Thursday, 9 October 2014

History of Fashion: Georgian


1750AD – 1820AD

The Georgian era was heavily influenced by the French. This can be seen by the curled white powdered wigs worn by men. Georgian fashion was also over the top and was a means of displaying wealth.

Men adorned wigs that would reflect their professions. Lawyers favoured full-bottom wigs, better known as the perruque a criniere, which were long wigs falling to the chest. Soldiers wore the campaign wig as they allowed movement and were made of three knotted locks of hair, one at the back and one on each side of the face. Merchants wore the ramillies wig, which were a long ponytail style wig generally worn with two black ribbons, one at the top and one at bottom of the pony tail. The bob wig was worn by clerics or for informal occasions and ended in a roll at the back of the neck.  These wigs were extremely expensive and became a way to display wealth to the extent of becoming an item in a will. Wig-snatching also became a very common crime.

During the early 1700s Georgian women wore simple hairstyles with the hair being tied in a bun at 
Contrast of 18th century hair styles — early
'mob-caps' and the powdered wigs of the late 18th century.
the back of the head with one or two locks hanging loose. Afterward, in the 1760s, it was popular for wealthy women to wear false hair and wigs. Horsehair, wool pads and wire support were used to create different styles and shapes. These hairstyles, also known as the pompadour, grew to ridiculous heights with some extreme styles reaching up to two or three feet in height. The hair could also display scenes such as gardens, ducks on a lake etc. But Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, took things further by introducing the three-foot hair tower, ornamented with stuffed birds, waxed fruit and model ships. Following her example, women competed with one another to make the tallest headdress. Because of these elaborate styles, combing was impossible and lice became inevitable. Therefore, a special scratching rod was invented for ladies to ease the itch.

Georgian women had a very unique type of fashion. In the early Georgian era women would wear the sack or sacque dress, which was, a straight dress featuring pleats in the back. It could also be called Watteau, after a painter.

Women also sported extravagant narrow, pointed and heeled shoes covered with fabrics such as silk and leather. Wealthy women would wear coloured shoes decorated with ribbon, lace, stones etc. In the late Georgian era it became fashionable to wear half boots, which were flat-soled boots worn for most occasions and were more practical than heels. These boots would often be made from kid skin, leather or denim like fabric.

Women also wore Panniers, which were hoop skirts worn under the manteau and would extend the width of the skirts at the sides. The manteau was a formal gown made from heavy brocade materials,  later replaced by lighter fabrics, such as silks and satins. The front and back of the dresses were left fairly flat which provided a canvas for woven patterns, elaborate decorations and rich embroidery to be displayed. At times the width of the pannier went to crazy proportions but by the 1780's, it was normally only worn during formal events and with court fashion.
Woman wearing open robe dress with pannier

The open or close robe dresses were also very popular. The open robe dress would show the petticoat worn underneath. These petticoats were generally made to be seen and were worn for warmth or to give the desired shape. They were decorated with lace and embroidery. Because of this open style dress, a stomacher would be needed to be placed over the bodice. The stomacher was a highly decorated triangular piece worn at the front of a corset. Corsets were stiffened with whalebone. A modesty piece, also known as a neckerchief, would be worn over the upper part of the chest and tucked into the corset or dress. It was worn to cover up skin that was exposed from low necklines.

All these dresses consisted of deep, square necklines and sleeves, which were generally worn at elbow length allowing the chemise to show from underneath and often ended in ruffles. The chemise, a French word for shirt, was the bottom undergarment worn under all others and was usually made of linen or cotton.

In the 1770s the skirt fullness began moving towards the back while the chest started to puff out like a pigeon.

Later, in 1790, fashion once again totally changed due to the 1989 French Revolution. This period changed the world forever. A revolution broke out in France and lead to the end of the French monarchy. In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup and crowned himself the Emperor of France in 1804 and started re-establishing order. This period was named the Georgian period after England’s King George III. During this period, France and England were fashion rivals making extravagant corsets, panniers and gowns redundant and a more natural look was introduced. Garments were allowed to drape and flow and had a natural shape. These fashion were based on the chemise cut which was a high-waisted flimsy tunic, draped over the body in the simplest way.

Due to the simplicity of these outfits pockets were no longer sewn in and the reticule became very popular. The reticule was a small handbag hung from the wrist made of rich cloth with a gold chain and closure.

Men’s fashion, however, did not change considerably over the 18th century. A Georgian man’s outfit would often be the habit à la française (man’s suit) which would consist of a coat, waistcoat, shirt, breeches and hose.
Men's outfit

The coat was a long, flared collarless jacket that often had row of buttons at the centre front but was more commonly worn open. The coat's sleeves overtime also got smaller. The waistcoat was the most decorative piece, usually lavishly embroidered or displaying patterned fabrics and was worn over shirts that adorned ruffles at the neck and wrists. Breeches were loose and stopped at the knee, with white stockings worn underneath and heeled shoes, which usually had large square buckle though riding boots were also popular.

A Georgian man’s outfit was finished with a cravat or steinkirk, which was a neckcloth worn around the neck. They also wore tricorn hats, which was a brimmed hat with its three sides turned up to form a triangle shape when looked at from above. It was usually black and made of beaver or rabbit fur.

Make-up was used by both sexes. Faces were powdered white, in keeping with the whitened hair and dark eyebrows were drawn over existing ones and lips were painted very red.

Modern outfit inspired by this era:  

This dress is from the Zuhair Murad Haute Couture FALL 2014/2015 collection. I felt that this
Strapless bustier ball gown with beaded sapphire
wave body and train en silhouette
collection tended to have a lot of dresses, which demonstrated elements of the Georgian era. I picked this dress because it showed these elements well. Zuhair Murad is a Lebanese fashion designer who grew up in Baalbek, Lebanon.

The clearest feature on this outfit, which reflects key features from the Georgian era, is the open style robe dress. Although it is sleeveless I think it really demonstrates a modernized version of the dress. This is because it open at the front and shows the “undergarments,” in this case being a see-through fabric and a very short type of body suit. This mirrors the way open robe dresses would showcase the petticoats worn underneath. This dress also has the Georgian key style of using embroidery, as it looks like it has some type of beadwork or embroidery over the entire dress. Although this is kept simple which is why it also looks modern and chic, instead of costume like. I believe the use of a see-through fabric also made the dress modern as in Georgian times nudity would not have been showcased in public like this.

The skirt of the dress also has a lot of volume, which represents the shapes that a pannier would have made under a dress in the Georgian era, but not as dramatically. The dress also has the very deep, square neckline with the bodice or corset piece mimicking a stomacher. This again, is kept modern with the use of simple embroidery. It is also modern as it is sleeveless. This type of dress would have had a lot of material in the Georgian era and this is a more stripped back, simple design which is therefore, modern.

Overall, the dress has hints of Georgian inspiration but is kept very modern by using an on trend colour and keeping the decoration minimalistic.

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