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18th Century Fashion: Costumes and Clothing

Costumes, Clothing, and Accessories that Defined 18th Century Fashion

The 18th century was a period when fashion was escalating to new levels. The heavier garments were replaced by light fabrics and colors. Here are some interesting facts of costumes and clothing in the 18th century.
Parun Pereira
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2017
The 18th century was a period in which the world of fashion was going through dramatic changes. People were looking for the comfort factor as well as making a style statement.
In the 18th century, women chose to wear loose gowns also known as a mantuas. This elaborate gown, with corsets shaped in the form of cones was extensively worn throughout this period. These gowns were supported by panniers which gave them a unique shape. The detail used in sewing the gown was remarkable for its time. The waist coats worn along with flared skirts and knee length breeches formed a formidable part of the attire for men. A popular hat called the tricorn, with a three-sided brim was very popular among men. Among women, high waist dresses formed an integral part of their attire during the 18th century.
Women loved to wear this undergarment made from linen. These were worn underneath the gowns. The sleeves of this garment were either full length or up to the elbow. The chemise allowed the gowns worn by women to be shaped properly.
Gowns were commonly worn by women in the 18th century. The low neck gown which is referred to as the French Robe, and worn over a petticoat, was very popular during this period. The elbow length sleeves of gowns consisted of ruffles and frills. The neckline of the gown was trimmed with lace ruffle. A fichu, which could be tucked into a low neckline was also extensively used. The sack-back gown used box pleats to fit the body and allow the flowing skirt to be draped in different ways. A wraparound bed gown was preferred as morning wear in courtyards or houses.
The use of finer fabric became prominent in the 18th century. An informal jacket and petticoat was worn extensively by the working class. The Brunswick gown, which was a hip length jacket, consisted of split sleeves that were tight. A hood was also a common feature of the jacket. This costume was worn with a matching petticoat and was very useful while traveling. A jacket in the form of a bodice known as caraco, consisted of short sleeve and long sleeve fit. Another coat known as the riding coat which used woolen fabric, was made up of long tight sleeves with a broad collar and revers.
Elaborate wigs and hairstyles were an integral part of dressing styles during this period. The shepherdess hats were broad rimmed hats which were tied with the help of laces and ribbons. A mob cap, which was spherical in shape and made of linen, consisted of ruffled pleated cloth that covered the head. Married women usually wore a ribbon band over the cap. This cap formed an integral part of indoor fashion.
The men in this period were accustomed to wearing breeches, which was a clothing that was used to cover the body from the waist down to the knee. Breeches were fastened either with buttons or strings. The use of buckles and brooches were also commonly used to fasten breeches.
A cutaway curve formed the basis of coats in the early part of the 18th century. Later on in this period, the length and shapes of the coats varied. The use of a T-shaped linen or cotton gown known as banyan, which was used indoors as an informal coat was worn mostly over shirts and waistcoats.
Powdered hair with wigs were commonly used by men and women for formal occasions. Leather shoes with low heels and buckles were worn by men, while women wore curved heels made from leather or fabric. The polished buckles on the shoes worn by women were regarded as ornaments that signified the status of high society. These curved heel shoes were generally worn to a ball or a party.
The exemplary designs used in gowns and jackets are a tribute to the fact that the people during this period were fashion conscious. The costumes and clothing used in the 18th century have greatly influenced fashion designers the world over, and inspired them implement new ideas in their designs.