“Women: Court dress included elaborate and intricate styles influenced by Rococo; hoop skirts; panniers; corsets; petticoats; stays; conical torso shape with large hips; “standardized courtly bodies and faces” with little individuality.
French: Elaborate court dress, colorful,decorative, portraiture inside.
English: Simple and practical, inexpensive durable fabrics, outdoor lifestyle, portraiture outside.”
“Men: Coat; waistcoat: breeches; large cuffs; more attention on individual pieces of the suit; wigs for formal occasions; long and powdered hair”
“Throughout the period, men continued to wear the coat, waistcoat and breeches of the previous period. However, changes were seen in both the fabric used as well as the cut of these garments. More attention was paid to individual pieces of the suit, and each element underwent stylistic changes. Under new enthusiasms for outdoor sports and country pursuits, the elaborately embroidered silks and velvets characteristic of “full dress” or formal attire earlier in the century gradually gave way to carefully tailored woollen “undress” garments for all occasions except the most formal. This more casual style reflected the dominating image of “nonchalance.” The goal was to look as fashionable as possible with seemingly little effort. This was to be the new, predominant mindset of fashion.”
Leading into the eighteenth century, new philosophies emerging from the Age of Enlightenment were changing attitudes about childhood (Nunn 98). For example, in his 1693 publication, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, John Locke challenged long-held beliefs about best practices for child-rearing. A slightly later child development theorist was Jean Jacques Rousseau. Locke and Rousseau both put forwards general principles about children’s dress. However, their ideas were not clearly reflected in childrenswear until the second half of the century.
Swaddling was a very long-held European tradition where an infants’ limbs are immobilized in tight cloth wrappings (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). However, Locke and Rousseau believed that swaddling infants was bad for health and physical strength (Paoletti). While the tradition was continued throughout the first half of the century, the practice did begin to decline in the second half.
Babies were then dressed in “slips” or “long clothes” until they began to crawl (Callahan). These were ensembles with very long, full skirts that extended beyond the feet (Fig. 2) (Nunn 99). Babies also wore tight-fitting caps on their heads. Locke and Rousseau advocated that young children receive more regular hygiene. They also believed that dressing children in many layers of heavy fabrics was bad for their health. For those reasons, linen and cotton fabrics were preferred for babies and very young children because they were lightweight and easily washable (Paoletti).
Once a child was becoming mobile, they transitioned into “short clothes” (Callahan). These ensembles ended at the ankles, allowing for greater freedom of movement (Callahan). In the 1750s short clothes still featured a boned or stiffened back-opening bodice, though they were less structured by the 1760s (Callahan).
At this phase, toddlers typically had “leading strings” attached to the back of their bodices (Fig. 3) (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 decade 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.
An American painting circa 1750-1755 depicts four children of Philip Grymes and Mary Randolph Grymes (Fig. 4). From left to right, they are Lucy, John, Phillip, and Charles. Lucy wears a blue gown with a back-opening bodice and white apron. Extremely similar ensembles can be seen in portraiture of young girls throughout this decade, as well as previous decades. John also wears a gown, signifying that he has not yet been deemed mature enough to be breeched. Nonetheless, his ankle-length red gown and blue coat appear influenced by menswear. John also holds a fashionable tricorne hat in his left hand. Phillip is only one year older than John, yet he wears a brown men’s suit with a light blue waistcoat. Charles, the smallest child, may have been as young as two at the time of painting. He wears a short, loose white gown — seemingly in line with the philosophies of Locke and Rousseau.
A 1755 family portrait of Dr Samuel Walthen with his wife and children is another excellent visual resource for 1750s childrenswear. The youngest child wears a white gown with a stiffened bodice and a tight cap on their head. They are fascinated by a doll being held by the second-youngest child, who also wears a white gown and fitted cap. The oldest child, on the left, wears a fitted cap and a pink gown with clearly visible leading strings.
- “1750-1775 in Western Fashion”. Wikipedia. Accessed September 16, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1750%E2%80%9375_in_Western_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.
- 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.
- Paoletti, Jo Barraclough. “Children and Adolescents in the United States.” In Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: The United States and Canada, edited by Phyllis G. Tortora, 208–219. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. Accessed August 28, 2020. http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/BEWDF/EDch3029.
- 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/.
- 1750 – Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Arts and Sciences
- 1752 – Gregorian calendar adopted
- 1759 – Voltaire’s Candide is written
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