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Closet and Upstairs Hall

STORAGE and WORKSPACE . . . . . . .In an 18th century household, closet space, for storage of clothing, did not exist. Clothing was kept in chests of drawers, or large 'blanket chests'. Before use, it would be taken out and aired, or have the wrinkles hung out, as on the closet pegs. This sort of space would have been a true luxury- somewhere garments could be stored, readied, and repaired by household servants, without disturbing the rest of the family, or cluttering the rooms.

UPSTAIRS HALL . . . . . . . With the ladies of his household paying their respects to their friend and the new arrival, a gentleman withdraws to the hallway for the duration of their visit, amusing himself as best he can with a game of cards and some refreshment.



This dress exhibits the most formal incarnation of the sack back. The long train, large panniers (hip extenders), matching petticoat and expensive brocaded fabric relegate this dress for wear at only the most formal of occasions.

The decoration consists of rouched and puffed ribbon, metallic braid, cord trim and silk floss flowers. All the colors blend with the multicolor brocade making texture just as important as color. Elbow length leather gloves were a must for any formal occasion.

These reproductions were created from a pattern taken from an original garment and appeared in The Cut of Women's Clothes 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh. (diagram XIX). ST


This simple rust linen gown is made in the style known as an English gown or "robe a l'anglaise", which closely fits the torso. The petticoat is a copperplate print on cotton, cotton being an expensive commodity. A trusted house servant's clothing was often a hand-me-down from the mistress and master, and occasionally the working class could be mistaken for their "betters". The linen apron with protective bib was termed a "pinner" apron. Fingerless mitts were used to keep the arms warm or protected from the sun while allowing the fingers to move freely. The cap is not of the general fashionable style, but was traditional in one of the French provinces and would be appropriate for a French ladies maid. The dress is from a pattern taken from an original garment and is in The Cut of Women's Clothes 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh (diagram XXII), the mitts were constructed from a pattern in Diderot's Encyclopedie, 1751-1772, and the French cap was copied from an original in the collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute. ST


Accessories were an easy way to give variety to the formality or informality of a day or evening ensemble. Items could be expensive and imported, bought from a shop such as a milliner, who would deal with clothing accessories and trims, or even home-made by a family member as a special gift.

Left : Box & Tricorn Hat; 2 linen corsets; a variety of linen caps; linen neckerchief; leather portmanteau; buckles for knee breeches. Pottsgrove collection

Right : lady's wig and lace cap with lappets, men's shoes and stockings, Pottsgrove collection; on chair: lady's straw flat hat; silk mitts. On chest: blue Calash; black silk and lace butterfly cap; floral scarf; two styles of lace 'pinners' with lappets; gentleman's woolworked wallet; black lace fichu; lady's formal stomacher (for gown #6), embroidered with a variety of gold bullion, metal threads, and gold-washed leather, styled after an existing piece in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. LS

#20 DAYTIME SUIT c. 1760-70

Although the overall appearance of clothing, both for men and women, was often elegant and sumptuous to our eyes, the actual tailoring of many of the garments was surprisingly basic. By the middle of the 18th century, a gentleman's coat was cut with curving seams, to fit the body more closely, and by the 1770's, the lines had slimmed so much that it took about half the amount of fabric to make a coat, as it had in the 1720's.

Typical day clothing, or 'undress' wear, like this olive green silk suit, consisted of matching frock coat and knee breeches - an early version of the 3-piece suit. The coat is slim, following the contours of the body, and has sloped-back front section - the origin of the formal 'cutaway' coat of today. The cut and style are of the latter half of the century, with the turned-back cuffs, and plain buttons and buttonholes.

Adapted from a pattern in the Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900 N.Waugh. LS

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