Wikipedia writes:

“European countries and North America was characterized by greater abundance, elaboration and intricacy in clothing designs, loved by the Rococo artistic trends of the period. The French and English styles of fashion were very different from one another. French style was defined by elaborate court dress, colourful and rich in decoration.”

“Women’s clothing styles retained the emphasis on a narrow, inverted conical torso, achieved with boned stays, above full skirts. Hoop skirts continued to be worn, reaching their largest size in the 1750s, and were sometimes replaced by side-hoops, also called ‘false hips’, or panniers. Court dress had little or no physical comfort with restriction of movement. Full size hoops skirts prevented sitting and reminded those wearing them to stand in the presence of the King. Stays forced a proper standing posture. Garments like these could not be washed often because of the fabrics from which they were made. The Enlightenment produced a backlash against sumptuary laws which asserted a stagnant social hierarchy. During the Enlightenment, court dress stayed almost the same while outside of court dress, fashion became less extravagant and shifted more towards comfort rather than courtly display.”

Gown (robe à la française): robe and petticoat

Fig. 1 - Designer unknown (France or Holland). Gown (robe à la française): robe and petticoat, 1765-1770. Textile: blue and white brocade weave silk (paduasoy?); bleached plain weave linen lining; silk knotted fringe. Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium, HD F.355. Mr. Henry N. Flynt. Source: Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium

Woman's dress (Robe à la française) with Attached Stomacher

Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (French). Woman's dress (Robe à la française) with Attached Stomacher, ca. 1760-1770. Silk taffeta with woven ribs and supplementary weft flosses, silk looped fringe; center back length: 147.3 cm, waist: 73.7 cm (center back length: 58 inches, waist: 29 inches). Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1981-9-1. Purchased with the Marie Kimball Fund and with the Edgar Viguers Seeler Fund, 1981. Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Robe à la Française

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (British). Robe à la Française, 1760. Silk. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 48.187.709a, b. Bequest of Catherine D. Wentworth, 1948. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Robe à la française

Fig. 4 - Designer unknown (European). Robe à la française, 1765. Silk. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001.472a, b. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2001. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (robe à la française)

Fig. 5 - Designer unknown (French). Dress (robe à la française), ca. 1765. Silk satin brocade, silk fly fringe, linen. San Francisco: de Young Museum, 55018. Gift of Mrs. Chauncey Olcott. Source: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young Museum)

Mrs. Samuel Cutts

Fig. 6 - Joseph Blackburn (English, 1730 - 1765). Mrs. Samuel Cutts, 1762-1763. Oil on canvas; 127.6 x 102.9 cm (50 1/4 x 40 1/2 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979.196.2. Bequest of Clarence Dillon, 1979. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fashion Icon: 


Wikipedia writes:

“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 woolen “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.”

Louis XV of France (1710-1774)

Fig. 1 - Carle van Loo (tidl. tilskrevet) 1705 - 1765 Louis Michel van Loo (værksted) 1707 - 1771 (French). Louis XV of France (1710-1774), 1765. Oil on canvas; 281.5 x 170 cm. Copenhagen: National Gallery of Denmark, KMS1148. Modtaget, Frederiksborg - 1882. Source: National Gallery of Denmark

Riding Coat

Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (British). Riding Coat, 1760. Silk and goat hair. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976.147.1. Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Alan S. Davis Gift, 1976. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Leopold Mozart

Fig. 3 - Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni (Italian, 1721–1782). Leopold Mozart, ca. 1765. Oil on canvas. Salzburg: Mozart Museum, not available. Source: Wikipedia

Joseph Sherburne

Fig. 4 - John Singleton Copley (American, 1738 - 1815). Joseph Sherburne, 1767-1770. Oil on canvas; 127 x 101.6 cm (50 x 40 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 23.143. Amelia B. Lazarus Fund, 1923. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Fig. 5 - Designer unknown (British). Suit, 1760. Wool, gilt metal. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.117a–c. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest and Polaire Weissman Fund, 1996. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


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 forward general principles about children’s dress. However, it was not until the 1760s that their ideas were clearly reflected in childrenswear (Paoletti).

Swaddling was a very long-held European tradition where an infant’s limbs are immobilized in tight cloth wrappings (Callahan). However, Locke and Rousseau believed that swaddling infants was bad for their 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 (Nunn 99). Babies also wore tight-fitting caps on their heads.

Once a child was becoming mobile, they transitioned into “short clothes” (Callahan). Unlike long clothes, these ensembles ended at the ankles, allowing for greater freedom of movement (Callahan). Short gowns featured back-opening, stiffened bodices and typically had “leading strings” at the back (Magidson). Leading strings were streamers of fabric used to protect young children from falling or wandering off (“Childhood”). A portrait of three-year-old James Badger from 1760 depicts him in a rather masculine-looking skirted short clothes ensemble (Fig. 1).

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. This typically happened by the time a boy reached the age of seven (Callahan). From that point on, they would be dressed in menswear fashions (see Fig. 2) — although suits for children were now becoming more relaxed (Callahan). 

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).

James Badger

Fig. 1 - Joseph Badger (American, 1708 - 1765). James Badger, 1760. Oil on canvas; 108 x 84.1 cm (42 1/2 x 33 1/8 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 29.85. Rogers Fund, 1929. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Boy's Three Piece Suit: Coat, Waistcoat and Breeches

Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (French or Italian). Boy's Three Piece Suit: Coat, Waistcoat and Breeches, ca. 1760-1775. Silk and linen. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1904-30a--c. Gift of Mrs. William D. Frishmuth, 1904. Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art

John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family

Fig. 3 - Johann Zoffany (German, 1733-1810). John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and His Family, ca. 1766. Oil on canvas; 101.9 × 127.3 cm (40 1/8 × 50 1/8 in). Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 96.PA.312. Source: J. Paul Getty Museum

By the mid-1760s, a new style for young children emerged: a white gown worn with a colored sash around the waist (Fig. 3). This style was worn by very young children of both sexes. The most common sash colors were pink and blue, although they were not used to indicate gender. A colored underslip could also be worn, which would show through the translucent white top fabric (Paoletti). While the style originated with very small children, it quickly became more pervasive as the century continued.

An English family portrait circa 1766 depicts the newly emerging white gown style on three young children (Fig. 3). The couple’s daughter is depicted at the center of the painting, wearing a white frock with a pink sash and tight-fitting cap. Two sons are depicted on either side, wearing white frocks with blue sashes. Blue leading strings are visible on the back of the leftmost boy.

As it was in previous decades, girls typically did not transition into adult dress until their early teens. While the ensemble of a young girl may incorporate elements of fashionable womenswear, she would wear a back-opening bodice (see Fig. 4) and possibly an apron as well.

The group family portraits titled The Children of George Bond of Ditchley (Fig. 5) and The Pybus Family (Fig. 6) were painted in 1768 and 1769 respectively. In both portraits, the youngest children wear the novel white gown and colored sash ensemble. Also in both portraits, older boys dress in menswear suits. There is, however, a discrepancy between the dress of older girls. Two older girls stand on the lefthand side of the 1769 painting. Both girls wear aprons and their silhouettes mirror fashionable womenswear, following the childrenswear traditions of the past. However, in the 1768 painting a tall, older girl wears what appears to be a scaled-up version of what her younger siblings wear. This inconsistency is indicative of the transition occurring in older girls’ dress, which would be complete by the end of the century.


Fig. 4 - Designer unknown (English). Gown, ca. 1760. Silk. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, T.183-1965. Source: Victoria and Albert Museum

The Children of George Bond of Ditchleys

Fig. 5 - Hugh Barron (English, 1746-1791). The Children of George Bond of Ditchleys, 1768. Oil paint on canvas; 106 × 139.7 cm (41 3/4 × 55 in). London: Tate, T01882. Bequeathed by Alan Evans 1974. Source: Tate

The Pybus family

Fig. 6 - Nathaniel Dance-Holland (English, 1735-1811). The Pybus family, ca. 1769. Oil on canvas; 142.8 x 140.2 cm. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2003.687. Felton Bequest, 2003. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1760-1769

Map of Europe in 1760. Source: mapsys.info

  • 1760 – George III becomes King of Great Britain.
  • 1763 – Treaty of Paris is signed.
  • 1764 – The “Spinning Jenny,” a machine using multiple spindles for spinning yarn, is invented by James Hargreaves.
  • 1765 – The caraco emerges as a women’s jacket style in the 1760s.
  • 1765 – American Revolution begins.

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.
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. “1760-1769 Men’s Fashion,” 1760s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1760-1769-mens-fashion/.
Pinterest. “1760-1769 Portraits of Women,” 1760s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1760-1769-portraits-of-women/.
Pinterest. “1760-1769 Women’s Fashion,” 1760s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1760-1769-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/.