Men and women wore very different clothes at the beginning of the eighteenth century than they did at the end. The skill of tailors and dressmakers had developed to such an extent that clothing styles were lavished with attention to detail and ornament by midcentury. However, despite the growing skills of tailors, dress became simpler by the end of the century. The dramatic changes reflected the political and cultural changes during the century, including the American (1775–83) and French (1789–99) Revolutions. Throughout Europe and the newly created United States of America, people's attitudes about dress changed. No longer were the monarchs the only trendsetters of fashion. Later, toward the end of the century, clothing styles began to simplify as people looked to the country and to nature for fashion inspiration.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, men wore outfits similar to those worn in the previous century. On their upper bodies wealthy men wore white linen or cotton shirts with a lace-edged jabot, or tie, topped with sleeveless waistcoats and a long-sleeved justaucorps, long overcoats. Below they wore satin knee breeches and silk hose held at the knee with garters. Working men wore much simpler, less well-made clothes of wool or cotton. By the middle of the century, wealthy men wore the same clothing, but the fit and decoration of these styles had changed quite a bit. The skirts of waistcoats stuck out away from the man's hips with padding or boned supports, and knee breeches fit very tightly against the leg. The fabric for men's clothes was bright and often elaborately embroidered with flowers or curving lines. Men's clothes at the end of the century, however, were very different. Most men wore dark clothes with little decoration. With the rejection of decoration, the difference between a working man's clothes and a wealthy man's became noticeable only from the cut and the quality of the fabric.
© Krystian Jarnuszkiewicz, all rights reserved