Wikipedia summarizes women’s fashion of the period beginning from 1750s, writing:

“Women’s clothing styles retained the emphasis on a narrow, inverted conical torso, achieved with boned stays, above full skirts. Hoop kirts 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.”

Of 1770s changes in fashion, Wikipedia writes:

“Women: robe à la française or sack-back gown; robe à l’anglaise or close-bodied gown; the Brunswick; tall hair and headdresses

Men: Waistcoats began to shorten; Macaroni imitators”

“Women’s clothing styles maintained an emphasis on the conical shape of the torso while the shape of the skirts changed throughout the period. The wide panniers (holding the skirts out at the side) for the most part disappeared by 1780 for all but the most formal court functions, and false rumps (bum-pads or hip-pads) were worn for a time.”

Hereditary Prince Friedrich Franz with His Wife Luise

Fig. 1 - George David Matthieu (German, 1737-1778). Hereditary Prince Friedrich Franz with His Wife Luise, 1778. Oil on canvas; 242 x 210 cm. Schwerin: Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Source: Museum Schwerin

The Studious Beauty

Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (London). The Studious Beauty, 1778. Walpole Collection. Source: Pinterest

Women's "Andrienne" dress, Robe à la française

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (possibly French). Women's "Andrienne" dress, Robe à la française, ca. 1775. Taffeta. Florence: Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti, 00000091. Source: Europeana Collections

Robe à la Française

Fig. 4 - Designer unknown. Robe à la Française, ca. 1770. Satin, silk fly braid,; bust approx 86cm (34in). Source: Pinterest

The Queen Dowager Juliane Marie

Fig. 5 - Vigilius Eriksen (Danish). The Queen Dowager Juliane Marie, 1776. Oil on canvas; 301.8 x 212 x 7 cm. Copenhagen: Statens Museum for Kunst. Source: Statens Museum for Kunst

The Music Party

Fig. 6 - Louis Rolland Trinquesse (French, 1745-1800). The Music Party, 1774. Oil on canvas; 194 x 133 cm (76.4 x 52.4 in). Munich: Alte Pinakothek, HUW 37. Source: Wikimedia

Margaret Strachan (Mrs. Thomas Harwood)

Fig. 7 - Charles Willson Peale (American, 1741–1827). Margaret Strachan (Mrs. Thomas Harwood), ca. 1771. Oil on canvas; 78.7 x 62.2 cm (31 x 24 1/2 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 33.24. Morris K. Jesup Fund, 1933. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lady Elizabeth Stanley (1753–1797), Countess of Derby

Fig. 8 - George Romney (British, 1734–1802). Lady Elizabeth Stanley (1753–1797), Countess of Derby, 1776–78. Oil on canvas; 127 x 101.6 cm (50 x 40 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 49.7.57. The Jules Bache Collection, 1949. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Portrait of a Woman

Fig. 9 - Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) (British, 1734–1797). Portrait of a Woman, ca. 1770. Oil on canvas; 126.7 x 101.6 cm (49 7/8 x 40 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.264.6. Gift of Heathcote Art Foundation, 1986. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Of 1770s men’s fashion, Wikipedia writes:

“Throughout the period, men continued to wear the coat, waistcoat and breeches. 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.

In Boston and Philadelphia in the decades around the American Revolution, the adoption of plain undress styles was a conscious reaction to the excesses of European court dress; Benjamin Franklin caused a sensation by appearing at the French court in his own hair (rather than a wig) and the plain costume of Quaker Philadelphia.

At the other extreme was the “macaroni”.

In the United States, only the first five Presidents, from George Washington to James Monroe, dressed according to this fashion, including wearing of powdered wigs, tricorne hats and knee-breeches.The latest-born notable person to be portrayed wearing a powdered wig tied in a queue according to this fashion was Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia (born in 1779, portrayed in 1795).”

Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français

Fig. 1 - Artist unknown. Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 1779. Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français. Source: Pinterest


Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (British). Suit, ca. 1770–80. Wool, silk, cotton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013.516a–c. Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2013. Source: The Met



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1770-1779

Map of Europe in 1770s. Source: antiqueprints.com

  • 1772 – Denis Diderot completed the Encyclopaedia
  • 1774-1793 – Louis XVI of France reigned, Marie Antoinette becomes Queen of France and introduces a series of new fashions.
  • 1774 – Georgiana Cavendish marries the Duke of Devonshire; she will become a trendsetter in English fashion.
  • 1775 – Grand tours to Italy are popular with wealthy European men, who go there to study classical antiquity and to experience polite society.
  • 1776 – The American colonies declared independence
  • 1778 – King George III of England introduces the Windsor uniform; this starts the lasting trend for royalty to wear liveries, conveying the idea of military discipline and duty.

Primary/Period Sources

Resources for Fashion History Research

To discover primary/period sources, explore the categories below.
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NYC-Area Special Collections of Fashion Periodicals/Plates
Fashion Periodicals (Digitized)

Etiquette Books (Digitized)

Secondary Sources

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