Posts Tagged ‘panniers’

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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The deliberation required for deciding what to write for one’s first ever post, in one’s first ever blog, is, in one word, excruciating! In the end, I decided to write about something I love: 18th century costumes.

Being a keen sewer – ever since my mother first sat me at the sewing machine at aged 6 – as well as a keen historian, the natural progression to making historical costumes appeared to make sense.

Today I am going to share a reproduction of a sacque-back dress from the 1770’s.

When you make a costume, it is important to have the correct undergarments before you begin, or else the finished result does not look as historically accurate. So this means firstly reproducing the undergarments; in this case, the corset and panniers (hip attachments).

Corset and panniers from the 1770’s

This corset is not the type that was worn in the 1770’s, but is more similar to those worn in 1850’s. However, the corset has been made to perform a similar function of the corsets from that era, as the front contains an embroidered stomacher that shows through to the outside. (There is also a convenient piece of lace gathered to conceal some cleavage, as this type of corset was made to reach the nipple-line and no higher, therefore showing much more cleavage than I felt comfortable with. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to make a chemise to go under the corset…)

The panniers are accurate to this era, and are made of calico and boning.

The outer garments consist of a petticoat as an underskirt, and a sacque-back outerdress. The dress attaches to the corset with large hooks and eyes at the front, and then laces up at the back (hidden under the sac).

A sacque-back dress of the 1770’s

Sacque-back dress Back

The back view of the “sack”


Close up of the Bodice

I got many of the details of this dress from pictures and drawings that I could gather from original dresses from the period. This was back “in the day” when the internet was not quite as abundant in resources as it is today! I then used these pictures and descriptions to draft my own patterns.

As this costume was made to go dancing at balls, I made several adjustments to the bodice to help me feel more comfortable! For this reason the bodice is cut much more like a modern bodice. For one of my first “proper” historical costumes (i.e. a costume that wasn’t made for a school production!), I was very proud of it.

I hope you enjoyed looking!

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Relevant Links

There seems to be a range of different patterns available to purchase on the internet if you are interested in making historical costumes. Here is a link to only one of many sites.

18th Century patterns

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