Wikipedia summarizes women’s gowns of the 1700s writing:

“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.”

Princess Sophia Dorothea with her husband Frederick William

Fig. 1 - Antoine Pesne (French, 1683-1757). Princess Sophia Dorothea with her husband Frederick William, 1734. Oil on canvass. Private collection. Source: Pinterest

Isabel de Farnesio

Fig. 2 - Jean Ranc (French, 1674-1735). Isabel de Farnesio, 1723. Oil on canvas; 144 x 115 cm. Madrid: Museo del Prado, P02330. Source: Museo del Prado

Robe à la Française

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (French). Robe à la Française, 1730-50. Silk. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.64.32.1. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1964. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fashion Icon: 


About men’s fashion, Wikipedia says:

“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.”

Portrait du Duke de Richelieu

Fig. 1 - Jean-Marc Nattier (French, 1685-1766). Portrait du Duke de Richelieu, 1732. Oil on canvas; 239 × 117.5 cm (94.1 × 46.3 in). Lisbon: Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Source: Museu Calouste Gulbenkian


Fig. 2 - Artist unknown (probably French). Ensemble, ca. 1730. (a) wool; (b) silk; (a, b) metallic thread. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004.411a, b. Isabel Shults Fund, 2004. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Man Smoking a Pipe

Fig. 3 - Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal) (Italian, 1697–1768). Man Smoking a Pipe, 1697–1768. Pen and brown ink, over traces of lead or graphite; 29.8 x 16.4 cm (11 3/4 x 6 7/16 in). New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 39.79. Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1939. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ashley Cowper with his Wife and Daughter

Fig. 4 - William Hogarth (British, 1697-1764). Ashley Cowper with his Wife and Daughter, 1731. Oil paint on canvas; 53.3 x 61.2 cm. London: Tate Britain, T00809. Source: Tate Britain


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.

Swaddling band

Fig. 1 - Designer unknown (French). Swaddling band, 1700-1750. Hand embroidered linen; 340.5 cm x 12.5 cm. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, B.13-2001. Source: Victoria and Albert Museum

Mrs. Sharpe and Her Child

Fig. 2 - Joseph Highmore (British, 1692–1780). Mrs. Sharpe and Her Child, 1731. Oil on canvas. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.339. Source: Yale Center for British Art

Benjamin Grymes (ca. 1725-1776) and Ludwell Grymes (ca. 1733-1795)

Fig. 3 - Charles Bridges (English, 1672-1747). Benjamin Grymes (ca. 1725-1776) and Ludwell Grymes (ca. 1733-1795), 1735-1744. Oil on canvas; 100.33 x 125.73 cm (39 1/2 x 49 1/2 in). Richmond: Virginia Museum of History & Culture, 1981.9. Source: Colonial Virginia Portraits

A Children's Tea Party

Fig. 4 - William Hogarth (English, 1697–1764). A Children's Tea Party, 1730. Oil on canvas; 64.3 x 76.5 cm. Cardiff: National Museum Wales, National Museum Cardiff, NMW A 94. allocated by HM Government in lieu of tax, 1988. Source: Art UK

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.

The Four Children of John Ivory Talbot

Fig. 5 - British (English) School. The Four Children of John Ivory Talbot, circa 1730. Oil on canvas. Lacock, Wiltshire: National Trust Collection, 996359. Source: National Trust Collection

Susanna Truax

Fig. 6 - Pieter Vanderlyn (American, c. 1687 - 1778). Susanna Truax, March 1730. Oil on bed ticking; 95.9 x 83.8 cm (37 3/4 x 33 in). Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 1980.62.31. Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch. Source: National Trust Collection


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1730-1739

Map of Europe in 1730s. Source: Emerson Kent

  • 1733 – John Kay invented the flying shuttle.

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)

Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, Eugenia Stanhope, and Philip Stanhope. Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son, Philip Stanhope Esq; Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden: Together with Several Other Pieces on Various Subjects. Dublin: Printed for E. Lynch [etc.], 1774. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008961515.
Courtin, Antoine de. Nouveau Traité de La Civilité, Qui Se Pratique En France Parmi Les Honnêtes Gens. Paris: Durand, 1750. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001921298.
Della Casa, Giovanni. Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners. London: Printed for J. Dodsley, 1774. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000704165.
La Manière de Converser Avec Les Honnestes Gens. Cologne: Schouten, 1701. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011159361.

Secondary Sources

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


Cullen, Oriole. “Eighteenth-Century European Dress.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eudr/hd_eudr.htm.
Glasscock, Jessica. “Eighteenth-Century Silhouette and Support.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/18sil/hd_18sil.htm.
Victoria and Albert Museum. “Introduction to 18th-Century Fashion,” January 25, 2011. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/introduction-to-18th-century-fashion/.
“Looking at Eighteenth-Century Clothing,” n.d. http://www.history.org/history/clothing/intro/clothing.cfm.
Watt, Melinda. “Textile Production in Europe: Silk, 1600–1800.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/txt_s/hd_txt_s.htm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The Decoration of Men’s Fashion in Eighteenth-Century France,” n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2015/elaborate-embroidery.

Ashelford, Jane, and Andreas Einsiedel. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. London: National Trust, 1996. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/759883168.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. Expanded ed. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1987. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/979316852.
Brown, Susan, ed. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style. New York: DK Publishing, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/840417029.
Cariou, Gail, Werner Wicke, and Elizabeth Tait. Lady’s Gown: 1730-1770 : A Visual Guide to Cut and Construction. Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada, 1997. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/612948817.
Edwards, Lydia. How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/988370049.
Fukai, Akiko, ed. Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century. Köln: Taschen, 2006. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/857267477.
Hart, Avril, and Susan North. Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries. London: V&A Publications, 1998. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/170891633.
Hart, Avril, Susan North, Richard Davis, and Leonie Davis. Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publications, 2009. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/846177973.
Hill, Daniel Delis. History of World Costume and Fashion. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/768100950.
Hollander, Anne. Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting. London: National Gallery, 2002. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/930256016.
Ribeiro, Aileen. The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/450347616.
Ribeiro, Aileen. Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe, 1715-1789. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/978716760.
Ribeiro, Aileen. The Gallery of Fashion. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/500993037.
Ribeiro, Aileen. A Visual History of Costume: The Eighteenth Century. 4. London: Batsford, 1983. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/436095052.
Rodini, Elizabeth, Elissa Weaver, and Kristen Ina Grimes. A Well-Fashioned Image: Clothing and Costume in European Art, 1500-1850. Chicago: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 2002. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/694844989.
Takeda, Sharon Sadako, Kaye Durland Spilker, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Clarissa Esguerra, and Nicole LaBouff. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915. New York: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2010. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/971876353.
Tortora, Phyllis G., and Sara B. Marcketti. Survey of Historic Costume. Sixth edition. New York: Fairchild Books, 2015. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/972500782.
Vincent, Susan J., and Peter McNeil, eds. A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion: The Age of Enlightenment (1650-1800). London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/967107605.
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes, 1600-1900. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1964. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/927414537.
Waugh, Norah, and Margaret Woodward. The Cut of Women’s Clothes, 1600-1930. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1968. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/894728161.
Man’s coat 1730-1750: a visual guide to cut and construction. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1995. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/612948827.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Accessories,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-accessories/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Bags & Purses,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-bags-purses/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Children’s Clothing,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-childrens-clothing/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Fabrics & Textiles,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-fabrics-textiles/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Fashion Dolls,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-fashion-dolls/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Footwear,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-footwear/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Headwear,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-womens-headwear/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Jewelry,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-jewelry/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Men’s Headwear,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-mens-headwear/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Mitts & Gloves,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-mitts-gloves/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Pockets,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-pockets/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Stays & Petticoats,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-stays-petticoats/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Stomachers,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-stomachers/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Undated Men’s Clothing,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-undated-mens-clothing/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Undated Portraits of Men,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-undated-portraits-of-men/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Undated Portraits of Women,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-undated-portraits-of-women/.
Pocket Museum. “1700-1799 Undated Women’s Clothing,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1700-1799-undated-womens-clothing/.
Pinterest. “1730-1739 Men’s Fashion,” 1730s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1730-1739-mens-fashion/.
Pinterest. “1730-1739 Portraits of Women,” 1730s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1730-1739-portraits-of-women/.
Pinterest. “1730-1739 Women’s Fashion,” 1730s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1730-1739-womens-fashion/.
“18th Century Fashion 1700s-1730s,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/lucindabrant/18th-century-fashion-1700s-1730s/.
“Costume in Art - 18th Century,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/maellen/costume-in-art-18th-century/.
Museum at FIT. “Fashion History: 18th Century,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/museumatfit/fashion-history-18th-century/.
“Historic Costume - 18th Century,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/maellen/historic-costume-18th-century/.
“Style: Rococo, 18th Century,” 1700s. https://www.pinterest.com/marquiselem/style-rococo-18th-century/.