Glossary of 18th Century Costume Terminology

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The purpose of this page is twofold: First, to define vocabulary—to define 18th c. words which are now unfamiliar, and to correctly define non-18th century words which are frequently misused with respect to the 18th century (compare 18th c. equipage to non-18th c. chatelaine). Second, to illustrate the particular form of the objects these words referred to (see bonnet and fan) and/or how the objects were used (see pin). The focus of this page is costume of Britain and British-influenced areas (such as its American colonies), with a lesser focus on France and New France, and occasional other examples where British or French examples are lacking. It isn't my intent to focus on women's costume, but I have a greater personal interest in it so men's and children's clothing entries will come along more slowly.

Please note: Vocabulary in the 18th century varied quite widely from region to region and from year to year. You may find these words used in other ways in original documents.

Except where noted otherwise, definitions describe the 18th century use of words.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


apron A woman's apron was generally a rectangle gathered to a narrow tape or a narrow self-fabric band, with apron strings of tape, sometimes tying in back but often long enough to wrap around the back and tie in front. Anglo children and Continental women and children often wore aprons with bibs, but Anglo (British or American) women nearly never wore bib aprons until the very tail end of the 18th century. Although aprons were generally rectangular, bib aprons were sometimes made with a skirt shaped to fit a bib with a bottom point, and fancy aprons were sometimes made to dip at the waist so as not to obscure the gown bodice. Although checked fabrics were not much used for most garments, they were quite common for working women's aprons. A man's apron was generally triangular with a hole at the top that could be buttoned onto the top waistcoat button and wraparound ties at the waist. Men's aprons were generally of leather for protection, or of white fabric.

Women's aprons:

Men's aprons:

Children's aprons:


bag Men used a variety of bags including wallets. Women used workbags, knotting bags, and plain "bags". It is difficult to find pictorial documentation of the more ordinary sorts of bags. Game bags:

banyan An undress robe worn by men. The banyan was cut in two basic variations: an unfitted version somewhat like a kimono or modern bathrobe, and a fitted version which somewhat resembled a man's coat only with full length, loose skirts. The banyan was typically worn by gentlemen relaxing at home and was worn over shirt, waistcoat, and breeches, usually with a cap to cover the head in lieu of a wig. Circumstances in which a man would be seen in a public area a banyan were limited. Examples:

bearskin 1) The skin of bears (genus Ursus). 2) A particular sort of thick, shaggy woolen fabric.

bed gown, less frequently spelled bed-gown and bedgown A woman's informal, loose-fitting, typically thigh-length garment, with sleeves and skirts cut in one with the body, side seams at the natural side, pleated or shaped fullness at the hip, a pleat or two at center back usually held in place only at the neck, and often a V-neckline in front. Fancier versions could be worn in very informal circumstances by the higher classes (e.g., in one's boudoir), but it was primarily a garment of the lower classes, who wore it as ordinary daily clothing. Toward the end of the 18th century, the bed gown was gradually superseded by the short gown, at least in the American colonies / United States. Examples:

bib A piece attached to some aprons to cover or decorate the front of the torso. The bib was generally wider at the top than at the bottom, where it joined the skirt of the apron; sometimes the tapering was quite extreme, so that the bib served little to protect the clothing. Most English and French children's aprons had bibs. Bibs were quite common on French women's aprons as well, but were extremely rare on Englishwomen's aprons.

bodice 1) (18c) rare Stays. Usually written "a pair of bodies". May also refer to a garment which resembles stays but whose exact nature is not made clear by 18th century sources; perhaps packthread stays. 2) (modern; uncommon in 18c) The part of a woman's fitted garment which covers the torso above the waist. 3) (modern) A woman's fitted garment which covers primarily the torso; that is, a garment which is not a gown. 4) (modern) A sleeveless bodice.

bonnet Generally, a headcovering for women with an unstiffened crown (caul?) and a stiff brim going part way around the crown. Possibly the crown was sometimes stiffened or the brim went all the way around, but this would have been unusual, at least. Black silk seems to have been the most common fabric (used for the caul and to cover the brim), but other colors and fabrics are cited less often. You can find many examples in The Catchpenny Prints: 163 Popular Engravings from the Eighteenth Century, originally published by Bowles and Carver, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1970. On-line examples:

breeches The standard main lower body garment for men in the 18th century, with alternatives being petticoat breeches, primarily for sailors, and trousers, for lower class men but spreading to other groups toward the end of the century. Breeches were typically made of woven fabric, with leather (esp. for hunting) and (rarely) knit fabric as alternatives. Fitted clothing generally became tighter as the century progressed, with skin-tight legs being the fashion for breeches for most of the century. To allow the wearer to sit or bend over, breeches were cut loose in the seat; this unsightly bagginess was generally covered by the coat and only revealed by those laboring so hard that they removed their coat, or by men dressed in very lower class garments such as jackets. Examples:

bridles See kissing strings.

broadcloth 1) (18c) Woolen fabric woven on a double-wide loom. Standard loom width was between around 20 and 30 inches wide, so broadcloth was twice that. 2) (modern) Cheap, ordinary fabric, typically 45 inches wide, typically in a fine, tight weave of cotton, poly-cotton, or polyester.

brunswick A 3/4 length traveling garment cut more or less like a jacket, but with a hood and with separate upper and lower sleeves. See also jesuit. Examples:

buttons, thread Buttons made of thread, typically by making buttonhole stitches over a ring of thread or over a thin metal ring, with a thread shank.


calash A hood that folds up in accordian pleats like the hood of a calash (or calèche) carriage. It is supported with whalebone or cane hoops. Calashes were useful for protecting the high hairstyles of the 1770s from the elements.

cameo Very uncommon in the 18th century until the neoclassical period at the end of the century. Miniatures were much more commonly worn (among the sort of people who had jewelry at all, that is, of course). Example:

cardinal A type of . Cardinals were presumably originally named for their cardinal red color, but they could be colors besides red as shown by, e.g., a runaway ad from the Pennsylvania Gazette, May 27, 1762, item #28676: "RUN AWAY …: Had on …A black Silk Cardinal Cloak, lined with Silk, and has Gimp on it, …".

cane Utilitarian item for those who needed it. Also a gentlemen's fashion accessory, and less frequently, a lady's fashion accessory.

cap A headcovering, usually of unstiffened fabric with a crown and usually with a brim which goes only part way around the crown.

A woman's cap is made of white fabric, almost always linen, or, rarely, for upper class, black (probably silk). It generally has a comparatively large crown, or caul, constructed in one piece, and a narrow brim (sometimes cut in two pieces), and the brim is usually edged with a ruffle.

A working man's cap is generally plain fabric with the bottom turned up to form a brim all the way around, or knitted. An upper class man may wear a cap (which could be called a "night cap") as "undress" when he is not wearing his wig. A man's cap is generally made in one of three styles: in four quarters sewn together like a modern baseball cap but with a brim turned up all around (often with the top edge of the brim shaped decoratively) (this is how working men's caps are made, without decoratively shaped brims), in a tube (a rectangle with two opposite sides seamed together) cinched together near the top with a ribbon or some such and with a brim turned up at the bottom, or a turban form.

A baby's cap usually has a deep brim and a small caul shaped via darts and is sometimes embroidered in colors. A child's cap (prepubescent girl or, occasionally, unbreeched boy) is generally like a woman's cap but is sometimes embroidered in colors; also, young girls (late toddler through teens or so) often wear a cap with a small, fairly flat caul (but larger than a pinner), very narrow or non-existent band covered by ribbon, and narrow ruffle; also, young upper class girls (esp. toddlers) sometimes wear a very fancy, much trimmed cap whose construction is difficult to determine under so much trim.


Men's and boys':

caraco 1) (18c) French word for "jacket", sometimes used in English, and possibly sometimes applied to particular styles of jacket. 2) (modern) Woman's jacket made of shaped panels, closely fitted in the upper body and flaring in the skirts, and often having no seaming at the waist; that is, a style of jacket similar to the jacket labeled "caraco" in Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen's Dresses and their Construction, c. 1660-1860 (Janet Arnold, New York : Drama Book Specialists, 1972, ISBN 0-89676-026-X. London : MacMillan, 1972).

casaque French word for a woman's early 18c loose jacket that is a short version of a robe battante and an early version of a pet-en-l'air.

Several servant women in second quarter 18c paintings by Chardin wear what is either a simple version of a casaque or a version of a bed gown with a fold over the shoulder.

chatelaine 19th c. See equipage.

checked Often spelled "check'd" or "chack". Evenly checked fabric. Checked fabrics, using small checks of up to about 1/4″ were very commonly used for utilitarian garments which could be expected to wear out frequently, including aprons, handkerchiefs, linings, sometimes shirts and trousers, and were very rarely used for other garments. Larger checks were used for furnishings. See also crossbarred and tartan (1).

chemise French word for a man's shirt or woman's shift. This word was not used by English speakers to mean a woman's shift until well after the American Revolution.

chemise à la reine Translates as "shift in the style of the queen". Muslin gown fitted by means of gathering at the neckline, the (sometimes high) waist, at the ends of the sleeves, and at one or more points along the sleeves. Despite the name, this garment was not a shift (chemise). The origins are unclear; it may (or may not) have developed from Creole dress, and Marie Antoinette is attributed as having said she and her court ladies were wearing it informally for some time before the (in)famous eponymous portrait was painted (see first example below). Examples:

cloak Cut in a half circle pattern (women or occasionally men) or full circle pattern (men), with or without cape(s), collar, and/or hood. Regular cloaks usually fall around mid-calf so as not to drag in the mud. Short cloaks may be as short as waist length; fancy short cloaks in silk or fur may have shaped hems (see mantle). For women, the usual fastener is a tie at the neck. Examples:

closed gown Any gown which is not an open gown, whether a round gown or other style.

cloth 1) Name applied to various types of woolen fabric including broadcloth (see broadcloth (1)) and other similar fabrics. 2) (modern) Synonym of "fabric". 3) A particular color, as in "one old quilted petticoat, a cloth coloured cloth ditto" (The Pennsylvania Gazette, February 19, 1777, item #60523), "Mens wash, tan leather, cloth coloured, crimson, purple and white lamb gloves; womens flowered, purple, white grained and white glaized, and cloth coloured lamb gloves and mitts" (The Pennsylvania Gazette, January 1, 1767, item #39486), "Buff, blue, green, cloth coloured and white Plush, Green, scarlet, blue and cloth coloured fine Plush [...] Cinnamon, dove colour, black and cloth coloured, blue, changeable, clouded & striped Mantuas" (The Pennsylvania Gazette, April 10, 1782, item #67214), "dyes leather any sort of cloth colour" (The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 11, 1756, item #19312). As for what color it referred to, some sort of natural wool color seems most likely. The above PA Gazette quotes show that it was considered distinct from white, buff, and dove color (as well as crimson, purple, blue, green, scarlet, cinnamon, and black).

compère Variation on a stomacher which buttons down the center front like a man's waistcoat. Can be stitched to the gown at both sides under the gown's robings, or can be a false compère with buttons but no center front opening and which is pinned or laced to the gown like a normal stomacher. Examples:

coat 1) A man's coat; generally, a dress coat. 2) Short for petticoat.

coral A baby's combined rattle and teething toy, made from coral or other materials.

corset French word for stays or jumps or something. This word was not used in English before the close of the 18th century (the OED's first citation dates to 1795).

corset blanc French word for a woman's undergarment which is devoid ("blank") of bones. The most probable English translation is "jumps" or perhaps "waistcoat" (see waistcoat (2)). Jean-Baptiste Greuze painted a number of moderately titillating paintings of partially clothed girls which give some good details of the construction of shifts and other underclothing, although somewhat less information on how such clothing was actually worn (since Greuze's subjects often are not only missing their outerwear, but have their underwear half falling off as well). The context of Greuze's art should be kept firmly in mind when using his work as documentation of clothing. Examples of corsets blancs in Greuze's work:

cotton 1) Cotton. 2) Wool of a particular sort of weave.

crossbarred Often spelled "crossbar'd", "cross barred", &c. Patterned with an open check pattern, with lines or stripes of colors surrounding larger blocks of color; in modern terms this would be called a plaid (see plaid (3) and tartan (1)) or a windowpane check. Checked fabrics were very commonly used for utilitarian garments which could be expected to wear out frequently, including aprons, handkerchiefs, linings, sometimes shirts and trousers, and were very rarely used for other garments. Crossbarred fabrics, while not common for any use, appear to be one step up from checks, as they were apparently used for common gowns as much as any other fabric. Crossbarred silks were a class apart (pun intended); they were made with far more complex weaves and were a high-fashion fabric, although again, not an especially common one.


cuff Fashions in cuffs changed throughout the century. During the third quarter of the eighteenth century in particular, the fashion for women's gowns and jackets was largely for shaped sleeve flounces rather than cuffs, although cuffs were still used on less fashionable gowns. Examples (also, search for "cuff" throughout this webpage):


death's head button A thread-covered button with the threads wrapped in a particular four-quartered pattern. Other patterns are possible but much less common. The origin of the term is obscure. Death's head buttons were extremely common on good-quality civilian men's coats.

domino A loose, voluminous overgarment, fastening down the front, typically worn to masquerades.

doll Often, a fashion doll. Fashion dolls were used to disseminate the latest fashions, and were not children's toys, although children may have been allowed to play with them once they had served their usefulness.

dressing table A lady's table, generally covered in fabric (such as lace) and with a mirror standing on it.


earrings (I haven't checked whether "earrings" is the period term.) Examples:

engageantes or engageants Probably a French word rather than English. See sleeve ruffle.

equipage 1) French for "equipment". 2) A fancy clip attached at the waist from which depend assorted sewing or other implements. Often called a "chatelaine" by reenactors but "chatelaine" is the 19th c. term for this item. Period advertisements list fancy equipages of gold, silver, etc. See also stay hook.

Despite the popularity of "chatelaines" among reenactors, in period art you are more likely to see a scissors, pincushion, or watch attached with a plain ribbon.

On the term "chatelaine":


fan 18th century folding fans typically have wood or ivory sticks and a paper or parchment leaf. They are held in the hand—they do not have a ring at the end for attaching a ribbon so that the fan can hang from the wrist. Fancy fans are typically painted with a) fêtes galantes—scenes of courtly amusements taking place in Arcadian settings b) classical scenes (Greek or Roman mythology or literature) or c) Biblical scenes. Examples:

Examples of fêtes galantes:

Ways to hold a fan—some ways are used when sitting, some when standing, some in either case.

ferreting Binding the edge of fabric with tape, usually the bottom of a petticoat, or the edge of a felt hat brim. Examples:

fichu French word for a handkerchief. This word was not used by English speakers until after the American Revolution.

flannel 1) (18c) Wool flannel. 2) (modern) Cotton and/or synthetic flannel.

frock 1) ("Frock" or "frock coat".) A moderately informal style of man's coat, with a collar (standing or falling) and cut more loosely than a (dress) coat. 2) A farmer's loose overshirt (smock). 3) A child's gown (possibly only certain styles).

flounce Shaped self-fabric trim applied to the ends of women's gown and jacket sleeves, particularly in the third quarter of the century. Single flounces were used first, then double, then triple, before flounces were abandoned in the shift toward neoclassical dress. Flounces were often accompanied with sleeve ruffles. Examples:

full To process woolen fabric so that the fibers twist and lock together. The fabric becomes thicker and more weatherproof, and as a side effect, shrinks a lot. Well-fulled wool holds an edge (does not fray) when cut and is largely wind- and waterproof. Wool is fulled by agitation, certain chemical processes, and to a lesser degree, heat. The old-fashioned way to full wool is to soak it with stale urine, beat it or stomp on it for a long time, and then wash it clean. The modern home method is to throw it in the washing machine with plenty of detergent so that the fibers can slip past each other and lock together, agitate it for a while, and then rinse.


garter A band of leather, fabric tape, knitting, or possibly other forms that holds up your stockings. Women usually gartered their stockings above the knee, although they sometimes gartered them below the knee. When using a fabric tape, it seems that it was generally long enough to wrap twice (which would distribute the pressure better). Examples:

gloves Examples:

gown A full length, sleeved garment with a fitted bodice and skirts; the bodice and skirts may be cut in one, cut separately, or cut in one in some places and separate elsewhere, depending on the particular style. Women's gowns were cut in two basic variations: the English gown (night gown, robe à l'anglaise) and the sack gown (negligee, sacque, robe à la française). Children's gowns were cut in two basic variations: the back-closing gown for both girls and boys, and the front-closing gown for boys only (possibly called a coat) which has more or fewer features of a man's coat, largely dependent on the boy's age. With modifiers, this term can refer to distinctly different garments such as the bed gown, short gown, and night gown (a loose robe for men).


See closed gown, gown en fourreau, negligée, night gown, open gown, polonaise, robe à l'anglaise, robe à la française, round gown, sacque.
Children's (for more information, see Children's Clothing at
  • Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon. Girl with Racket and Shuttlecock. French, 1740. On the Web at CGFA and at WebMuseum, Paris. Typical back-fastening child's gown, in this case quite finely fitted.
  • Sandby, Paul. Miss Marsden, 1753. On the Web at the Courtauld Institute of Art. The gown has leading strings.
  • Christinek, Carl-Ludwig (Russian, 1732–1792). Portrait of two Sisters, 1772. On the Web at Wikimedia Commons. Although the girls are clearly from a wealthy family, the cut of the girls' gowns is utterly typical. The bodices come to a deep point in front. The bodices are not attached to the skirts in front, and may not be completely separate. The portrait is a nice example showing that blue and pink weren't strictly color-coded for boys and girls. The sash ends are cut into large teeth to prevent fraying, with the usual "half teeth" at the sides. Also note two dolls on the floor by the younger girl.
  • Copley, John Singleton. The Copley Family, 1776/77. National Gallery of Art, Andrew W. Mellon Fund 1961.7.1. Available on the Web at The National Gallery of Art and at the CGFA. The three girls wear fairly typical child's gowns, although the oldest girl's may have a bodice with vertical pleats which is a less common form. The boy (embracing his mother) may wear a front-fastening gown; a collar of sorts is just visible by his neck (see detail image). The three girls wear sashes with their gowns; the boy may as well. The doll (or fashion baby) appears to wear a child's gown as well.
  • Hoare, William. Full length seated left profile view of young girl - Anne Hoare. On the Web at A&A Art and Architecture. Girl in cotton or linen print gown with white leading strings.

(gown) en fourreau A gown with the bodice and skirt cut as one at the center back and stitched down in flattened tubes. The remainder of the bodice and skirt are cut separately and seamed together. This term may be a post-18c costume history term rather than 18c. Examples:


habit See riding habit.

handkerchief 1) Handkerchief; see pocket handkerchief. 2) Neck handkerchief. Also called neck handkerchief, neckerchief, neckatee, (French) fichu, etc. "Handkerchief" was the most common term. Confusing? The people whose fault it is have been dead for two hundred years. The French word fichu was not used by English speakers until after the Revolutionary War. 3) rare Kerchief. (Handkerchiefs were very rarely worn on the head.) ["Kerchief" comes from French couvre chef, "cover the head", so a neck handkerchief is a cover for the head for the hand for the neck. Ain't language great?]

Women wore handkerchiefs in many, many ways, of which the most common was probably untucked in back and tucked in in front. The back can be untucked or tucked in. The front can be pinned close to the neck, pinned further down, pinned with the ends allowed to separate below the pin, pinned so that the ends hang down and overlap, knotted, twisted (like a Steinkirk), tucked in in the center, tucked in toward the sides, and, late in the 18th century after the end of the Revolution when handkerchiefs could be quite large, crossed in front and brought around the sides to tie in back. The ends may be used in front to over the stomacher area of a gown with an open bodice, and may be tucked behind a ribbon or ribbons which cross the stomacher area. The front may cover the entire portion of the bosom left uncovered by the gown, virtually none of it, or anything in between.

For men, alternatives to a handkerchief are a stock or neckcloth. A handkerchief is the least formal of these three alternatives. Men usually rolled or folded their handkerchiefs to somewhat resemble a neckcloth, but handled the ends in about as many ways as women.

Women's handkerchiefs:

There are a fair number of examples of handkerchiefs worn on the head over caps, mostly French. Here are three non-French examples of handkerchiefs with or without caps:

and French examples:

hat Generally, a headcovering for with a brim going entirely around the crown.

Women's hats were frequently of straw, usually braided; fancy hats could be made of silk-covered straw, chip, or other materials; other types of hats were less common. Women could wear a felt or beaver hat, much like a man's although sometimes trimmed with ostrich feathers, with a riding habit. Throughout most of the century, low-crowned hats (nearly flat to about 2 inches) were fashionable, while higher crowned hats were unfashionable and worn almost exclusively by country folk. In the 1780s, large hats with huge crowns became fashionable. The stereotypical lower class hat throughout much of the century was a low-crowned (1/2 inch to 1 inch) straw hat, not too large brimmed, untrimmed except for a piece of ribbon around the join between crown and brim, gathered, ruched, or plain, or, most often, gathered crosswise every so often to form small poufs, and with ties attached to the underside of the hat.

Men's hats were generally felt or beaver; straw hats were quite uncommon. Military styling generally called for the hat to be cocked on three sides (post-18c term: "tricorn"), often trimmed with "lace" (see lace (2)) and/or a cockade. Lower class civilian hats were left flat or cocked on one side, two, or three sides, and were typically untrimmed; middle and upper class hats had considerable variety and trim.

Examples of women's hats:

Examples of men's hats:

hood Hoods were popular in the first half of the 18th century but were largely displaced by bonnets in the second half, although they do appear in some probate inventories (e.g., 70 "hoods" among 80 estate inventories of New Hampshire women taken between 1760 and 1789). Hoods may have been retained longer in some areas such as New England or among some groups such as Quakers, but more research is needed. As a further difficulty, the word "hood" sometimes refers to a hooded cloak of sorts; see riding hood.


jabot Not an 18th century clothing item! There is no documentation for such a clothing accessory in the 18th century, and the Oxford English Dictionary's earliest citation for the word dates to 1823. Men generally wore a stock, neckcloth, or handkerchief around their shirt collars, and a fancy neckcloth might have ends decorated with lace. Men sometimes had the neck slit of their shirt edged with a ruffle of fine fabric or lace on one or both sides. Neckcloth ends and shirt ruffles may sometimes resemble a jabot in appearance, particularly at a casual glance, but jabots were not worn.

jacket A short, fitted, man's or woman's garment, which extends only slightly below the waist; perhaps to high hip height. Or possibly even a much longer woman's garment—up to knee length—might be called a jacket.

jesuit A full length traveling garment cut more or less like a jacket or gown, but with a hood and with separate upper and lower sleeves. See also brunswick. Examples:

jumps A woman's support garment, lightly stiffened with whalebone, cane, wood splints, cording, buckram, quilting and/or other means. It is not known whether jumps could use no stiffening other than the fabric of the jumps. No precise definition has been found for jumps, but it is clear that they were, on average, less stiffened than stays. Jumps almost certainly can lace front only, and possibly even usually lace front only. They may have had shoulder straps more often than stays, and perhaps even always. Jumps could be worn by invalids, pregnant women, elderly women, and slatterns, and in informal situations. Stays seem to have been the usual garment, rather than jumps, but data is lacking.


kertch A head covering of some Scottish women. See Before the Clearances: 17th and 18th Century Scottish Costume.

kissing strings Also called "bridles". Term of hazy meaning and usage which appears to have referred to cap lappets that narrow toward their bottoms and are of a length to be fastened under the chin with strings or ribbons. See lappet cap for additional examples.


lace 1) Fabric with a decorative pattern of holes; in the 18c, generally, needle lace or bobbin lace, although some other techniques were used. 2) Woven or braided tape applied decoratively as a trim; for example, on military uniforms.

lappet cap Modern term for a cap with lappets; the period name or names is unknown, although see kissing strings for one possible term for one type of lappet cap, or part of it. Caps with lappets were very popular in the 1730s and '40s, and moderately popular in the 1750s and into the '60s, but were dead as a fashion item by the 1770s; at that point, while they were rarely worn by younger women, they were only frequently worn by elderly women who either retained the styles of their youth, wanted to keep warm, wanted to hide their wrinkled or sagging necks, or, most likely, all of the above. Lappet caps made a fierce comeback in the late 1780s.

lappets Two long strips of material that hang down from the top of the head. They can be either: a) Extensions of the cap band; see lappet cap. b) Extensions of the pinner ruffle? c) A single long piece of lace, made to shape (usually with the ends widened and with a round finish—sort of a teardrop effect), folded at the center, and pinned to the head over or instead of a pinner. Lappets of a cap (a) frequently have the ends folded back up and pinned on top of the cap; this is less common (rare?) with pinner lappets (b) or standalone lappets (c). For examples of caps with lappets, see lappet cap.

leading strings Two long strips of fabric, or sometimes woven tapes, that hang from the shoulders of a child's gown, or sometimes a single strip or tape with each end attached to a shoulder. Leading strings are useful for holding on to, or holding up, a toddler who is learning to walk. Much older children's gowns sometimes had leading strings as a sign of childhood, but this was increasingly uncommon as the century progressed. Examples:

linen 1) Fabric made of flax. 2) Fabric made of either flax or hemp.


mantle A fancy short cloak made of silk, lace, or fur, usually lined (unless lace), usually with an edging, often with a hood. A silk mantle may be edged with lace, fabric ruffles, or fur; a lace mantle may be edged with lace. Cut like a cloak (basic half-circle cut) but shaped shorter at the sides to allow the forearms to move freely. Usually hangs to the elbow at the side, to the waist or lower in front or back. Possibly also called a "short cloak". Some versions are very small and may have been called "tippets" or something else.

masquerade Masquerade costume appears in many portraits. Often, but not always, the portrait sitter holds a mask in one hand.

miniature Miniature portrait, worn as a pendant, or on the wrist, or attached to the clothing in various other fashions, or sometimes set standing on a table or shelf. While cameos were not popular in the 18th century until the post-Revolution neoclassical period, miniatures were fairly common among the wealthy. Examples:

mitts Gloves with open fingers and thumb. Typically cut on the bias with a point over the back of the hand. Examples:

mob 18c term that referred either to caps in general and/or to particular styles of cap; what style it referred probably changed as rapidly as fashion. Because of confusion over the period meaning of the term, and confusion with the modern use of the term mob cap, many reenactors prefer to avoid using this term outside of scholarly discussion.

mob cap Modern term for a modern item of costume! The popular culture term for what popular culture views as "an 18th century cap", generally interpreted as a circle of fabric with a casing a couple of inches in from the edge and either elastic or a drawstring through the casing, often constructed as two layers of fabric to avoid hemming. Although circle-with-drawstring caps do appear to have existed in at least some portions of the 19c, there is no documentation for their existence in the 18c. They violate all principles of 18c cut and construction, and other types of cap are amply documented. There was an 18c term mob which is unclear in meaning and which reenactors generally avoid; reenactors generally use the term "mob cap" (if they use it at all) to refer to the popular-culture fantasy cap.

modesty piece Tucker. Someone did find the term "modesty piece" dating back to, I think, 1710-ish. It's more commonly called a "tucker". "Modesty piece" and "tucker" were also used in the 19th century for a triangular piece to fill in a V neckline, and for a chemisette. In either century, it did not refer to a neck handkerchief, neckerchief, neckatee, (French) fichu, etc.—what we sometimes call a kerchief today. Or perhaps the modesty piece is the bit that goes across the top of the stomacher (for gowns worn with stomachers) and the tucker is the piece that goes around the gown neckline? More research is needed.

muff Muffs were small until late in the century. Examples:

muffatees Like mitts, but cover the forearms only, and not any part of the hands. I'm not 100% confident in how strictly these terms were applied, though. Mitt/mitten/muffatee, arm-hand/arm-hand-fingers/arm. Maybe they played mix and match with terms and garments.

muslin 1) (18c) Fine, lightweight linen fabric, often sheer, and later similar cotton fabric, used for fine ruffles and for late eighteenth century women's gowns such as the chemise à la reine and some neoclassical gowns. 2) (modern) A cheap, tightly woven cotton fabric of poor quality, generally yellowish or ecru with some slubbing, intended to be used for pattern mockups (see muslin (3)) and other throwaway uses. 3) (modern) A sample garment, generally made in a cheap fabric such as muslin (2), to test a pattern. Examples of muslin (1):


neckcloth A rectangular length fabric worn about a man's neck over the shirt collar; a tall shirt collar would fold down over the neckcloth while a short collar would be entirely covered. Fancy neckcloths could be decorated with lace at the ends; this was more common earlier in the 18c (probably largely because lace was more popular earlier in the 18c) and was a conservative style of dress by the 1770s. Alternatives to a neckcloth are a stock or handkerchief. A neckcloth is generally more formal than a handkerchief but less formal than a stock.

necklace Most frequently, simply a lace (ribbon or cord) around the neck. This is the one form of "jewelry" which is seen moderately often on common women. Upper class women are sometimes seen with necklaces containing actual jewels, but are also frequently seen with the same simple ribbon that a common woman might wear. Examples of ribbon:

Examples of pearls:

negligée Sack gown.

night gown English style gown (robe à l'anglaise). Also refers to a sort of man's informal gown or banyan.


open gown A gown whose skirt encircles the back and sides but is open at the front allowing the petticoat to be seen. The bodice may be either closed (meeting at center front) or open (not meeting, and filled in with a stomacher and/or neck handkerchief and/or something else).


parasol 18th century parasols had long straight handles. Examples:

See 18th Century Parasols for further examples.

pattens Examples:

pelisse A fancy, short (hip or thigh length) cloak-like outer garment made of four generally rectangular panels, with arm slits in the two front panels, and a hood. Generally made in silk and edged all around body, hood, and arm slits, often with fur. I'm unsure whether the word pelisse was used by English speakers.

While the 18th century cloak is based on a circle cut (men's) or half circle cut (women's, some men's, women's short cloaks, women's mantles (with additional shaping)), the pelisse is based on a rectangular cut. Although Garsault's draft for a pelisse shows slight shaping of the panels over the shoulders, the pelisse cut is still far bulkier at the neckline than a circle or half circle cloak cut, and therefore is better suited to the lightweight silks from which it was apparently made, rather than to heavy, fulled wools. (Some pelisses appear to be fur-lined and it's unclear how this affected bulk at the shoulders.)

The pelisse is similar to the mantle (fancy short cloak) in terms of fabrics, approximate size, and social class of those who wore it. A pelisse is probably less convenient to wear than a mantle, since the arms are covered and the arm slits only allow for minor movement, and this may be why so many more mantles are seen in art than pelisses.


pet-en-l'air A sacque gown made at three-quarter length (mid to low thigh). The literal translation of this term is "fart in the air". Hey, I didn't think it up. I don't know yet whether a pet-en-l'air would be considered a jacket or not.

petticoat A woman's "undergarment" which covered the lower body. Throughout the third quarter of the 18th century, the extreme popularity of open gowns and shorter-than-full-length garments meant that the top petticoat was usually seen and was not really an undergarment. See the entry for quilt for examples of quilted petticoats.

With gown-and-petticoat ensembles made from high-end fabrics, several alternatives for petticoat construction were used to save on fabric:

petticoat breeches See also slops. A man's garment resembling breeches but much looser and without cuffs, sometimes worn by sailors over their breeches. Examples:

pin Typical 18th century pins were of tinned brass, were about the length and thickness of modern sewing pins, and had small ball heads. They were often used to fasten clothing. Examples:

Piemontaise Style of gown similar to a sack but with the back pleats attached at the neckline, and then free floating over the bodice and rejoining (?) the skirts. An unusual gown style.

pinner A sort of a vestigial cap that you pin to the top of your head. It usually consists of a tiny bit of flat fabric (usually roundish, often straight along the back) with a ruffle going around the sides and front. Sometimes it has lappets—two long floaty strips that hang down in back or can be pinned up on top. Pinners are much dressier than caps. Frequently all or part of the pinner is lace. They get lacier from the outside in—that is, you might have lace just on the edge of the ruffle, or just a lace ruffle, or an all-lace pinner, but you wouldn't have a lace center with a plain fabric ruffle.

plaid 1) A particular Scottish garment, now usually called a kilt. 2) A plain, unpatterned fabric. (Perhaps a specific kind. It's not clear to me.) 3) A tartan (1).

pocket 1) For men's garments (men's coats, waistcoats, and breeches), a bag pocket stitched into the garment. 2) For women, a single pocket or a pair of pockets attached to a tie and tied around the waist underneath at least one layer of clothing. Pockets occasionally peek out from under a woman's clothing in a context of buying or selling, which may range from perfectly innocent (shopping in a market), to rapacious (selling one's sweetheart into the army for the recruiting fee), to libidinous (prostitution).

pocketbook A small folded leather or fabric case for papers and paper money, with wedge-shaped side panels that hold items in the case; that is, what we would now call a wallet (see also wallet). Fabric pocketbooks were most often worked in flame stitch (now usually called bargello) and edged in woven tape. Because of their needlework, worked pocketbooks may survive in disproportionate quantities. Pocketbooks were apparently most often carried by men, but were sometimes carried by women. Examples:

pocket handkerchief What we now call a handkerchief. In the 18th century, "handkerchief" generally referred to a neck handkerchief.

polonaise A specific cut of gown involving, among other features, a cutaway front bodice, the bodice cut in one with the skirts, and, typically and famously, the skirts pulled up to form large poufs of fabric in back and on the sides by means of cords, buttons, ties, or whatever means. See The 18th Century Robe à la Polonaise: Research Summary by Kendra Van Cleave. The polonaise probably developed from the style of retroussé dans les poches. Normally, the gown skirts were pulled up in two places on either side of the back in order to form three poufs, but there are very rare examples of gown skirts pulled up in four places to form five poufs. The bottoms of the poufs fall at approximately the same height off the ground or the front poufs are shorter than the back poufs.

Any open style of gown may be worn "polonaised"—that is, with the skirts pulled up into poufs à la polonaise—but only a gown in the polonaise cut is truly a polonaise. When the skirts of an English gown or sack are polonaised, the bottoms of the poufs fall at approximately the same height off the ground, or less often the front poufs are shorter; it is a reenactorism to leave the front corners full length while pulling up the back pouf high, as if the skirts were a theater curtain framing one's fundament.


pompon A knot or cluster of ribbons, flowers, jewels, feathers, and/or similar materials, sometimes worn in the hair as a decoration in lieu of a cap or pinner when dressed very finely.

pudding cap or pudding A padded cap worn by toddlers to protect the head from bumps. Generally consists of a padded band around the head, often shaped slightly, with tapes or padded bands crisscrossing over the top.

purse A pouch for coins or other small items. Of various forms, including long, narrow, cylindrical bags and short, squat cylindrical, round, or flat bags or pouches. Examples:


quilt 1) A bedcovering made of two layers of fabric with batting between them, stitched in patterns to hold the layers together. Research is still out on how often quilts were made of small shapes of different fabrics pieced together in designs, but as the debate is between "virtually never" and "very rarely", reenactors should avoid pieced quilts. (Obviously, a quilt could be pieced together from larger pieces, just as any garment could be, to deal with a lack of fabric or a lack of fabric width.) 2) Short for "quilted petticoat".

Examples of quilted petticoats:


retroussé dans les poches Refers to pulling the hem of the gown inside, up, and out through the pocket slit. This could keep the garment out of the way while working, but is also charmingly attractive. Possibly spread from the working classes to the upper classes and then evolved into polonaising. I have not found any examples of petticoats pulled up this way—only gowns—which is not too good for the theory of this style starting with the working class. However, you do find common gowns and petticoats "rucked up" (perhaps only a modern term), by which I mean haphazardly pulled up and tucked up inside under the waistband, usually in front or at front and sides, but sometimes all around or in other ways. Examples of gowns retroussé dans les poches:

Examples of gowns or petticoats "rucked up":

(riding) habit Woman's jacket, styled somewhat like a man's coat, often with a matching petticoat and a complementary waistcoat or false waistcoat front. The riding habit was worn not only for riding, but also as general traveling clothes and even as general day dress (as opposed to evening dress). Like a man's coat, the riding habit has a relatively narrow neck opening in front and a high neckline in back; it may or may not have lapels; it frequently has buttonholes, which may be false; it may have full skirts or be cut away. Unlike a man's coat, a habit coat generally has a waist seam or partial waist seam to accommodate a woman's hips and petticoats, and a fish above the bustline to accommodate a woman's bust. The habit is worn with an abbreviated shirt whose neck construction resembles a man's shirt; the habit shirt is worn over the shift and stays. Examples:

riding hood Evidence is lacking, but this appears to have been either a hood with a substantial cape, or a short cloak with a hood.

robe à l'anglaise or nightgown A long gown with the bodice back fitted to the body. The gown may be en fourreau. Possibly it may instead have a set-in waist, or perhaps this was not called a robe à l'anglaise. (If a gown with a set-in waist isn't called a robe à l'anglaise, then what is it called? Such gowns are usually polonaised, in which case you can call them polonaises, but what about when they aren't polonaised?)

robe à la française. See sacque.

robe battante French word for an early 18c loose version of a sacque, which see.

robings Folds or strips of fabric along the front edges of a gown with an open bodice. Is sometimes spelled "robins" in period text. Early in the century, robings were folds in the gown fabric along the bodice edge that released into the skirt; later, they were usually cut separately and applied to the edge of the bodice. Robings often had trim applied to them, such as ruching. Robings are usually cut from the same fabric as the gown, but there are a few rare depictions of gowns with robings and cuffs (or cuff facings?) of the same fabric but not of the main gown fabric, and slightly more written descriptions of contrasting robings and cuffs middle and lower class women; this was a brief fashion.

round gown A particular style of gown where the bodice has a front closure and laps over the skirt, which is closed; that is, it completely encircles the body. Since the skirt is entirely closed, one must either step into the gown or put it on over the head; next you tie the skirt closed; finally you close the bodice over it. Compare "closed gown"; contrast "open gown". Examples:


sacque or sack (back) (gown), negligee, robe à la française A long gown with pleated fabric stitched down at the neckline and sometimes for a few inches down from the back neckline and hanging free from there to the hem. This fabric is stacked in multiple deep pleats. At the beginning of the 18th century, the gown hung freely from the shoulders front and back and was called a robe battante. Soon it became fitted in front by means of a back lining to which the back fabric was not attached except at the seams. Eventually, the back was stitched down a short way down from the neckline and the back became fitted as well by means of being tacked to the lining, with only the folds hanging free. Long after the Revolutionary period, this style came to be called "Watteau" because Watteau depicted it so well (see Gersaint's Sign Shop on the Web at Jim's Fine Art Collection and at the Artchive (detail)), but this is not a period term. The typical sack is trimmed with S-curving or straight gathered, ruched, or poufed trim around the neckline down the robings to the waist, and similar but wider trim down the front of the gown. Sometimes there is narrow trim at the edge of the front opening (bodice and/or skirt) with wider trim beside it. The petticoat is nearly always made from the same fabric as the gown and is typically trimmed with a wide applied flounce, plus narrower flounces or S-curving or straight gathered, ruched, or poufed trim both above and below the main flounce; this trim is typically only on the part of the petticoat which shows in front; not only is the rest of the petticoat typically untrimmed, but sometimes the top back of the petticoat, which does not show even when the gown is worn retroussé dans les poches, is not only untrimmed but also of a cheaper fabric. Examples:

shawl This word was not in common use until well after the American Revolution. The first (and only) usage in the on-line Pennsylvania Gazette dates to 1790. According to Oxford English Dictionary citations, the word was originally used, even before the American Revolution, specifically in reference to imported Kashmir shawls. Instead of "shawl", use "handkerchief", "short cloak", "mantle", "tippet", mantelet, pelisse, or arisaid depending on the cut of the garment you are referring to. As for whether garments of this sort existed, there do not appear to have been any made to shape; that is, rectangular garments woven to shape and finished with fringe or hemming. Of course, any length of cloth could have been pressed into service on the spur of the moment. I have encountered dozens and dozens of cloaks, short cloaks, and handkerchiefs in art, but only one rectangular wrap, on a Scottish lowlander, the Edinburgh Lacewoman by David Allan, drawn in 1784 (see Before the Clearances: 17th and 18th Century Scottish Costume for more information on this artwork and its context, and for information on arisaids). Well, okay, I can cite one anomalous example of what looks like a shawl: The Erskine Family Group by David Allan, 1783, in Paintings of the British Social Scene: From Hogarth to Sickert by E.D.H. Johnson; also at The Georgian Family and the Parental Role (The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modern Childhood: An exhibition at the University Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, UC Berkeley August 23 - November 19, 1995). In this painting, a young woman holds a baby; she and the baby are covered by a shawl(?) with patterned, fringed ends; she is coiffed in very forward-looking fashion with a fringe of bangs over her forehead and her hair falling in loose curls on the nape of her neck, and a ribbon in her hair but no cap. Or maybe her anomalous dress has something to do with her being Scottish; I don't know. (Also, I can cite several Italian examples—see assorted works by Pietro Longhi)—but the focus of this glossary is American and British terminology and costume, not Italian.)

Post RevWar shawls:

shift A woman's underwear. The French word chemise was not used by English speakers until well after the American Revolution. Shift sleeves were approximately 3/4 long early in the century, shortened to just past elbow length as gown sleeves shortened to this length around the American Revolution, and became even shorter with neoclassical gowns at the end of the century. Shift sleeves started out wide and full and gradually narrowed through the century; the same is true of shift bodies although to a lesser extent (they were never as full). Shift sleeves ended in a cuff with two buttonholes and were fastened with linked buttons or a tie; when shift sleeves became very narrow, the cuff was left off. Shift necklines were cut low to match gown necklines; handkerchiefs were used to cover the decolletage if desired.

shirt A man's underwear. Shirt sleeves started out wide and full and gradually narrowed through the century; the same may be true of shirt bodies. Shirt bodies were often left separate a small way up the side and the back panel was frequently somewhat longer; this made it possible to pull the shirt tail through the legs for extra warmth, protection from chafing, or whatever. Shirt cuffs and collars were generally narrow but widened toward the end of the century. Cuffs could fasten with a button and buttonhole, or with two buttonhole fastened with linked buttons. A single button fastened the collar. An upper class boy's shirt often had a falling collar with pronounced ruffle. Examples:

Men sometimes had the neck slit of their shirt edged with a ruffle of fine fabric or lace on one or both sides. Shirts with ruffles along the neck slit:

Sometimes, a brooch was used to fasten the neck slit:

Upper class boys' shirts:

short cloak Short version of a cloak. For common women, typically wrist length although they could be somewhat shorter or longer. Fancy short cloaks, worn by the upper classes and by common women with reason to dress above their station (mantua makers, milliners, procuresses, whores, and perhaps lady's maids) sometimes or always went by other names such as "mantle", "pelerine", "capuchin", and perhaps "riding hood" and "hood".

shortgown Reenactor spelling of short gown (1).

short gown 1) A particular style of woman's garment, cut in a T shape (sometimes with gussets at the lower side seams) and slit down the front, and loosely fitted to the body at the neck by means of a casing and string, or pleats, and at the waist by means of a casing and string or by lapping and pinning the front edges. See Short Gowns by Kidwell. I haven't found any examples of this garment being referred to as a "shortgown" (no space). This garment appears to have first surfaced in the mid-Atlantic region before the Revolution, particularly among Germans and Quakers, and later spread throughout the United States, probably not until after the end of the Revolution. Versions with casings and drawstrings probably date to the Federal/Regency/Empire period. Any drawstrings at necklines provide only slight adjustment to fit. 2) Any gown which is short, meaning not full length. For example, a pet-en-l'air, or a robe à l'anglaise which has simply been made (or cut) to three-quarter length. It is unlikely that short (pause) gowns were referred to as shortgowns (no space). Actually, we're having a little trouble right now finding instances of short gowns (meaning gowns which are short) other than pets-en-l'air. These probably are, though: November 22, 1764, The Pennsylvania Gazette, ITEM #34662, "RUN away from the Subscriber hereof, living in Pilesgrove, Salem County, Providence of West new Jersey, two servants, [...] a Girl, born in Ireland, and came over about two Years ago, [...] about 20 Years of Age, [...] had on a slanting short red and white Calicoe Gown ..."; December 3, 1767, The Pennsylvania Gazette, ITEM #41572, "RUN away from the Subscriber, in Hill Town, Bucks County, an indented Servant Girl [...]; had on, when she went away, a short white Linen Gown".

skeleton suit A post-Revolutionary War upper class boy's article of dress consisting of a ditto suit of trousers and a short coat or jacket with a wide collar, worn open, over a shirt with a wide, ruffled collar.

skirt 1) Often plural. The part of a garment which hangs below the waist. For example, the skirts of a coat, jacket, gown. 2) Non-standard term for a petticoat. Although there are some examples of the word "skirt" being used to mean "petticoat" (see The Pennsylvania Gazette), the normal and usual term was clearly petticoat.

slattern A woman who is careless in her dress; that is, who does not trouble to dress fashionably or neatly (which was a much greater social fault in the 18th century than in modern times). A slattern's clothing is likely to be ill-fitted, mismatched, old, worn, dirty, and/or torn.

sleeveless bodice (modern) A bodice (3) without sleeves. Not an 18th century garment, at least not in Great Britain, France (except possibly as part of some highly specialized regional peasant costume), and the American colonies. See The Mythical Bodice by Ingrid Schaaphok in the Brigade Courier, Nov/Dec 1999. Some sleeveless upper body garments did exist—such as stays, jumps, waistcoats, and elements of masquerade costume—but they are cut differently from what we know as "sleeveless bodices" and are limited in the circumstances in which they can be worn.

sleeve links or sleeve buttons A pair of buttons with linked loops on their backs, passed through buttonholes on each side of a cuff, in order to fasten it. Both men and women could use sleeve links to fasten their shirt or shift cuffs, although it is not clear how frequently they were used. Alternatively, men might use a single button and buttonhole, and women might tie a string through the buttonholes in their shift cuff. Examples:

sleeve ruffle Shaped trim of fine lace and/or sheer white fabric, tacked into the ends of women's gown and jacket sleeves, particularly in the third quarter of the century, generally under flounces. Single ruffles were used first, then double, then triple, before ruffles were abandoned in the shift toward neoclassical dress. Ruffles could be quite large, but when worn with cuffs, they were restrained in size and only a single ruffle was worn. Examples:

slippers Shoes without backs. Sometimes called "mules". Examples:

slops See also petticoat breeches. The term "slops" was used for petticoat breeches and also more generally for a variety of loose outer garments and ready-made clothing supplied to seamen from ship's stores.

smock 1. A man's loose overshirt. While in the 19th and 20th centuries it was common to control the fullness at the top of the body and sleeves by pleating the fabric finely and oversewing the pleats with the stitching called "smocking", this was not done in the 18th century (unless possibly, rarely, very late in the century), and the fullness if any was left loose.

2. (archaic) 17th century term for a woman's shift, still in use in a few outlying areas, and seen more broadly in the term "smock race'" meaning a woman's foot race with a shift as the winner's prize.

socks Pretty much the same in the 18th century as now. Socks were very rarely worn; the standard garment was stockings. Socks and stockings are not the same thing: socks end below the knee and stockings go up over the knee.

spectacles Pretty much the same in the 18th century as now, but limited in forms. Through the end of the Revolutionary War, spectacles were made with round frames; oval lenses came in at some point after this in the 18th century. (There is still some debate over a couple of oval examples that may pre-date the AWI.) "Temple spectacles" had short side bars ending in circles which held on the spectacles by pressing against the temples. Longer, jointed side pieces became available in the 1760s but temple spectacles remained quite popular. Frames were most often steel. Lenses were usually clear, but green, blue-green, and green lenses were also used, and possibly, rarely, other colors.

stay hook Colonial American English: Words and Phrases found in Colonial Writing, now Archaic, Obscure, Obsolete, or Whose Meaning Have Changed by Richard M. Lederer, Jr, published by Verbatim Books, 1985, p. 221: "Stay hook: A hook attached to stays on which a watch or locket might be hung." Handbook of English Costume in the 18th Century by C. Willett Cunnington, 1964 edition: "Stay Hooks of silver set with stones, were hooked to the front of the corset and used for suspending a watch chain." Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies by Julia Spruill, pp. 124–25: "an ornamental hook fastened into the edge of the bodice upon which the lady hung her watch and etui or housewife."

stays A woman's support garment, stiffened with whalebone, cane, wood splints, or similar material. Stays could be be fully or partly boned; compare jumps which are less stiffened. Most stays were back-lacing only, but a few laced front and back. Only one example has been found which laces front only. Stays are standardly laced with a single lace. It was the norm throughout Britain, France, and the American colonies to wear stays (or jumps), with the possible exception of backcountry areas such as the southwestern Colonial frontier (e.g., backwoods Carolina) (but data is lacking). It was the norm to wear stays beneath other clothing (gown, jacket, etc.) except while engaged in heavy labor such as laundry, again with the possible exception of backcountry areas but data is lacking. Examples:

stock A constructed version of a neckcloth made from a length of fabric not quite long enough to go around the neck, stitched to short ends of leather or fabric that buckle or tie at the back of the neck and cinch the stock snugly around the neck. The main section is frequently a finely pleated length of fabric stitched to an unpleated backing. Alternatives to a stock are a handkerchief or neckcloth. A stock is the most formal of these three alternatives.

stockings Stockings, which come up over the knee, were worn by men, women, and children. Stockings were knitted to fit the leg: wider at the calf and thigh and narrower at the knee and ankle. They were knitted in a small, tight gauge, generally 12 stitches per inch or tighter. They were knit of thread (linen), worsted, silk, yarn (woolen) or cotton. Earlier, stockings cut from woven cloth were worn, but by the 18th century—particularly by the second half—these were very rare and only worn by poor, provincial folk. Stockings could be knit by hand or frame knit. If frame knit, they were knitted flat but shaped and were sewn up the back. Hand-knit stockings generally had a line of purl stitches in back to imitate a seam. To shape the ankle, a gusset (wedge-shaped section) was inserted and could be decorated with a design ("clocking"). In older cut hose this had been part of the sole piece and seamed into the leg; knit stockings imitated this styling in knit stitches and for fancy stockings the clock was often decorated with a knit-in pattern or was embroidered over, and/or might be a contrasting color. Examples:

stomacher A piece of fabric, sometimes stiffened, which fills in the blank area between the front sections of a gown bodice which is open at the center front. It is generally decorated with embroidery or metallic lace (especially earlier) or ribbons, ruching, lace, and/or fringe (especially later).

string 1) String. 2) A tie, usually one of a pair, as in "apron strings", "petticoat strings", "cloak strings", "shoe strings". Unclear whether they were always made of fiber (tape, cord, or ribbon) or whether "strings" could also refer to ties of leather or other materials.

stuff (18c) A particular sort of wool fabric.


tartan 1) What is now called a plaid. 2) (modern) A plaid pattern associated with a Scottish clans. Not an 18th century term. The association of specific tartans with clans was invented by 19th century romantics, complete with "history". (See discussions on RevList and 18cWoman, e.g., on in October, 2000.)

thread Usually, linen thread. "... Likewise to be sold by said BROOKS, a good assortment of the very best black, white and mixed colour silk stockings; worsted, cotton and thread ditto..." (The Pennsylvania Gazette, January 17, 1776, item #58785).

thread buttons See buttons, thread.

tippet I think a tippet is a very small thing that just goes around the neck and hangs down a little, frequently made of fur. But it's possible that "tippet" is another word for "short cloak" or "mantle". I'm still investigating this term.

toile 1) A French word meaning "fabric". 2) "Toile de Jouy": fabric printed with patterns in large-scale repeats by means of copper plates. In modern usage, the term refers specifically to prints featuring bucolic or rustic scenes, which are generally used for furnishings. These prints were used for furnishings in the 18th century as well, but the term "toiles de Jouy" covered a wider range: not only the furnishing fabrics with stylized scenes of peasant life, but also patterns such as floral prints.

trousers A man's garment resembling breeches but longer and without cuffs, from mid-calf length to ankle length, with or without a strap going under the foot. Trousers were a lower class garment, and were sometimes worn by sailors. The use of trousers began spread to other groups toward the end of the century. Examples:

tucker A strip of fabric, possibly edged with lace, or a strip of lace across the top of the stomacher to help hide that unsightly cleavage line, or a strip that goes all the way around the gown neckline. The strip across the stomacher was sometimes called a "modesty piece" alternatively or perhaps instead. "Modesty piece" and "tucker" were also used in the 19th century for a triangular piece to fill in a V neckline, and a chemisette.


umbrella See parasol.


waistcoat 1) A man's waistcoat. 2) A woman's waistcoat, either a) styled after a man's waistcoat and worn with a riding habit, or b) cut very simply and typically quilted or otherwise padded, and worn as an undergarment for warmth or possibly light support. See An Analysis of A Eighteenth Century Woman's Quilted Waistcoat by Sharon Ann Burnston at Historic Fashions by, 2001; also at Sharon Ann Burnston: "At Home" in the Eighteenth Century.

wallet Also sometimes seen as "market wallet". A bag made with a center slit and closed ends so that the center section can be twisted to "close" the opening and the wallet can be thrown over a shoulder and carried. This is the nearest 18th c. equivalent to a modern pocketbook (see also pocketbook) but was not a close equivalent; for one thing, wallets were generally carried by men and not by women (with the exception of a thief, documentation for women carrying wallets is rare and of questionable provenance or accuracy). For additional information, see under Accoutrements at

woolen Wool spun so that the fibers curl, or spiral, in the yarn. Woolen yarn is softer, fluffier, warmer, and weaker than worsted. Woolen fabric fulls well, which gives the fabric weatherproof qualities.

worsted Wool spun so that the fibers lie straight in the yarn. Worsted yarn is harder, smoother, cooler, and stronger than woolen. Worsted fabric does not tend to fuzz or pill.


yarn Usually, woolen thread. "To be SOLD, by THOMAS BOND, JUNIOR, In his STORE, at the corner of Norris' Alley, in Second street, A large an excellent assortment of HOSIERY, consisting of MILLED worsted and milled yarn Germantown stockings... " (The Pennsylvania Gazette, September 30, 1772, item #51837).


zone A false waistcoat front which appears under a cutaway gown or jacket front. The cutaway style became fashionable in the 1770s. A zone can be considered a sort of "upside-down stomacher". Regarding whether the term was used in the 18th century in this sense:

Examples of zones:

Last updated 3 Sept 2014.

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