What did women wear in the mid-18th century? The cuts, designs, fashionable silhouettes… What about the bling? And which accessories were preferable? Let’s find out and have a little peek into a fashionable 1740s lady’s wardrobe. Also, as a bonus, we’ll uncover some tips regarding the 18th-century makeup. You might learn something new about the lifestyle of a 1740s lady.
We are starting with a linen shift and a banyan – a dressing gown.
Stockings go next: silk for summer, wool for winter. The stockings are clocked with decorative stitching/embroidery at the side. Decoratively woven ribbons serve as garters.
Time to get rid of the banyan and to get some proper clothing on.
Stays next. These stays lace both at the back and at the front, over a boned stomacher. Such an arrangement allows for great versatility in fit – and an easy way to regulate the size for pregnancy. It is also much easier to lace the stays all up by yourself.
The stays were mostly a means of support and, if fitted correctly, a very comfortable item of clothing.
These are smooth covered stays, made with linen canvas, linen lining, and covered with silk brocade.
Time to work on some basic makeup.
But first – teeth. People cleaned them with cleaning powder and a wet sponge.
Then, the face paint – a nice and smooth oil-based cream mixed with powder. A pale complexion was fashionable and a show of status. It meant you didn’t need to work outside. And if a lady was outside, her hat, fichu, gloves, etc. would be protecting her skin from the damaging sun.
Burnt cloves are used to darken the brows. Surprisingly effective, and they smell nice, too.
Rose lip pomatum next. Great to add a subtle sheen to the lips and cheeks.
And a bit of powder.
We can carry on with dressing up now.
Buckled shoes next.
And a hooped skirt. This one is an oblong hoop, made in striped linen (the most popular fabric for these), boned with cane. The skirt could also have been boned with whalebone. It is rather light and quite flexible.
Silk petticoat is the next garment. Lots of fabric in it, but that meant it was easy to re-cut and re-use the silk, adapting the garments to the changing fashions.
The gown next. This model, a descendant of the mantua and probably a precursor of the robe francaise, was called “robe volante”, “saque”, or “robe battante”.
It has wide pleats at the back, just like the francaise, but the skirts are closed at the front. The front also has pleats – here, they are sewn in, but they could also be left loose, falling gracefully from the shoulders. It made the gown quite versatile and adaptable. And since most construction relied upon pleating, a lot of fabric could be re-used if needed.
The front could be left open, especially when worn indoors or when worn over decorative stays.
Or it could be pulled closed with ties, often filling in the gap with a decorative stomacher.
There are ties at the back of the bodice, too. So it was really easy to adapt the size of the dress, perfect for maternity wear.
The gown could be accessorized with a stomacher, and many different styles were available. It is attached to the stays with pins, and the folds of the volante hide the edges. This model is in white satin, lined with linen, and hand-embroidered.
A necklace and earrings complement the dress perfectly.
And a linen cap adds extra charm. A silk ribbon is worn to keep the cap in place.
A fichu or neckerchief is next.
And a straw hat to protect the face from the sun.
The outfit is ready.