Costume History/Georgian

Georgian edit

Historical Period

The Georgian period is the period of British history that ranged from 1714 to 1830, encompassing the rule of the British kings George I-IV of the house of Hanover. It was during this period that the Jacobite rising was crushed, the Seven Years' War took place, the American Colonies gained independence from Britain, and the French Empire under Napoleon waged war on most of Europe.

Clothing and Style

Near the beginning of this era, French fashions dominated much of Europe. Clothing around this period was characterized by a widening, full-skirted silhouette for both men and women. Wigs remained essential for men of substance, and were often white; natural hair was powdered to achieve the fashionable look.

Distinction was made in this period between full dress worn at Court and for formal occasions, and undress or everyday, daytime clothes. As the decades progressed, fewer and fewer occasions called for full dress which had all but disappeared by the end of the century. Eventually a long-simmering social movement toward simplicity and democratization of dress took hold in Britain under the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the American Revolution. This led to an entirely new style of British tailoring following the French Revolution.

Women's Clothing

The richly decorated gowns worn by women of the Georgian period were often adorned with an "eschelle stomacher", which was an ornate, triangular piece worn at the front of a corset. Women wore petticoats (underskirts that hung from the waist) under skirts that were often made from cane or rattan. Under the dresses, skirts and corsets of the period, women often wore "shifts", which were lace-trimmed, knee-length undergarments. Embroidered silk stockings gathered at the knee were fashionable, and high-heeled shoes were in style at this time. Women often carried around flashy, ornate fans. Hairstyles were enormous near the turn of the century, with flat, frivolous caps coming into style. The general aesthetic favored smooth curves with a conical torso and large hips.

Men's Clothing

Men of the Georgian era dressed differently for courts than for everyday life. High fashion was reserved for court appearances. Their suits were made from velvet, silk, and satins, and were often adorned with intricate braiding or embroidering. Buttons on suits were particularly flashy, being made of silver or gold, and occasionally set with jewels. Suits consisted of long, flared coats, sleeveless waistcoats, and shirts adorned with ruffles at the neck and wrists (although ruffles, frills and collars fell out of style near the end of the period), and knee breaches. Like the women of the time, men also wore embroidered silk stockings and high-heeled shoes (although riding boots with spurs were still popular in some areas). Often, a man's outfit was complimented with a cravat or neckcloth. Hair was shoulder length and tied at the neck, or it was powdered with tight curls. Powdering involved applying a sticky substance and flour that was dyed in various colors. For formal occasions, men wore wigs and wore makeup. Some men carried around silk handkerchiefs drenched in perfume. Eventually, the practice of carrying around patch boxes full of snuff became commonplace.

Later in the period, the style for men was to look as thin and straight as possible, and so, men often wore corsets (girdles) under their clothes.