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1730s Fashion – An Introduction

1730s Fashion – An Intro

Let’s talk about 1730s fashion trends

The early part of the 18th century is one of those eras that appears to have gotten lost in time – especially fashion wise. It seems to have simply faded into being and become the years that fill the gap between the return of the King – Charles II –  in 1660 and the more busy reign of the Georgian King, George III. This is represented in our love of the fashions too, for these eras. The classic doublet and hose that were still being worn as Charles took his throne – and the for more loved and favoured furbelow sacks that pretty up our reenactment balls and Georgian events.

But there are  indeed 5 reigning monarchs ( or rather 4 monacrhs and one Oligarch (William & Mary)) between these two kings and much of the 18th century fashion appears to very much stem from garments that were introducted and that became popular in Charles’ reign. And this is no more visible and important for the 1730s.

The ‘Persian coat’ that Charles II introduced became the forerunner of the classic 18th century mens coat – and indeed the 3 piece suit that we have today!. And during this same period (the c 1660s) the evolution of the nightgown and the mantua and the sack began too.

Interesting times, hey!


For this post we’re just going to be looking at the 1730s – and the fashions that those early 17th century gowns evolved into.

With the round hoop, the mantua and night-gown really come into a style of their own – bell shaped and elegant, the cuffs were fashionably short (for atleast half of the 1730s), the skirts lovely and round and the torso, encased in stays created that slightly elongated torso.

This fashion can be perfectly glimpsed in the 1737 publication ‘The Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour’ booklet that taught the readers how to walk, bow, curtsy and all keeping the genteel movement expected by those fair, genteel folk.

If you look at this image here – you can see those high pinched sleeve cuffs, the very domed skirts (especially at the top! We’re not quite sure yet how they achieved that!), the elongated and smooth torso and the neat way the front train of the mantua sweeps round to the back.

It’s interesting too, the way the shift sleeves hang straight and long beneath the shortened sleeve.


The ‘Les Manteaux’ image is from 1729 – and goes to show the development of fashion over the next decade or so. The mantua itself hasn’t overly changed – but  the hoop appears to be more domed and less full at the top. It also seems to prefer longer more relaxed looking sleeves and cuffs.

To bring some colour into these decade, let’s bring in another image – and this one also is from the late 1720s.

Studying and understanding court fashions, is, like most fashion, not as simple to understand as we’d like. The Royal Courts could host a whole range of ‘Undress’ to extreme Ceremonial dress functions and there are underlying fashion codes that are maybe not so obvious to us nowadays as they were back then. This means understanding the whys and whens of the costume that we see in court images is a little more complex. This image here, entitled ‘Tea at Lord Harringtons’ can be found in the royal collection and features an afternoon tea at the rooms of Lord Harringon within St James. This may suggest an ‘undress’ court appearance and may explain why the ladies are entrenched in hoops – but who knows – there may have been a fashion for no hoops – or a court function where hoops were discouraged.

The hint that the majority of these ladies are wearing mantuas is two-fold. The neat little buckle at the lower
ed waist is a fashion linked to mantuas. The ruffled up trains behind them also signifiies a nod towards this part of the gown on behalf of the painter. On the blue and pinky lady in the front left, you can also see the front train being pulled round. The Cunningtons mention that some trains could be detachable and images like this you begin to get a sense of how that could have been possible. The lady in light pink on the right is in possibly a night-gown or Robe a l’Anglaise – the back of her skirt has been painted differently.

The details of the stomachers in this painting is also really telling. The lady in a lovely heavily patterned brown silk looks to have thin lines drawn across her stomacher. This may be a nod towards those silk cord decorated stays.

Keeping on the stomacher decorations theme – there are tabs (fabric straps across the stays or stomacher) as in the yellow lady in the middle or the blue and yellow gown at the back.
The Theft of a Watch by Hogarth, estimated to have been painted around 1731, shows the fashionable increase of the night-gown or Robe a l’Anglaise. Around this time it becomes a real struggle to find mantuas in portrait and night-gowns begin to dominate.
This next portrait continues the same vibe and theme that we see in the Hogarth

painting. Again she has an interesting stomacher – whether it is the string decoration from the stays or some kind of decorative stomacher we will never know – unless Hogarth kindly lest us some notes, as this family portrait is also painted by William Hogarth, and in the same year.

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