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. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, T.260&A-1969. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum


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. 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

Fashion Icon: 


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).”


Fig. 1 - Designer unknown. Suit, 1740-1760. Wool, gilt metal. 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. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988.197. Isabel Shults Fund, 1988. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


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 1740s, 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”).

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

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

Fig. 2 - Francis Hayman (English, 1708–1776). Detail of 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

The Graham Children

Fig. 3 - William Hogarth (British, 1697-1764). The Graham Children, 1742. Oil on canvas; 160.5 × 181 cm (63.1 × 71.2 in). London: National Gallery, NG4756. Presented by Lord Duveen through The Art Fund, 1934. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Children Playing with a Hobby Horse

Fig. 4 - Joseph Francis Nollekens (Flemish, 1702–1748). Children Playing with a Hobby Horse, 1741-1747. Oil on canvas; 45.7 x 55.9 cm (18 x 22 in). New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.491. Source: Yale Center for British Art

A 1742 painting titled The Graham Children depicts the four children of Daniel Graham: Thomas, Henrietta, Anna Maria and Richard (Fig. 3). Thomas, who was less than two years old at the time of painting, wears short clothes and a tight-fitting cap on his head. Henrietta and Anna Maria wear gowns with bell-shaped skirt silhouettes, in solid blue and ivory floral fabrics respectively. They both wear white aprons, frilly sleeves, and flowery headdresses. It should be noted that their stiff, conical torsos are achieved by wearing stays, a predecessor of the corset. In her book, The Corset: A Cultural History, Valerie Steele uses The Graham Children as an example of “the ubiquity of stay-wearing” (Steele 21). On the far right, young Richard wears a men’s suit. His coat and breeches are green and his waistcoat is light brown.

Portrait of Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain

Fig. 5 - Giuseppe Bonito (Italian, 1707-1789). Portrait of Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain, circa 1748. Oil on canvas. Madrid: Patrimonio Nacional. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Another visual resource for 1740s children’s fashions is the painting Children Playing with a Hobby Horse, dated circa 1741-1747 (Fig. 4). On the far left, a young boy wears a red menswear suit with black stockings and a black cap on his head. The other children wear gowns with back-opening bodices and leading strings, both of which are plainly visible on the girl in the dark blue dress. Two girls wear a neckerchief, or fichu, around their necks. The girl on the far right appears to play with a moretta mask.

A portrait of Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain circa 1748 depicts her at the age of three (Fig. 5). Her gown is made of a luxurious pink silk with glittering silver metallic threads, and adorned with flowers and lace. It contains clear markers of childhood: her bodice opens at the back, and she carries a delicate, lacy apron in her arms. The silhouette of her skirt is very wide at the hips, however, mimicking the more extreme court fashions for contemporary womenswear.


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1740-1749

Map of Europe in 1740. Source: Emerson Kent

  • 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)

    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. “1740-1749 Men’s Fashion,” 1740s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1740-1749-mens-fashion/.
    Pinterest. “1740-1749 Portraits of Women,” 1740s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1740-1749-portraits-of-women/.
    Pinterest. “1740-1749 Women’s Fashion,” 1740s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1740-1749-womens-fashion/.
    “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/.