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In my group I have now been given the character of the poor woman in Gin Lane to focus on so I started looking a bit at clothes that suit would suit this character. Though I am using pretty much solely Hogarth's representation as the source for her costume I find it interesting to know more about the materials she may be wearing and what was usual at the time for people of her circumstance.

We have also decided that the torso of the dress which will be the main focus of the piece is in an 18th Century style so this gives me the opportunity to research into corsetry and bodices. It also allows my prior research on this page to become more useful.

Based on this I have researched womenswear of all financial backgrounds. I found "Dress in 18th Century England" by Anne Buck very informative and the information below is almost entirely sourced from this book.

Full Dress - Upper Class womanswear

  • The sack back gown was replacing the mantua at full dress balls and assemblies during the 1730s. The sack-back had begun as a loose, informal robe. It had a bodice-front shape to the figure which was open over a stomacher until the 1770s. Following this the fronts met with a centre fastening.
  • The hoop's size and shaped varied with the formality or informality of the dress or occassion and also with time. It was widest in 1740 and 50 (for full dress).
  • The English looked to the French as a source of new fashion, often communicating ideas through fashion dolls.
  • Hair between 1710-60s was styled drawn back from the face into a high bun at the back, or with ringlets falling down the neck.

Middle Class Homewear

  • Loose gowns were worn, overlapping and fastening on one side or secured around the waist with a girdle. This could be formalised with a bodice-cut front.

Middle Class Outwear

  • The Morning dress or nightgown was suitable or alternatively a sack and white apron with a hat.
  • Hoops were small or non-existant
  • Often plain straw hats were worn with a flat crown and wide brim.

The Country

  • The futher away from London, generally the further behind fashion the country-people were.
  • Dresses of printed linen or cotton were general morning-wear in the households of the country gentry.

Working Class

  • Fustian was the material of the working suit, though those who could afford it would have a cloth suit for best wear.
  • In the last quater of the century a new garment came into use among agricultural workers, worn for both everyday and best wear. It was another form of frock, known as the round frock or smock frock. Loose frocks had been seen since the begning of the century as working garments.
  • Linen frocks used to be purely a working garment but became a suitable everday-wear and also a Sunday dress.
  • A woman's bedgown was a short, loose gown with a wrap-over front, often held in place by the apron tied over it. This garment can be seen in Hogarth's 'The Harlot's Progress'.
  • In the north, almost every article of dress worn by farmers, mechanics and labourers is manufactuered at home, often from home-grown flax and wool.

Materials and Fabrics

  • At the beginging of the century most of the clothing worn in England was supplied by the English woollen industries. Linen, sometimes mixed with cotton, was also worn by most people, though in ranging quality and quantity.
  • Women of fashion rarely wore wool unless it was concealed within the linning of the garment for warmth.
  • The male gentryman wore more cloth, having only the waistcoats made from rich and patterned silks. Women wore more silk than wool.

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