Georgian/Rococo Review-18th Century (Part 3)

Early Georgian-Women (1700-1730)

Worn with the revived hooped petticoats (cone and dome shaped) of the early 18th Century, the new fashionable cut of gown is the sacque gown (Also known as robe battante, robe volante, innocente OR a flying gown).

This dress appears to hang straight and loose from the shoulders, flowing loosely around the body. Fullness in the back is gathered or pleated into the neckline, creating a "waterfall" of fabric referred to as the back drape.

These gowns were often worn over a decorative corset and/or stomacher and a decorative petticoat (which may or may not be seen).

Silhouettes of this style are wide in all directions, due to the roundness of the hoop shape.

This sacque gown reveals the decorative stomacher center front and is worn with a much smaller hoop than the one pictured above. There is much variation in silhouette size due to personal taste and fashion aesthetic.

The sacque evolves into the gown that is given the name call robe a la francaise (Also known as Watteau gown by modern historians due to Jean-Antoine Watteau's prolific use of them as subjects in his painting).

The gown pictured here dates between the previous image and the one in blue belowt. It shows evolution in progress. Notice that the back drape is maintained, and there is added shaping through the torso.

Mid Georgian-Women (1730-1760)

Here we see the robe a la francaise (in blue) in all of its glory. This painting (by Watteau) shows us both the sacque (in white & pink) and the new style (in blue).

The "french gown" is usually worn with some variation of the wide pannier/panier style support contraption. The silhouette becomes wide from side to side, and narrow from front to back. The back drape is maintained and the bodice is heavily structured (even underneath the drape in back).

During the middle Georgian period floor length trained dresses seem to be the most common. Dress sleeves usually end at or just below the elbow-often practically foaming with lacy ruffles (called engageantes).

Hairstyles are still fairly simple-braided and coiled on top of the head. Hair tends to be worn 'up' rather than down. Notice that there is already the tendancy to accessorize the hair. The woman in white wears a small mob cap or pinner (a lacy mob cap about the size of one's hand) in her hair, while the woman in blue wears a smart little bow at the back.

The alternative to the wide silhouette of the robe a la francaise was the robe a l'anglaise. This gown is rarely worn with pannier/panier style hoops. Instead, a false rump or bustle may be used. This gown usually features a waistline that dips in both the center front and the center back. The skirt is usually quite full and pleated or gathered into the waistline. It, too, often has a train and sleeves that, burst in engageants.

As the name suggests, this gown was more popular with the English and Americans, while the previous style was more popular with the French. However, it was quite possible-and likely probable-that a lady of the mid 18th Century would have both styles of gowns at her disposal. The "English gown", for obvious reasons, was much more suited for everyday living. However, formal versions of this gown did exist during this middle period for court dress.

Favored dress materials differed from France to England as well. French women loved fine silks, while English women loved painted cottons.

In addition to the various gowns already mentioned, women had some bodice & skirt combination options as well.

Pictured here is the caracao or casaquin. This was a fitted jacket-like bodice. It generally features a peplum that ends at the low hips. Sleeve length ranges from long to 3/4 length. These may be made to match or contrast with a decorative petticoat.

As a rule, the more the fabrics of an ensemble coordinate (meaning parts are made of the same fabric) the more formal the ensemble was regarded.

This painting depicts a rather pensive image of Madame de Pompadour.

She wears an elaborate collarette fashioned of fabric (probably silk) roses. The term 'collarette' refers to almost any choker-like necklace. These may range from a simple piece of ribbon tied in a bow, ruffles worn like a small falling ruff, or even fabric roses. The low decolletage of the 18th Century gown heightens the importance of jewelry and accessessories such as this.

Her stomacher is decorated with ribbon eschelles (a series of graduated ribbon bows that are attached to the stomacher with the largest bow on top and the smallest on the bottom). This arrangement helped to accentuate the desired small waist. Stomacher and corset decoration nearly always had this goal in mind.

Finally, we are able to catch a glimpse of her engageantes, the ruffles are literally spilling out of the sides the painting. These sleeve ruffles could feature 1, 2, 3, or more layers of lace. The othermost layer was sometimes made of the gown fabric instead of lace. These ruffles are attached to the gown rather than the chemise (though the chemise sleeve generally ended in a small ruffle as well...adding to the frothiness).

Late Georgian-Women (1760-1795)

Late 18th Century women's clothing is greatly influenced by the passing of leisure time "in the country." Women start to appreciate looks that are, in their eyes, more "natural." This applies mostly to the clothes themselves, and not necessarily hair and headdress. While clothing styles are "simplifying," hair styles continue to expand, reaching their largest altitudes (12-18" tall) during the 1770s.

"Country" influences include:

-Shortened skirts (ending just shy of the ankle)

-Skirts of gowns looped, draped, and pulled to the back

-Narrower paniers and/or sole reliance on the false rump as an understructure. Wide paniers were saved for court dress.

-Mob cap variations worn as headdress outside the boudoir.

-Wide brimmed, low crowned bergere/shepardess hats.

-More frequent use of bodice & skirt and gown & non-matching petticoat ensembles (like the girl in brown at the right).

There are hundreds of variations as to how a lady might drape and bustle her skirt. This gown is worn a la polonaise. The overdress is drawn up and puffed out into three distinct swags to show off the decorated petticoat. An intricate system of tapes and rings would be attached underneath the skirt in order to create and control the puffing.

Another new 'natural' style is the chemise a la reine (Queen's chemise). This fashion surfaces around 1781, after Marie-Antoinette was spotted wearing a gown in the style of her chemise in her garden. This gown is initially characterized as a light weight gown of white muslin cut all-in-one from shoulder to hem. It generally has a wide neckline, and is drawn in at the waist with a sash. Its popularity marks a revolt against the heavily boned bodices that typify this century. Eventually this style is made in other colors (usually pastel) and regains a bit of the stiffness that characterizes other gowns of this century. It does, however, truly foreshadow the fashions that will dominate the early 19th Century.

This woman's hairstyle is a new "natural" alternative to the architectural coiffures of her day. The hair is cut, curled, and back combed, creating (to modern eyes) a style similar to an "Afro." This look is named the hedgehog hairstyle. Though this look employs hair's natural tendencies, the style remains tall and wide.

In court dress, the panier/pannier silhouette remains at its widest for remainder of the period. Large paniers become considered the most formal mode of dress. While the everyday silhouette narrows, the formal one seems to get wider. Women dressed at court appeared both doll-like and cake-like, creating quite a presence.

Hair reaches its maximum height in the 1770s. It is a towering structure adorned with feathers, jewels, birds, ribbons, and just about anything a lady could perch on top of her head. Women (with the help of some really creative hair dressers) supplemented their own hair with pads (rats) and false hair building the hair up and creating gravity defying up sweeps. Heads carried boats, horns of plenty, entire menageries, scale landscape gardens, and fresh flowers tucked into vials of water hidden in the hair (these were considered sublime simplicity).

They did not stop at the hair. Hats were often just as large, just as decorated, and miraculously balanced on top of the towering hairdo.


Once a lady had her hair done, she would keep it in place for quite some time. It was necessary to protect her 'masterpeice' from the wind and the weather. Ladies also desired to keep the sun off their skin (maintaining the desired paleness). The calashe hood was a large hood with hoops, that when raised would shelter the large coiffure from the elements. It then could be lowered and collapsed upon itself in a manner similar to the roof of a convertable car.

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