The clothing in the 1700s was very elaborate, decorative, and good-looking. Especially the outfits of the ladies from this era. One of such beautiful garments was the pet-en-l'air jacket – the name is as intricate as the design, isn’t it? This was a less formal piece of clothes than different other 18th-century garments. What else do we know about it? How did it look like? And why was it considered informal? Let’s find out.
The pet-en-l'air jacket, basically, is a short version of the sack-back gown worn by most high-status ladies in the 18th century. In case you forgot or don’t know what a sack-back dress is, it’s an informal gown that has specifically draped fabric at the back, arranged in box pleats that fall loose from the shoulder to the floor with a slight train. In front, the dress is open. It is worn over a petticoat and stomacher so that the underpinnings aren’t visible. The sack-back is rather loose and comfy, not too close-fitted, so it was considered one of the informal garments in the 18th century. Logically, the pet-en-l'air jacket we’re talking about in this post is also informal.
The pet-en-l'air jacket appeared in the early 1700s and was popular among wealthy women throughout the century. Of course, it evolved and changed during this long time, but the main idea remained the same.
The pet-en-l'air jacket was open in the front, same as the sack-back dress. So, this jacket was always worn over a decorative stomacher that covered the corset underneath. It was paired with either a matching skirt or a petticoat in a contrasting color.
Pet-en-l'air jacket used in Marie Antoinette movie. This jacket is made in lovely buttercream color and paired with a pink skirt
The length of a pet-en-l'air jacket varied from knee-length to a rather short peplum (a small flaring overskirt on a jacket).
And, surely, the pet-en-l'air jacket was often embellished with ruching, bows, appliques, and other decorative trimmings. But not as much as the formal garments.
The pet-en-l'air jacket was used at home, like modern day-to-day clothes. Also, women could wear it while entertaining guests. But when a lady went to the public, she always dressed in different garments.