cut at the ankle (Callahan). Bodices opened at the back and were boned or otherwise stiffened (Callahan). At this phase, toddlers typically had “leading strings” attached to the back of their bodice (Magidson). Leading strings were streamers of fabric used to protect young children from falling or wandering off (“Childhood”).
In his memoirs, English poet and historian William Hutton recalled of the year 1730:
“This Summer my sister Ann was born; and … the nursing was committed to me. I wished to see her in leading strings, like other children; but, being too poor buy, I procured a packthread string, which I placed under her arms …” (Hutton, 81).
When boys were deemed mature enough, they underwent a rite of passage known as “breeching” (Reinier). Breeching referred to the first time a boy wore bifurcated breeches or trousers, symbolizing his entrance into manhood. In the first half of the eighteenth century, boys were typically breeched between the ages of four and seven (Callahan). From that point on, boys during this time followed menswear fashions. Girls did not fully transition into adult dress until their early teens. However, elements of fashionable womenswear were incorporated into their dress as they aged.
William Hogarth’s whimsical painting, A Children’s Tea Party, is an excellent example of 1730s children’s fashions (Fig. 4). A boy, who appears to be quite young, wears a menswear ensemble and plays a drum. His coat and breeches are a dark color, whereas his waistcoat is light. A young girl wears a white gown with pink leading strings and a white cap on her head. Two older girls wear gowns with fashionable floral fabrics and flowery headwear. They both wear translucent aprons, and one of their leading strings blows in the wind.
An English group portrait, circa 1730, depicts the four children of John Ivory Talbot: John, Thomas, Martha, and Ann (Fig. 5). Biographical information informs us that they are approximately ages thirteen, eleven, ten, and seven respectively. Both boys wear adult menswear ensembles, one in a very dark color and the other in beige. Thomas poses with a bow and arrow, similar to Benjamin Grymes in Figure 3. Martha and Ann wear pastel-colored gowns that mimic the fashionable womenswear silhouette. However, their bodices open and close at the back rather than the front, marking them as children.
An American painting from 1730 depicts a four-year-old girl named Susanna Truax (Fig. 6). The bold red and green stripes of Susanna’s dress are rather uncommon in portraiture from this time, giving the painting a striking quality. However, the cut of her ensemble is in line with popular childrenswear. While the bell-shaped silhouette of her skirt resembles womenswear, her bodice opens at the back and she wears a very sheer lace apron.
- “1700–50 in Western Fashion.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 26, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1700%E2%80%9350_in_Western_fashion
“Introduction to 18th-Century Fashion.” Victoria and Albert Museum, January 25, 2011. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/introduction-to-18th-century-fashion/.
- Callahan, Colleen R. “Children’s Clothing.” In The Berg Companion to Fashion, edited by Valerie Steele. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. Accessed August 08, 2020. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474264716.0003223.
- “Childhood.” In European Renaissance and Reformation, 1350-1600, edited by Norman J. Wilson, 319-321. Vol. 1 of World Eras. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2001. Gale eBooks (accessed August 7, 2020). https://libproxy.fitsuny.edu:2653/apps/doc/CX3034600137/GVRL?u=fitsuny&sid=GVRL&xid=480f4328.
- Hutton, William. The Life of William Hutton, F.A.S.S. Including a Particular Account of the Riots at Birmingham in 1791, and the History of His Family. Edited by Catherine Hutton. London: Printed for BBaldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1817. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1166863345
- Magidson, Phyllis. “Fashion.” In Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society, edited by Paula S. Fass, 344-348. Vol. 2. New York, NY: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. Gale eBooks (accessed August 7, 2020). https://libproxy.fitsuny.edu:2653/apps/doc/CX3402800166/GVRL?u=fitsuny&sid=GVRL&xid=0084684d.
- Nunn, Joan. Fashion in Costume 1200-2000. Bridgewater, NJ: Distributed by Paw Prints/Baker & Taylor, 2008. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/232125801
- Reinier, Jacqueline S. “Breeching.” In Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society, edited by Paula S. Fass, 118. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. Gale eBooks (accessed August 7, 2020). https://libproxy.fitsuny.edu:2653/apps/doc/CX3402800074/GVRL?u=fitsuny&sid=GVRL&xid=360a7a45.
- Tortora, Phyllis G., and Sara B. Marcketti. “The Eighteenth Century 1700–1790.” In Survey of Historic Costume, 266–297. New York: Fairchild Books, 2015. Accessed August 07, 2020. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781501304194.ch-010.
- Victoria and Albert Museum. “Swaddling Band.” V&A Collections. Accessed August 08, 2020. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O62960/swaddling-band/.duction-to-20th-century-fashion/.
- 1733 – John Kay invented the flying shuttle.
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