I think we can all agree that 18th-Century clothing is probably one of the most recognizable. The voluminous skirts, the large square necklines, the long trains, and the thin waists are just some of the characteristics of the feminine wardrobe of the time – that are still loved today.
In addition to being beautiful and extravagant, the dresses of the time also had a hidden structure that made them look like meticulously shaped sculptures. These did everything to direct the focus to specific aspects of the female body, namely the bust, waist, and hips. In addition to the tight corsets, there was often also a kind of “cushion” on each side of the hip, called bum roll, and a frame under the skirt that kept it always in that large and majestic shape. Also, many women wore bows, ruffles on the sleeves, and embroidery to perfect the look.
In addition to that, it’s interesting to point out that the makeup was very light and the hair was almost always tied up and, again, the bigger, the better. High-class women (such as queens, duchesses, etc.) used to complete their look with large jewels (necklaces, earrings and even crowns). It is undeniable that 18th-Century royalty exuded extravagance, beauty and elegance.
Talking about the luxury of that era is always fun, but why are so many people talking about it now? Well, first, I believe that the more we talk about fashion and the more we put things in current fashion in context, the more we need to look at and understand the past. Obviously, this is the most opinionated and complex explanation for the question, the simple and unquestionable answer is: TV series.
If you’re into TV series, or even if you’ve been on social media lately, you know that period stories, especially from the 18th century, are all the rage. The more these series are successful (because of the incredible content and the great actors), the more people talk about the clothes and styles used by the protagonists.
The first one I’d like to use as an example is Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. The spin-off was released in May 2023 and tells about the love story between Queen Charlotte and King George that we already know from the Bridgerton series.
The plot itself was highly praised for the choice of actors, for the romantic scenes between the protagonists, and even for the story itself. Besides that, it’s obvious that the costumes were also highly commented on. A fashion from the end of the 18th century that has a lot of glitz, glamor, and elegance was the choice of the director and costume designer. Although the looks are full of details and luxuries, they all follow the pattern of the time well and, even cooler, are used by a black woman (usually, films and period series are starred by white actors).
In addition to Queen Charlotte, on June 18th we received a new season of one of the most beloved period series: Outlander. The series was launched in 2014 and will end with season 8, in 2024. This story, which mixes time travel with romance and history (yes, there’s something for everyone!), has been acclaimed for nine years now and has only been praised and adored more by fans now that it has come to an end.
Since the first season, we can observe various period clothes used by the elite, but also in the simplest part of 18th century Scotland. Claire Fraser, the main character, exalts her beauty in several costumes that portray well the small changes of each year, but still retain the essence of the fashion of the time. The interesting thing about this series is that it shows us the clothes worn by different social classes in the same period of time.
Both series are well worth it, not only for the story, but also for drooling over the beautiful dresses and elegant suits used. I just warn you that after watching it, you will want to go out in the streets wearing 18th-Century clothes!
The article above was edited by Júlia Pupo Mucha Fagá.
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