Costumes and such likes

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Costumes and such likes

Post by Rhiannon »

Well, we've been saying for a while we'd share research and as I currently have nothing better to be doing, thought I'd start the topic off with scum gear.

When Frederick Morton Eden wrote The State of The Poor, published in 1797, he listed the female outfit as consisting of:
gown, petticoat, shift, coarse apron and check apron- the coarse one worn over the other for working- stockings, hat, neckerchief, cap, stays, cloak.
He quotes the gown of stuff (wool) and a petticoat of linsey-woolsey (a wool-linen twill fabric). He also estimated a life span of 6 years for stays.

Gown What we call an overdress; this was normally made of wool. Many were worn in the style most of us wear; a bodice often with elbow length/ 3/4 length sleves, with attached skirt, split down the front that could be tied up at the sides or the back.
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Petticoat/ Skirt. Usually made of wool or linen. Cotton would still have been uncommon except in the cotton-working areas. Really simple, we know about skirts and shifts so I won't elaborate too much on this point.
It is a Victorian attitude that ankles should not be exposed, not an 18th century or even regency one. As most of us have discovered this season with the incessant rain, long skirts are really impractical in a muddy field and just soak up water and muck.
Skirts of women of our class (ie. scum) would have been ankle length or a few inches above, depending on the work they would have been doing etc. The would have had an opening at the side, through which the pockets could have been reached; the pockets being seperate to the skirt and taking the form of a pouch which was fixed onto a band and tied round the waist under the main garments.

Apron Again, we know about these, so not much needed to explain. They weren't exclusively white, other colours were commonly used; pale blue seemed popular, and some with vertical stripes are documented.

Stays I reckon these would definately have been worn. Stays were regarded as boned bodices without sleeves, rather than the undergarments they had been. Most had ties attaching the straps to the bodice front which could be adjusted but some were strapless. Many were trimmed with leather around the top and bottom to reduce the effects of wear on the fabric. They might also be tabbed at the bottom. Most seemed to have laced up the back; some had fastenings up the front as well, which would have made dressing yourself/getting into the damn things easier.
A working woman when actually working might appear without gown or bedgown, in her stays worn over a short-sleeved shift, with a handkerchief over neck and shoulders and a petticoat. Women wearing their stays in this way felt no more undressed than a man who had removed his coat to work.
(Actually surprisingly comfortable. Honest.)

Coats, cloaks and jackets
The bedgown was a short loose gown with a wrap-over front, held in place by the apron tied over it. Usually thigh to knee length, often with long sleeves.

Shortgowns were usually worn with the front pinned shut, not buttoned. Some examples closed in front with tapes. They may have a drawstring at the neckline or the waist, or both, or neither. The neckline can be rounded or square.
Most late 18th century shortgowns are about hip-length, though some were longer, mid-thigh-length.
Sleeves were usually just below elbow-length.
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It would not have been uncommon to see working women dressed in men's coats'

Cloaks were worn also; though red seems to have been the most popular colour in the 18th-early 19th century, other common colours were blue, grey or black.

Hats and caps
Well, don't we all just love wearing those ridiculous hats....
White or cream cotton or linen caps would have been worn by most respectable women. These could be embellished with a ribbon, and some had a ruffled trim.
Hats could have been worn over these; often these would have been of straw and tied under the chin, round felt hats or mens brimmed hats might also have been worn.
In cold weather whilst doing outdoor work instead of a cap beneath the hat there might have been a warm hood or headcloth wrapped around the head, face and neck.

Often the hardest part of the kit to get hold of. Pattens were a type of footwear well documented from our period right up to the end of the 19th century in some places. They were a kind of overshoe, the sole made of wood which stood upon a high iron ring which gave clearance from the wet and dirt of the road. However, I've never seen any anywhere.
Acceptable footwear for us are stout leather shoes, ankle boots, clogs, soldiers straights and occasionally black leather pumps with stockings, most colours of stockings acceptable but we all know what the yellow ones mean.

Right, well I think that covers everything...? I've got more pictures which I can't as yet work out how to upload; knowing how awkward it is to find relevant information on working class dress I might add these later if I get round to it.

I've also got loads of stuff on posh gear; we all seem to know quite a lot about that anyway, but it might be worth swapping any interesting bits of research.

Re:Costumes and such likes

Post by Rhiannon »

I've been wanting to make myself a shortgown style jacket for some time, it'll probably end up being a closed-season project (along with everything else I never get round to!)

The bedjacket would have been worn over the overgown; the only garment over the top might have been the apron which helped hold it closed, and possibly the neckerchief it the coat didn't have a high neckline.
They would have been made out of woollen cloth or a heavy cotton or linen. Striped or checked cotton or linen were popular.

I've stumbled across the 1760 instructions and diagrams on how to make one; ... elit.shtml (And I thought the instructions in modern patterns were unfathomable!)

Managed to find a couple more pictures showing bed jackets/shortgowns, and got a bigger version of the image showing different styles of scum coats:
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Hope that helps!

Re:Costumes and such likes

Post by Rhiannon »

Just found out how much the basic outfit would've cost, roughly:

Linsey-Woolsey Petticoat .. .. .. ..4 s. 6 d.
A shift .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..3 s. 8 d.
Pair of shoes .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..3 s. 9 d.
Coarse Apron .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1 s. 0 d.
Check Apron .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..2 s. 0 d.
Pair Stockings .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1 s. 6.d
A cheap hat (that would last 2 years).. .1s. 8 d.
Coloured Neckerchief .. .. .. .. .. .1 s. 0 d.
A common cap .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..10 d.
Cheapest Cloak (to last 2 years) .. .. .4 s. 6 d.
Pair Stays (to last 6 years) .. .. .. .. .6 s. 0 d.

So this would've cost £1 16s. 11d- no wonder they relied on cast offs and handme-downs, second hand goods bought from a pedlar, and would've only replaced things when they had literally been worn to shreds and rags. Much of it they would have made themselves and so might have cost a little less. Many women particularly in the country would have spun their own yarn, which might also have been woven by hand on a loom or sent away to a weaver. Likewise, it may have been dyed at home using such natural things as they came across, or sent away to be dyed.

Re:Costumes and such likes

Post by Rhiannon »

Most of the above research is for English costume. I believe there were only small differences between the French and English, but I'll look into these and get back to you.
Finding research can be a complete pain; there's plenty on posh regency frocks but reliable sources for scum gear are harder to come by. The best resources I've come across (mostly english costume, but it could be a starting point for you):

Dress in Eighteenth-Century England by Anne Buck. Though the posh stuff is too early for our period, it has good sections on servants, common people and the poor, buying and making clothes and fabrics.

The History Of Underclothes C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington. Does what it says on the cover. A book about underwear.

The Costumes of Yorkshire by George Walker published 1814. It includes some excellent illustrations of working people and dress. I've never been able to find this in traditional book-form, (unless they've started reprinting it somewhere). Conveniently though, all the pictures can be found at NYPL Digital Gallery. This website (New York Public Library) is really good, and would probably be a good place to start looking for specifically french costume prints.

The Costume of Great Britain by W.H Pyne, published 1808. Similar to costumes of yorkshire, but this one I know you can get modern reprints of. Definately worth a look if you ever come across a copy.

I also look at contemporary prints by Rowlandson, Gillray, Hogarth etc. that often give a good indication of normal working dress.
Worldwide Art Resources. This website's very temperamental, it doesn't always work but when it does it has hundreds of Thomas Rowlandson prints.
Alternatively, try typing the illustrators name into All Posters.

More books! Found this: The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England

Haven't read it all yet, but it has got lots of pictures!
Can be a bit dry (author seems to have an obsession with the word 'plebian') but is full of really interesting info. I wish it had been written about 6 years ago :roll:
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Re: Costumes and such likes

Post by Shazbat »

I wonder if we could clarify something here?
I understood that all women would keep their chest covered during the day time and it was only considered correct to wear low cut clothes in the evening.
I also understood that this would have been true for all social classes.
Am I right?
It seems there an awful lot of ladies with lots of chest on show - nice for the lads but not correct I feel.
C/F Sharon Swoffer

Jug Meister
"Who dares, Pimms!"

Re: Costumes and such likes

Post by Rhiannon »

'Ello chaps,
Quite right; scum classes would have would have had fabric (usually a triangle) often called a handkerchief, usually cotton and often coloured, around their shoulders and tucked into the front of their bodice for modesty.
Upper classes could have had simple muslin fichus or the often more decorative chemisettes filling in the gap between the top of the dress and their neck during day wear.
Boobs were an evening accessory only and were often very much on show; there is a regency ball dress in the V&A where the (very) short bodice is only 5cm deep. :shock:
I can only assume the woman it was made for was not well endowed...
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