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Clothing Of The Eighteenth Century

( Originally Published 1928 )



THE coat changes were identical with those described for the English (see the English, eighteenth century). Just before the French Revolution its tails were ankle length. About 1794 the so-called "Incroyables" affected enormous stocks well up over the chin, resembling the barbes worn by women in the sixteenth century; cocked hats like Napoleon's accompanied them.

The Solitaire.—A ribbon of black silk tied loosely around the neck of gentlemen made its debut at the court of Louis XV. It was sometimes fastened to the bag of the wig.

Muffs, decorated with large bows of ribbon, were carried by men as well as women. French abbes had black ones to match their costumes.


The fontange lingered from the previous century, de-spite the protests of Louis XIV, until the appearance in 1714 of an Englishwoman wearing the low headdress so popular at Queen Anne's court ; whereupon the towers which had reigned so long were immediately discarded by the women of France, who proceeded to copy the English fashion—a rare occasion in history, by the way.

The Pompadour.—The hair was brushed straight up from the brow over a pad, a style much in vogue during the middle of the century and named for the favorite of Louis XV. (This fashion in an exaggerated form was revived by the Gibson girl toward the end of the nineteenth century.) To match the solitaire of the men, a black velvet ribbon was worn about the neck, a small ruching being occasionally substituted.

The Watteau gown, cut with a square neck and panniers and affected by Mme. de Pompadour, was made with an all-over design of exquisitely colored flowers giving rise to the term "pompadour silk."

The equipage or etui, a case containing a thimble, scissors, etc., was worn by ladies at the left side of the waist early in the century.

The hoop was not modish in France until 1718; whether this fashion was borrowed from England, Germany or the stage is a disputed point. Huge pocket hoops, or panniers in exaggerated form, were discarded by Marie Antoinette in 1782, in favor of a full skirt bustled at the back.

Powder was used in the hair until just prior to the Revolution.

The Theatre.—Addison held up to ridicule the costuming indulged in by the French theatre. The enormous hoops used by women at the beginning of the century are said to have been copied from those worn by French ac-tresses, who since the days of Corneille had persisted in playing tragic roles in full skirts. The reform, instigated by Voltaire and carried to success by Mlle. Clairon, met with strong opposition from the players. That a reform was needed goes without saying, if we may judge by a drawing made at the end of the seventeenth century portraying, in a French play of the day, a character called "America." This "Miss America" wears a low-cut bodice with engageant sleeves, ballet skirts, a long train hanging from her shoulders and high-heeled buskins laced on her bare legs ; a headdress of ostrich plumes and heron feathers surmounts her hair, which hangs in ringlets on her shoulders. Evidently, in order to give an American Indian touch, she was supplied with bow and arrows. A close survey fails to reveal a tomahawk.

The characters of Pierrot, Scaramouche, Harlequin and Columbine made their appearance on the French stage early in the eighteenth century. They had long been popular in Italy, where the old man known as Pantaloon, a Venetian creation, was also a prime favorite. How-ever, this "slippered pantaloon" was never used in France. The costumes for these famous characters of pantomime have remained practically the same to this day.

The time for "Adrienne Lecouvreur" is 1730; "Ma-non," the second half of the century; "Tosca," 1800 (in Italy).

People of dramatic interest in France and other continental countries were :

Voltaire, Quentin Latour (see pastels of court beau-ties), Nattier; Mme. Le Brun, Mme. Recamier, Fragonard, Coustou, Boucher, Greuze, David; Beaumarchais, Mozart, Mme. du Barry, Mme. de Stael, Mme. Roland, Charlotte Corday; Bach, Beethoven, Handel; Lafayette, Robespierre, Mirabeau, Danton.

France was governed by : Louis XIV, until 1715; Louis XV, 1715-1774; Louis XVI, 1774-1793; the Republic, 1793, and Napoleon, as First Consul, 1799.

Monarchs reigning elsewhere were : Peter the Great, 1722; Catherine I of Russia, 1725; Frederick the Great of Prussia, 1712-1786.



The coat, pleated over the hips and standing out from the figure, was now cut a bit shorter. The black steinkirk of knotted silk, with ends either twisted or hanging loose, was the popular cravat. An amber-headed cane hung from the fifth button of the coat by a loop of blue silk ribbon. The monocle came into fashion.

Low shoes with tongues were decorated with buckles and red heels.

The Ramillies Wig.—Wigs were worn by all classes including countrymen, the formal periwig and the campaign wig holding undisputed sway among the fashionables until after the battle of Ramillies in 1706. A new style in wigs, named to celebrate the victory, was made with the white hair drawn back from the forehead, puffed out each side of the face and braided into a long pigtail, at the top of which a large velvet bow was placed, with another and much smaller at the bottom. It was at first considered informal, and an anecdote recounts that Lord Bolingbroke presented himself in one before Queen Anne, who, much affronted, remarked that he would doubtless appear next in his nightcap. (The hat worn with this wig was called the Ramillies cock.)

Much time and attention were given the care of wigs.

Roulettes (in French, bilbouquettes) were heated clay tubes like pipe stems, three or four inches long, round which the hair was wound and there held in place by twisted papers. This process was called putting the wig "in buckle." Whitening the hair, often with scented pow-der, had become general. A glass cone was held over the mouth and nose while the hairdresser dusted on the pow-der. In a scene of the photoplay, "Orphans of the Storm," Joseph Schildkraut's wig is whitened by a perruquier. In the country men gathered their own hair in loose bunches or "bobs" at the sides, tying it in a twisted pigtail behind. The bob wig, copying the bushy hair over the country-man's ear, was introduced.


Small aprons were trimmed with gold lace and spangles.

The hair was left its natural color; on it the fontange reposed, shrunk to a tiny ruffle like the one worn on the heads of housemaids of to-day.

In 1711 heavy canvas petticoats, stiffened with whale-bone to a tremendous size, formed hoop skirts. The bodice was square cut and tight fitting in front, with a loose back looped over a full skirt. Tight elbow sleeves finished with lace ruffles. Red heels, tall walking sticks, and patches in profusion—the politics of the wearer being pro-claimed by the location of the last named—were the mode.

Full masks suspended from the waist by a ribbon were adopted by ladies when riding. Small ones covering the nose were called "loo masks" ; during this reign their use was prohibited.

The scene of the opera "Martha" is England during Queen Anne's reign.

GEORGE I, 1714-1727


Coats were shorter still and very full at the sides.

A wig with three queues (tails) was fashionable.

Stockings were rolled over the knees, those of blue or scarlet silk clocked in gold or silver being favored by the beaux. Shoes had large buckles. The hat was cocked, being now turned up abruptly on three sides.

Cretonne was first used in this reign.


Pointed shoes with high heels were worn.

Lace caps were substituted for the fontange. Panniers were larger. The equipage was worn.

GEORGE II, 1727-1760


The wide skirts of the coats were stiffened with buck-ram and wire, which held them out from the figure in a jaunty fashion. Enormous embroidered cuffs were similarly treated. Lace was used to trim the coats.

The Chapeau-Bras.—A flat-crowned hat with a cocked brim was carried under the left arm to prevent disarranging the elaborately powdered wig.

In 1730 a fringed sash called a burdash was tied about the waist.

The stockings were pulled up over the knees and rolled.

Handsome garters were placed below. Low shoes had buckles and red heels. In 1751 a pair of diamond buckles was listed as costing forty pounds.

The French fashion known as the solitaire was copied.

Cocked hats of every variety were worn; in 1732 the brims were seven inches wide and sometimes irregular, i.e., high in the back and low in front. The angle of the cock was a matter of much concern.

Muffs of all sizes were carried by the men, including deans and doctors, not merely as an affectation but for comfort.

After 1745 the coat was worn shorter and its fullness allowed to hang in limp folds against the body with the large cuffs negligently crushed; this lack of stiffening continued until the end of the reign. From 1740-1751, a coat of light blue with silver buttonholes grew popular.

The garter was removed, and the breeches ended in a band buckled or buttoned over the stockings above the knee according to the fad of the moment.

Laces, no longer fashionable on coats, were transferred to the short, double-breasted waistcoat which now made its appearance.

Buttons.—These were in great demand owing to the quantities needed for coats, waistcoats and knee breeches. Semi-precious stones such as malachite, bloodstone, onyx, lapis lazuli, carnelian and agate, also tortoise-shell and ivory were used in their making. Wooden buttons were covered with material of which the garment was made, their tops decorated with steel beads, embroidery, crocheting and the like. Buttonholes were elaborately embroidered, tasseled and fringed.

The Banyan.—Hogarth and other artists of the time show us men wearing turbans or caps with this garment, which strongly resembled a dressing gown. It was a robe of East Indian origin fashioned of gaily figured oriental silks, crepes, brocades, velvets or cotton fabrics. At home, and while entertaining informally, elaborate coats were removed for this showy but more comfortable article of apparel. Long, wide sleeved and without collar or revers, through its front opening could be seen lace frills, waistcoat, satin breeches with paste buckles, and red-heeled shoes. Wigs were also removed and the shaven head protected by a cap or brightly colored turban cocked to one side.

Wigs.—During this reign wigs were at the topnotch of their popularity. The enormous periwig was superseded by the tie wig, which was sponsored, like the Ramillies, by the intrepid Bolingbroke. Young men were be-ginning to use their own hair arranged wig fashion and powdered.

The wigs were not made or worn with any idea of deception, as is the case with modern ones, including toupees and transformations, but were simply the fashion. They were constructed often of horsehair and fine wire, quite visibly false, and frequently worn pushed awry. Those of human hair were very expensive, especially when of the full curled type. Gozzans, as they were styled when yellow with age, could be grabbed out of a hole in a cask at a wig lottery in Rosemary Lane, London.

Every variety of wig had a name, and, as each profession and trade affected a different style, the list was long.

The bag, originating with French servants, who thrust their hair into a leather bag, was fashionable during the reign of George II.

The pigtail was worn by soldiers either hanging down or doubled back and tied. The bob was the simple wig of the poor.

Some of the names listed included the Count Saxe, rhinoceros, cauliflower (a coachman's wig), comet, levant, Grecian fly, scratch, dalmahoy, snail-back, spinach seed, Tyburn scratch, pigeon's wing, etc.


A tight-fitting, square-necked bodice had lace-frilled elbow sleeves. A round skirt had another looped over large panniers springing up in high wide arches on which the elbows. could be rested. Long, plain aprons were worn, despite the objections of Beau Nash. The hair was pulled back to a knot on the crown; the forehead was adorned with curls. Small caps were tied or perched on the head. High-heeled shoes had pointed toes and buckles. Patches were still in vogue.

The Sack-back or Sacque (Watteau).—The beautiful gown known in France as the Watteau became popular as the sack-back in England about 1750, and did not completely go out of fashion until 1794. Made with a low, square-cut bodice tightly fitted in front, its loose back was cut full enough to allow of four box pleats being placed on the shoulder, two facing the right, and two the left. These were stitched flat to the bodice lining for a few inches, the material falling thence in balloonlike folds to about a foot from the ground; the forward breadths, which sometimes were cut to extend to the neck line, were looped over the hips or panniers (in fashion during the middle of the century). This section of the gown comprised the "sack." The elaborate petticoat worn with it was of another material and color, receiving lavish ornamentation such as lace ruffles, flounces, fancy pleatings and ruchings called furbelows. The ruffled engageant sleeve belonged to the sack, the same form of ornamentation appearing about the neck of the latter. This was one of the most beautiful costumes of all time.

The variety of sacque having an open front looped back on panniers and ending in a train was called the polonaise or slammerkin. When the fullness of the train was caught together in a twist about a foot from the ground, then al-lowed to hang free, the fashion was dubbed "monkey-tailed." The trollopee was a loose morning gown with an open front and gathered back, worn in 1750.

All these styles permitted a lavishly decorated petticoat of another material and contrasting color to show at the front, it being a law of this costume that the petticoat must not match the sacque.

The very low neck was sometimes filled in by a "modesty" of gauze. A black velvet ribbon or ruching was usually worn about the throat with the sacque.

In 1756 the hair was drawn away from the face, powdered, and puffed in a pompadour. Gradually false hair was added to it, headdresses assuming huge proportions by the end of the reign. Full white wigs were also worn.

A cap, made with circles of linen resembling wheels covering each ear, and called the "cabriolet" after a vehicle of that name imported from France in 1755, became fashionable.

GEORGE III, 1760-1820


The macaroni fashions were in vogue about 1760, small coatees cut extremely short, large lawn cravats, very tall wigs, small hats and an attempted revival of the large, loose, ribbon-trimmed breeches of Charles II, being the chief manifestations.

The solitaire was superseded by a large lawn cravat.

The coat, boasting a collar, was laced and frogged with its hitherto right-angled fronts rounded off like the modern cutaway. (These corners had been previously buttoned back for convenience by soldiers.) It was short waisted before the French Revolution, and sharply cut back like the coat of a full dress suit, with tails very long and full, and no cuffs. The collar, standing very high at the back of the neck, ended in broad revers.

The shirt was sometimes left open at the throat, with a cravat loosely tied below. Lace-edged ruffles called "chitterlings" were also used in the coat opening above the double-breasted waistcoat, which extended below the coat line. During this reign black satin knee-breeches, worn skin tight, were in fashion. A loose pair are spoken of as "bags" in the "School for Scandal." About 1790 the tight-fitting pantaloon, buttoned for several inches above the ankle, was first seen.

The greatest amount of powder was used in the hair about 1776-1777, when wigs and headdresses were at their largest. Pink powder was in vogue in 1780. About this date, wigs were smaller, with two horizontal curls over the ears, kept in shape by inserted wires ; a queue or pigtail hung at the back. Powder was going out of fashion in 1785, when the hair, imitating a wig, was arranged in long pigtails. By the French Revolution, short hair and side whiskers were quite common.

The cocked hats, with a cockade in front, gradually disappeared when the natural hair came into vogue. Hats with broad brims were superseded by others with high crowns and curled edges ; after the Revolution, the high beaver hat was worn.

A craze for striped clothing set in about 1793; the period was alluded to as the "zebra."

Shoes showed buckles, pointed toes and lower heels; broad tops several inches wide, turned back and faced with light brown leather, appeared on high wrinkled boots. Hessians were stiff boots running up in a point below the knee, whence the sides curved away to a lower back. The tops were finished with gold cord tied with tasseled ends in front.

Snuff boxes, also sword sticks, were carried and, in the early part of the reign, muffs.


The sack-back dress was worn during the early years of the reign. In 1760 a cloak called the "cardinal," owing to its close resemblance to one worn by ecclesiastics of that title, came into style. The "Artois" was another cloak with three or four shoulder capes adopted in 1783; the lowest cape ran to a deep point in the back; lapels decorated this garment, which was noticeably "tailored," in keeping with the mannish tendency in cut so apparent on women's clothes at that time.

The High Headdress.—This resembled a tower, attaining its greatest height in 1777. Horse hair, tow, hemp and wool were glued together with pomatum and the hair, with false curls and puffs added, fastened up over this pad. The dressing, which concluded with powdering and scenting, required many hours, so that, except for the re-perfuming necessary, it did not have to be repeated for several weeks. At night large caps were drawn over the entire headdress, and special head rests were used as pillows to preserve the shape.

For full dress occasions, frilled white caps were placed on top of the headdress; feathers, baskets, ships, strings of pearls or ribbon loops were also used as decoration. A scarf was sometimes wound about a huge pompadour and floated from the shoulders, as in the portrait of Lady Hamilton.

In 1780 a very full skirt was held out over a bustle, accompanied by a low-necked, short-waisted bodice with wide revers. A sash was tied in a bow on the bustle. The elbow sleeves, after reigning for a century, were supplanted by long tight ones in 1785. A fichu was placed about the low neck and tied in front, terminating in frilled ends below the knees.

About 1786, by dint of lacing and much bunching of the fichu, the figure was made to resemble that of a pouter pigeon.

Headgear.—Large mob caps with enormous ribbon bows were worn and in 1787 large hats (the enormous one covered with plumes, worn by the Duchess of Devon-shire in the famous Gainsborough, conveys a good impression of the fashionable size). Very tall crowns were also seen.

The Calash and the Caravan.—Two large bonnets were made with hoops of whalebone arching over the top of the head, the whole strongly resembling a covered wagon. These were invented by the Duchess of Bedford for wear with the enormous headdresses. The "caravan" was equipped with a thin veil of sarsenet, meant for screening the face in an emergency; while, by pulling a string attached to a button on the forward rib of the calash, the whole collapsible contrivance would rise up over the head-dress and protect it.

Bouquets carried in flat glass bottles containing water were fastened to the waist, in 1770.

About 1790 the waistline became decidedly high and the skirt fell in limp folds. The sleeves were short and puffed at the top. After the French Revolution, dresses were cut to resemble Grecian tunics, in imitation of the fashions set by the "Merveilleuse," i.e., the women of France who indulged in extreme cuts to match the men called the "Incroyables." Some were slit to above the knee, others looped and fastened on the left side by brooches.

High sticks were fashionable; umbrellas, used in Italy since the sixteenth century, were carried for the first time by Englishmen in 1770, the debut of the parasol quickly following its adoption by the French in 1777.

Patches went into disuse after the passing of the powdered hair.

Two watches were worn, one for use, the other called a fausse montre, fashioned of brocade and heavily embroidered with gaily colored flowers in imitation of enameling. The real watch was placed on the right side, with the false one suspended by a gold cord attached to the waistline on the left.

Very large muffs were correct at the end of the century.

Long gloves, reaching well above the elbow and worn in a series of loose folds, were in favor after the French Revolution.

Footgear.—The low shoe became slender after 178o, and developed a French heel ; this disappeared with the revival of the Greek dresses at the close of the century.

The Hair.—With the revival of natural hair, that of the women was worn curled across the forehead and gathered in a knot of loose ringlets on top of the head.

Turbans were a popular form of headdress.

Materials.—New materials in use were swansdown, used for lining in jackets; sagathee, a thin stuff like serge; shalloon, a woolen lining from Chalons ; poplin, a silk shot with worsted; paduasoy, an Italian silk; lutestring, corded silk; du cape, the same; catgut, stiff corded cloth used for lining, and in sleeves and skirts for stiffening.

Beaver hats, also called "castor," were worn.

Very handsome materials were commonly lined with printed cotton stuff.

The peasantry began to use straw hats ; those of the women were placed over the white, ribbon-tied, mob cap.

The Theatre.—During the first half of the eighteenth century, scarcely any attention was paid to correct theatrical costuming. Mrs. Yates played Lady Macbeth in huge panniers, while Garrick, always clad in the fashion of George II, had a suit of black velvet as a special con-cession when appearing as Hamlet. To suggest Othello, he put some blacking on his face.

Pope speaks of "Cato's long wig, flowered gown and lacquered chair," alluding to the performance of Barton Booth in Addison's "Cato." The "flowered gown" means the popular banyan, and the "long wig" the enormous periwig of Queen Anne's reign. No wonder the disgusted author relieved himself in The Spectator by bitterly criticizing the actors and actresses of the day for fussing with their trains and feathers.

Garrick, due to the influence of Mlle. Clairon, whose endeavors to change the attitude of the French regarding correct theatrical dressing had borne fruit, produced Voltaire's "Orpheline de Chine" at Drury Lane in 1747, using Chinese clothes. He did not follow this up, however, for Leigh Hunt relates an encounter between West, the portrait painter, and Garrick, wherein the former urged the actor to pay more attention to correct clothes when dressing a part. Garrick retorted that the spectators would "throw a bottle at his head." The fault seems to have been less with the managers than with the public, who preferred to see the players in the latest fashion of the day (and there are, in this year 1927, hosts of women who have no interest in a theatrical performance unless the actresses disport themselves in the latest creations of the Rue de la Paix. There's a reason for the line in the program giving credit to some one for the gowns and hats of the leading woman).

Famous people of dramatic interest were : Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Sarah, his wife; Bolingbroke; Horace Walpole; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; Gay; Swift; Chatterton; Addison; Pope; Thomson; Gray; Burns; Congreve; Goldsmith; Colly Cibber; Boswell; Sheridan; Kneller ; Hogarth ; Reynolds ; Romney ; Angelica Kauffmann; Charles James Fox; Jane, Duchess of Gordon ; Sydney, Lady Morgan ; Anne Seymour Darner; Lady Caroline Lamb; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Jack Sheppard; Dick Turpin; Lord Nelson; Keats, Byron, Shelley and Tom Moore living at the end of the century.

The stage was represented by Barton Booth, ancestor of Edwin ; Garrick, d. 1779; George Frederick Cooke, Charles Mathews ; Mrs. Ann Oldfield, d. 1730; Mrs. Bracegirdle, d. 1748; Kitty Clive, d. 1785; Betterton, d. 1710; Mrs. Siddons and John Philip Kemble.


The wealthy were elegantly dressed, their clothes either imported from London or fashioned of the most expensive materials in vogue abroad. For plays dealing with this class prior to 1776, the costume of England of that period is correct.

The American Revolution curtailed supplies from the home country. Many of the younger men discarded wigs and powder somewhat earlier than was done in England ; in Griffith's "America," Lionel Barrymore wore long dark curls tied with a ribbon—a wig, of course, intended to rep-resent Major Butler's natural hair.

The clothes of the poor were warm and of serviceable materials, the chief distinction being their durability. Leather was much used for breeches, and fur for caps. Holiday clothes were expected to last the greater part of a lifetime.

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