I have to say, the later half of the 18th century is probably my favorite period of historic fashion. The 18th century was the first era of history that stole my heart, and I have never fully recovered! Something about the crisp taffeta poufs of a polonaise, the frothy layers of ribbons and silk of the 1780's, the "rugged" charm of a well cut riding habit, they all make me swoon! So today lets take an overview of 18th century fashion from 1760-1790. I will be doing individual posts about polonaise styles, the chemise a la reine, ridding habits and more soon; today we will just be looking over the basics of how styles changed in the later half of the century.
|fig. 1, 1768 fig. 2, 1763-4 fig. 3, 1766|
So when we left off, we had reached the rococo decadence of the 1750's. The ladies in figures 1-3 are dated to the 1760's, and all are wearing solid color silk gowns in either the robe a la francaise or robe l'anglasie style. It is hard to tell in these portraits (as they do not show us the back of the gowns) which styles are being represented, but both were popular until the end of the century. Gowns in solid silks were more popular in the second half of the century than in the first, where brocades reined supreme. Brocade and jacquard remained popular in the 1760's (and later) though increasingly were used for evening gowns as opposed to day dresses. Less formal gowns of taffeta or cotton became common in the later part of the century.
Notice above that these ladies are all still sporting relatively small pompadour hairstyles, as hair is about to reach new gravity defying heights in the 1670's!
|fig. 4, 1760, British, MET|
|fig. 6, 1779 fig. 7, 1776 fig. 8, 1776|
Queen Charlotte models our next two looks. In fig. 7 she wears a grey/blue silk gown in what again seems to be a zone front style with the addition of a large collar. Her gown is trimmed in self fabric pleated trim. She is wearing an apron over her petticoat in a transparent gauzy silk, it looks like some sort of organza with stripes and tiny bows or flowers woven in. Again we see the gravity defying hair style is accented with a gauzy cap on top. Charlotte accessorizes with a simple strand of pearls, a matched pair of six strand pearl bracelets with cameo/jewel clasps, and a slim neck kerchief.
Charlotte's second look is for a more formal style full length portrait. Here she wears a white silk gown trimmed again in self fabric pleated trims and with pleated gauzy silk fabric. She wears another transparent silk apron with wide pleated trimming, she seems to have a large shawl in the same transparent silk. This time she has some diamonds pinned amongst the silk draped in her large hair style.
|fig. 9, 1775, French, MET|
|fig. 11, 1788 fig. 12, 1788 fig. 13, 1787|
Our next set of ladies are modeling 1780's styles. The 18th century silhouette finally changed in the 1780's, as the fullness of the skirts changed from the wide panier shape of the middle of the century to a more rounded shape with extra fullness in the back. Full length sleeves were more popular in the 1780's, as were cotton fabrics. The ladies in fig. 11 and fig. 13 are both wearing white gowns with colored accents in their accessories (waist sash, hat, ribbons). The silhouette further changed with the profusely foofy (technical term you guys) neck kerchiefs that were worn to fill in the necklines of gowns creating a pigeon breasted effect. I feel like foofy/floofy/poufy what have you is an accurate term for 1780's fashion, these ladies look like beautiful clouds!
|fig. 14, 1785-87, French, MET|
|fig. 16, 1785-7 fig. 17, 1780 fig. 18, 1788|
A footnote here with fig.s 16-18, this is the chemise a la reine! I will be devoting an entire post to this style, as it caused such a stir when it came into fashion, and still transfixes costumers today! In contrast to the structured and tailored gowns of the century before its debut, the chemise a la reine (also called the gaulle) was a looser style all together. Though still worn over the stiff conical stays and layers of petticoats, the look was considered quite scandalous to some. A chemise after all was a woman's under-most garment, and to have a gown modeled after one's underwear was a bit shocking! I told you guys cotton was taking over the fashion scene in the 1780's! We will delve into the chemise la reine another time...
|fig. 19, 1795 fig. 20, 1793 fig. 21, 1796|
Whew! As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you guys enjoyed this little primer on late 18th century fashion!
All of the information for this post has been gathered from the textbook Survey of Historic Costume (5th edition) by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eurbank, from the links above or my own knowledge. I want to share the resources I come across with all of you as much as possible. The portraits used to illustrate today's post are credited to either the museum where they reside (whenever possible) or the source where I found them, and are linked via their fig. # underneath. Again I repeat my disclaimer that I am not a historian, and if you have corrections or additions for this post, please begin the discussion in comments as I would love to learn more!