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Getting dressed in the 18th century

by Lahiru Dilan 02 Sep 2022

The shift was the undergarment worn next to the skin, made from linen. It was washable and protected the clothes from bodily moisture and the body from possibly harsh textiles being worn. It was not meant to be seen. No knickers were worn. Over-the-knee stockings made from wool cotton silk or a mixture of these yarns were machine or hand knitted. They were often decorated at the ankle with a woven design known as clocks. Ribbon garters were tied just above the knee. However for walking or dancing the garters were often tied below the knee and the stocking rolled down over them to secure everything in place. The Dickey petticoat is a knee-length white linin petticoat worn for warmth and modesty. Stays were made from layers of linen and boned with strips of baleen. Some were left plain and others faced with decorative silk fabric. They altered the body to the characteristic 18th century shape of upright flat back, narrow conical waist and raised bosom.

Pocket bags were worn at the hip and carried around the waist on the linen cord. Side openings and the skirts allowed access to them. They were made from plain or decorated fabric embroidered or as in this example made from a patchwork of pieced fabrics. It was possible to lose your pockets however if the ties came undone. Lucy locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fischer found it, not a penny was there in it, only a ribbon round it. Paneas or a hip pad were worn to lift and display the skirts and to emphasize the small waist. The hip pad was a large roll tapering at the ends and tied around the waist. It may have been padded with anything from wool to cork At least one full-length linen petticoat was also worn. In the winter and under-petticoat wadded with wool and quilted for warmth may have been worn. During the day a linen or silk kerchief or fisher was worn over the bosom for warmth, modesty and protect from the Sun. It could be worn tucked into the gown or worn over the shoulders and sometimes it was crossed over the chest and tied at the back. The stomacher was a decorative panel of fabric that filled the center front bodice of a gown.

It could have been stiffened or just lined and had three pairs of linen tabs at the side, to help pin it to the stage beneath. Stomachers could be highly decorated and worn with many different gowns or made of matching fabric. The gown petticoat could be made of contrasting fabric or to match the gown. It was lined with silk or linen and had side openings for pocket access. Elaborately quilted silk petticoat were often worn in colder weather. The gown is pinned into place down the side front of the stomacher with straight pins. The maid's linen apron has a bib pinned into position. The origin of the term 'pinafore'. She has placed the straight pins in the bib ready for fastening her mistress's gown. Ribbons beneath the gowns skirts are tied together to raise the skirts into a polonaise puff. Day caps were worn by all classes and varied from practical to decorative. Finally a delicate silk or embroidered muslin apron is added, which serves no purpose but to indicate the fine status of the individual wearing it; conspicuous consumption

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