Wikipedia summarizes women’s fashion of the period beginning from 1750s, writing:

“Women’s clothing styles retained the emphasis on a narrow, inverted conical torso, achieved with boned stays, above full skirts. Hoop kirts continued to be worn, reaching their largest size in the 1750s, and were sometimes replaced by side-hoops, also called ‘false hips’, or panniers. Court dress had little or no physical comfort with restriction of movement. Full size hoops skirts prevented sitting and reminded those wearing them to stand in the presence of the King. Stays forced a proper standing posture. Garments like these could not be washed often because of the fabrics from which they were made. The Enlightenment produced a backlash against sumptuary laws which asserted a stagnant social hierarchy. During the Enlightenment, court dress stayed almost the same while outside of court dress, fashion became less extravagant and shifted more towards comfort rather than courtly display.”

Of 1770s changes in fashion, Wikipedia writes:

“Women: robe à la française or sack-back gown; robe à l’anglaise or close-bodied gown; the Brunswick; tall hair and headdresses

Men: Waistcoats began to shorten; Macaroni imitators”

Hereditary Prince Friedrich Franz with His Wife Luise

Fig. 1 - George David Matthieu (German, 1737-1778). Hereditary Prince Friedrich Franz with His Wife Luise, 1778. Oil on canvas; 242 x 210 cm. Schwerin: Staatliches Museum Schwerin. Source: Museum Schwerin

The Studious Beauty

Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (London). The Studious Beauty, 1778. unknown; not available. Walpole Collection. Source: Pinterest

Women's "Andrienne" dress, Robe à la française

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (possibly French). Women's "Andrienne" dress, Robe à la française, c. 1775. Taffeta; dimensions unknown. Florence: Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti, 00000091. Source: Europeana Collections

Robe à la Française

Fig. 4 - Designer unknown. Robe à la Française, c. 1770. satin, silk fly braid,; bust approx 86cm (34in). Source: Pinterest

The Queen Dowager Juliane Marie

Fig. 5 - Vigilius Eriksen (Danish). The Queen Dowager Juliane Marie, 1776. Oil on canvas; 301.8 x 212 x 7 cm. Copenhagen: Statens Museum for Kunst. Source: Statens Museum for Kunst

The Music Party

Fig. 6 - Louis Rolland Trinquesse (French, 1745-1800). The Music Party, 1774. oil on canvas; 194 x 133 cm (76.4 x 52.4 in). Munich: Alte Pinakothek, HUW 37. Source: Wikimedia


Of 1850s men’s fashion, the V&A writes:

“Men wore matching coats, waistcoats and trousers, with hairstyles characterised by large mutton-chop side-burns and moustaches, after the style set by Prince Albert.Shirts had high upstanding collars and were tied at the neck with large bow-ties.High fastening and tight fitting frock coats were also very fashionable; though a new style called the sack coat (a thigh-length, loosely fitted jacket) became popular.The bowler hat was invented around 1850, but was generally seen as a working class hat, while top-hats were favoured by the upper classes.”

Of 1850s men’s fashion, Wikipedia writes:

Shirts of linen or cotton featured high upstanding or turnover collars The trend of detachable shirt collars and cuffs (although first appearing in men’s fashion in the 1820s) became highly popularized during this time period.[3] The newly fashionable four-in-hand neckties were square or rectangular, folded into a narrow strip and tied in a bow, or folded on the diagonal and tied in a knot with the pointed ends sticking out to form “wings”. Heavy padded and fitted frock coats (in French redingotes), now usually single-breasted, were worn for business occasions, over waistcoats or vests with lapels and notched collars. Waistcoats were still cut straight across at the waist in front in 1850, but gradually became longer; the fashion for wearing the bottom button undone for ease when sitting lead to the pointed-hemmed waistcoat later in the century.

A new style, the sack coat, loosely fitted and reaching to mid-thigh, was fashionable for leisure activities; it would gradually replace the frock coat over the next forty years and become the modern suit coat.

The slightly cutaway morning coat was worn for formal day occasions. The most formal evening dress remained a dark tail coat and trousers, with a white cravat; this costume was well on its way to crystallizing into the modern “white tie and tails”.

Full-length trousers were worn for day. Breeches remained a requirement for formal functions at the British court (as they would be throughout the century). Breeches continued to be worn for horseback riding and other country pursuits, especially in Britain, with tall fitted boots.

Costumes consisting of a coat, waistcoat and trousers of the same fabric were a novelty of this period.

Starting in the 1850s and surviving until about the early 1900s (decade), facial hair became extremely popular, featuring a vast array of styles. This is well documented in famous photography of the era.

Tall top hats were worn with formal dress and grew taller on the way to the true stovepipe shape, but a variety of other hat shapes were popular. Soft-crowned hats, some with wide brims, were worn for country pursuits. The bowler hat was invented in 1850 but remained a working-class accessory.”

Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français

Fig. 1 - Artist unknown. Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 1779. dimensions unknownGallerie des Modes et Costumes Français. Source: Pinterest


Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (British). Suit, c. 1770–80. wool, silk, cotton; dimensions unknown. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Source: Georgian era blog



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1770-1779

Map of Europe in 1770s. Source: antiqueprints.com


[To come…]

Timeline Entries

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Primary/Period Sources

NYC-Area Special Collections of Fashion Periodicals/Plates



[To come…  Have a primary source to suggest?  Contact us!]


[To come…  Have a primary source to suggest?  Contact us!]

Secondary Sources

Also see the 18th century overview page for more research sources… or browse our Zotero library.

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