|Mrs. Sharpe and Her Child by Joseph Highmore|
Reading descriptions of women's clothing from the 18th century makes me very happy to be living in the relative simplicity of 21st century fashion! Getting dressed (or undressed) must have taken quite a bit of time out of a lady's day. Of course, they would be appalled at the t-shirt and jeans I slip into most every day. Probably have me arrested or sent off to an asylum until I came to my senses and dressed in a more seemly manner!
So, here we have the lady of the house after a busy day of tending to her family's needs, ready to get comfortable and lie down for a much deserved night of sleep:
First, off come the shoes made of leather, silk or worsted, fastened by buckles, clasps or ties. (If walking in the mud or rain, she may have overshoes, called patterns, to remove, as well. Patterns had a raised sole to lift her shoes above the muck.)
Second, with a pull of the ribbon garters poised just above the knee, off come the stockings made of wool, linen, or silk.
Third, off comes the cap, made of cotton, linen, or lace, worn alone or beneath a hat when outdoors. Caps were practical in that they protected the hair from dirt and dust and the viewer from unsightly, unwashed hair!
Fourth, off come the mitts, elbow-length fingerless gloves that keep her warm in winter and protect her skin from the sun in summer.
Fifth, off come the ruffles attached to the sleeves.
Sixth, off comes the stomacher, a triangular piece of cloth attached to the gown at the bodice to hold the front of the upper gown together.
Seventh, off comes the gown, a bodice sewn to a skirt which was open in the front to reveal the petticoat.
Eighth, off come the petticoats, an outer one was a skirt that filled in the gap left by the open-front gown and an underpetticoat was worn beneath it for extra warmth in the winter.
Ninth, off come the free-hanging pockets tied around the waist and accessed through pocket slits in the gown and petticoats.
Tenth, off come the stays (at last, whew!) Layers of linen encasing narrow strips of boning of whale bone, metal, wood, woodpaste or packthread were cone-shaped, extending from waist to just beneath the bosom and were meant to ensure upright posture. The most fashionable lady would wear one that pulled her shoulders back to the point of her shoulder blades nearly touching. Even children wore stays to create good posture!
Eleventh, off comes the long shirt-like garment called a shift...whoops, the shift stays on and doubles as a nightgown. And that, my Reader, is where it ends as there were no underpants of any kind worn at the time. I think we can all agree, however, that the dear lady was adequately protected and at least it made the use of the privy just a little easier!
Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!