What kind of garments did women wear in 18th century England? The above video from CrowsEye Productions, filmed for the Lady Lever Art Gallery just outside of Liverpool, shows the daily dressing routine of a working woman. For a British woman who had sufficient wealth, as seen in the video below, servants were available to help her painstakingly assemble the complicated layers of clothing, including a shift, stays (a corset), petticoats, additional hidden pockets, a roll, stockings, garters, the gown, a stomacher, a kerchief, an apron, and shoes. From Lady Lever:

The blue silk gown shown in the video is based on one in a painting of 1765, Mrs Paine and her Daughters, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, on display in the Gallery. The gown, worn by one of Mrs Paine’s daughters, is a polonaise, a form of dress in which the skirt was looped up into folds and secured underneath with tapes.

In the video, you can also see the type of clothes worn by a maid servant during the 18th century. Typically, they were much plainer than her mistress’s and were made of linen or wool rather than fine silk. A maid’s linen apron had a bib pinned into position at the front, the origin of the term pinafore…

Women continued to need help to get dressed throughout the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th. It was only during the First World War, when even the clothes of better-off women became simpler and more practical, that they started to be able to dress themselves. Even so, society women still kept their ladies’ maids throughout the 1920s and 30s and continued to be dressed by them as a mark of their social status and wealth. The practice only ended finally with the outbreak of the Second World War when most servants left their employers and joined the armed forces.”

Follow this with these videos: Weaving on Mount Vernon’s 18th Century Loom and combat demonstrations in fifteenth century suits of armor.

Plus: Sandals by Primitive Technology, Tents that turn into jackets: Humanitarian fashion by Angela Luna, and what does it take to make a t-shirt?

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