Posts Tagged ‘1750 costumes’

I recently ran a workshop at the Jane Austen Festival, Australia, on the use of ribbon in 18th century clothing, with a particular focus on the stomachers used to fill in the front portion of a woman’s 18th century gown.

I have made several stomachers before (links to them are below), and I do enjoy the nature of a small project that entails a bit of handwork! This project was no exception.


I used as a guide the pattern in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. This particular extant stomacher uses a bordered silk ribbon with silver thread lace. This original example was not a boned stomacher.

One of the stomachers that is pictured and patterned in her book.

Construction Steps

Step 1: As I have done previously, I boned the foundation layer of the stomacher. This was not always done, as there are plenty of examples of stomachers that are just mounted onto a layer of unstiffened linen, however I do find it a bit easier to hold it in place when it is a bit firmer!

I used two layers of grey cotton broadcloth and sewed boning channels down them. It was then boned with solid plastic boning.

A view of the finished stomacher from the underside, showing the boned foundation.

Step 2: The top layer can now be decorated. I tried to use a very similar pattern as Janet Arnold’s stomacher used. I drew the pattern shape onto the cloth so that I could see an outline. I used silk ribbon, a metallic lace, and some little beading decorations. These were all mounted by hand onto the material, starting with the lace and the ribbon.

Attaching the ribbon and lace to the top layer of the stomacher.

I gathered the ribbon into little ovals so that it was symmetrical, and the lace was slightly gathered so that it would bend around the corners sufficiently.

The basic decorations are all attached, and half sewn on at this point.

I tightly gathered some ribbon along one edge so that the ribbon would fan out to become a circle. The raw edges were folded on themselves and a basic running stitch held them together. Then these flower circles were handsewn to the stomacher. This type of flower decoration was very popular in the 18th century, especially with two-toned – or, what we call – ombre ribbons.

Silk ribbon flowers were handsewn in place.

Step 3: I turned the raw edges of the two layers in, and then stitched the folded edges. I have generally bound the edges with binding, but I wanted to try something different this time.

The raw edges of the stomacher and stitched closed.

The photo shows that some areas were whipstitched, and in other areas I did a running stitch. I basically did whatever stitch I thought would work best in keeping the raw edges secure!

Step 4: The tabs were hand stitched to the sides of the stomacher during the edge-stitching phase above. These tabs help with pinning or attaching the stomacher to the front of the dress or stays.

The tabs attached

The finished piece!

All finished, with some little dangly pearl beads included!!

Now I’ve got to figure out what to wear with it!!

Related Posts

Making an Embroidered Stomacher, from 1725

Making a Stomacher– an “embroidered carnation” stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Ribbon Embroidery in the 18th Century – from 18th Century Notebook (examples of 18th C. clothing that have used ribbon embroidery)

Jane Austen Festival Australia– website



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The Rococo period (from around 1730 – 1790) was one characterised by excesses in fashion. One of the excesses of eighteenth century fashion was “false hips”, or panniers as they were later called.

"False hips" - one over each hip

They consisted of a material structure, braced by whalebone or cane, tied to the waist by strings. The false hips could be enclosed in one petticoat, or alternatively each hip could have a separate structure tied over it.

As the width of skirts grew, a metal structure was invented to hold the ever-increasing weight of brocade and silk. Three different sized U-shaped metal rods were hinged together at the front and back so they extended out over the hips and folded upwards.

False hips: The folding version

Reports of the sizes of hooped petticoats defy modern day imagination, reaching from 10.5 feet wide (a lady in 1742) to 5 yards wide! A lady dressed in such a gown would occupy the entire side of a coach or park bench, and would have to turn sideways to fit through a double door! Fashion (sometimes luckily) is always changing, and this particular fashion reached its peak from 1740 to 1750.

The tide eventually began to turn against the excesses of the false hips. By 1750, even The Gentleman’s Magazine had something to say about it!

Having been within the hearing of some debates in a society of ladies, concerning the proposal for subscribing the four per cents, relates some of their eloquent speeches; and it being moved by Corinna, in case reduction of interest took place, that they must reduce their equipages, apparel, and diversions; Reformata proposed that the hoop-petticoat should be reduced one ell in the circumference. Upon this a loud squall ensued, but silence being imposed by the chair, she proceeded to support her proposition as follows:

“This reformation will be attended with the like in our upper garments: the quilt-coat, the fly, and the gown, which, as I compute, may, in one moderate suit, save about 8 l. The hoop is but an uncouth addition to us, as it is now modelled, in the eyes of men, who make no scruple to assert, not only that it was the invention of some shoplifter for facilitating the conveyance of stolen goods, but that we look as if we carried a hamper on either side under our coats, and gives us such an enormous croup, as renders us quite out of proportion. We pass along, as it were, balancing between two icales. Every person we meet, every post we pass, and every corner we turn, incumber our way, and obstruct our progress. We fit in a chair hid up to our very ears on either side, like a swan with her head between her lifted wings. The whole side of a coach is hardly capacious enough for one of us. We go up a pair of stairs, as if we were pushing some great burden before us, and with our lifted hoops in our hands, expose such a hollow in coming down as surprises all below us. In short, every convenience attends on our reducing this awkward circumference within a reasonable compass, save only that, as we employ our hands so much in the conduct of it, we may be at a loss how to dispose of them, when it no longer requires their assistance. But…”

1750's court dress

Here a general murmur occurred that gave Fantasia an opportunity to put the previous question, which passes unanimously, and prevent Reformata’s project of reducing the hoop to the original standard in good queen Anne’s¬†days, when women looked so lovely in the eyes of men. It was then proposed and carried, that a committee be appointed to enquire what persons were chiefly concerning in promoting the pernicious reduction of public property, and prostitution of public faith; and the pretensions of men to engross public offices among their own sex, in exclusion to so many women of abilities, more capable of serving the public, for ought that has appeared for some years in the past, in the government of Goat’am; with power to the committee to extend their enquiry, as occasion shall offer, for the good of the public weal, and of woman’s pretensions to place and power.

Gen. Advertiser, March 15.

The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1750.

This fashion for large hips continued in accepted court dress for another 20 years after that, but the size of hoops for everyday wear began to gradually reduce, and at least resumed a manageable and decorous size.

Caricatures of women’s fashion (and other things, like politics) were beginning to become popular in the later half of the eighteenth century. The one below did not appear until the skirts of women had fallen completely, near the turn of the century.

A Section of The Petticoat and The Venus of '42 and '94

Once the skirts had fallen to the place where gravity intended, the next thing to rise to excess was the hair! And RISE it DID! In my next post, we will look at the hair styles during the Rococo period.

What is your favourite fashion excess? Is it from the rococo period or some other time?

Sources and Relevant Links

Dr Johnson’s London: Everyday life in London 1740 – 1770, by Liza Picard

Fashion fundamentals during the Rococo period

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