Distinction was made in this period between full dress worn at Court and for formal occasions, and undress or everyday, daytime clothes. As the decades progressed, fewer and fewer occasions called for full dress which had all but disappeared by the end of the century.
In the early decades of the new century, formal dress consisted of the stiff-bodiced mantua. A closed (or "round") petticoat, sometimes worn with an apron, replaced the open draped mantua skirt of the previous period. This formal style then gave way to more relaxed fashions.
The robe à la française or sack-back gown with flowing pleats from the shoulders was originally an undress fashion. At its most informal, this gown was unfitted both front and back and called a sacque. Later, for formal wear, the front was fitted to the body by means of a tightly-laced underbodice, while the back fell in loose box pleats called "Watteau pleats" from their appearance in the paintings of Antoine Watteau.
The less formal robe à l'anglaise or "nightgown" also had a pleated back, but the pleats were sewn down to fit the bodice to the body to the waist.
Either gown could be closed in front (a "round gown") or open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.
Open-fronted bodices could be filled in with a decorative stomacher, and toward the end of the period a lace or linen kerchief called a fichu could be worn to fill in the low neckline.
Sleeves were bell- or trumpet-shaped, and caught up at the elbow to show the frilled or lace-trimmed sleeves of the shift (chemise) beneath. Sleeves became narrower as the period progressed, with a frill at the elbow, and elaborate separate ruffles called engageantes were tacked to the shift sleeves, in a fashion that would persist into the 1770s.
Strings of pearls, ribbons, or lace frills were tied high on the neck.
Skirts were worn over small, domed hoops in the 1730s and early 1740s, which were displaced for formal court wear by side hoops or panniers which later widened to as much as three feet to either side at the French court of Marie Antoinette.
The shift (chemise) or smock had full sleeves early in the period and tight, elbow-length sleeves in the 1740s as the sleeves of the gown narrowed. Drawers were not worn in this period.
Woolen waistcoats were worn over the corset and under the gown for warmth, as were petticoats quilted with wool batting.
Free-hanging pockets were tied around the waist and were accessed through pocket slits in the gown or petticoat.
Loose gowns, sometimes with a wrapped or surplice front closure, were worn over the shift (chemise), petticoat and stays (corset) for at-home wear, and it was fashionable to have one's portrait painted in these extremely undress fashions.
Elbow-length capes, often lined with fur.
In the early years of this period, black silk hoods and dark, somber colors became fashionable at the French court for mature women, under the influence of Madame de Maintenon. Younger women wore light or bright colors, but the preference was for solid-colored silks with a minimum of ornamentation.
Gradually, trim in the form of applied lace and fabric robings (strips of ruched, gathered or pleated fabric) replaced the plain style. Ribbon bows, lacing, and rosettes became popular, as did boldly patterned fabrics. A mid-century vogue for striped fabrics had the stripes running different directions on the trim and the body of the gown.
Indian cotton fabrics block-printed in bright colors on white grounds were wildly fashionable. Bans against their importation to protect the British silk, linen, and woolen industries did nothing to reduce their desirability. Brocaded silks and woolens had similar colorful floral patterns on light-colored grounds. Blends of wool and silk or wool and linen (linssey-woolsey) were popular.
The shoe of the previous period with its curved heel, squarish toe, and tie over the instep gave way in the second decade of the 18th century to a shoe with a high, curved heel. Backless mules were worn indoors and out (but not on the street). Toes were now pointed. This style of shoe would remain popular well into the next period.
Men continued to wear the coat, waistcoat and breeches of the previous period for both full dress and undress; these were now sometimes made of the same fabric and trim, signalling the birth of the three-piece suit. Coats were roughly knee-length throughout the period.
By the 1720s, the skirts of the coat had pleated panels inserted in the side seams; these were occasionally stiffened to increase the fullness over the hips. Coats had no collars early, and a short standing collar later. Oversized, turned-back cuffs extended to the elbow. Waistcoats remained long. Full dress coats and waistcoats were trimmed with lace, braid, or heavy embroidery; undress clothing had a similar cut but without the trim.
The frock was an English undress coat with a wide, flat collar, derived from the coats worn by working men.
Shirt sleeves were full, gathered at the wrist and dropped shoulder. Undress shirts had plain wrist bands and a high stock at the neck. Dress shirts had in ruffles of fine fabric or lace at the cuffs. Early in the period a black ribbon called a solitaire was tied around the neck.
Leather shoes fastened with buckles, and were worn with silk or woolen stockings. Stockings continued to be worn over the breeches until 1730 when the breeches were often worn over the stockings. With this change, the garters gave way to buckles on the breeches to hold up the stockings.
A loose, T-shaped cotton or linen gown called a banyan was worn at home as a sort of dressing gown over the shirt and breeches. Men of an intellectual or philosophical bent were painted wearing banyans, with their own hair or a soft cap rather than a wig.
The large high parted wig of the 1690s remained popular from 1700 until around 1720. During this time various colors were worn, but white was becoming more popular and the curls were getting tighter. Later, wigs or the natural hair were worn long, brushed back from the forehead and clubbed or tied back at the nape of the neck with a black ribbon. A bag wig gathered the back hair in a black silk bag.
Children older than toddlers continued to wear clothing which was in many respects simply a smaller version of adult clothing. Although it is often said that children wore miniature versions of adult clothing, this is something of a myth. Girls wore back-fastening gowns, trimmed much more simply than women's. The skirt of a girl's gown was not split down the front, as women's typically were. Girls did not wear jackets or bedgowns. Boys wore shirts, breeches, waistcoats and coats a man would, but often wore their necks open, and the coat was fitted and trimmed differently from a man's, and boys often went bareheaded. During some decades of the 18th Century, boys' shirts and coats had different collars and cuffs than a man's. Even if the size is not apparent, it is usually possible to tell a child's garment from an adult's.
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