Fashion in Nottingham in 1776

As well as the material I discussed in one of my previous articles, there is plenty of interesting fashion news tucked away in “The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood” by John Frost Sutton. This time, it is for 1776, and it concerns, if I interpret it correctly, informal wear for ladies.

“The Nottingham Journal of this date gives the description of ladies’ undress for August:

“The ladies’ fashionable undress, commonly called a dishabille (sic)”.

Here is a satirical portrait of dishabille entitled “The Three Graces in a High Wind”:

dishabuill marie antoin satire

Some young gentlemen also clearly appreciated that there were varying degrees of dishabille:

dishabille late 18

Back to the story:

“(Ladies’ fashionable undress is…) to pay visits in the morning, also for walking in the country, on account of its being  neat, light and short, consists of a jacket, the front part of which is made like a sultana; the back part is cut out in four pieces; the middle part is not wider at the bottom than about half an inch; the sides in proportion very narrow”:

muslin 1810

“The materials most in vogue, are white muslins with a coloured printed border chintz pattern, printed on purpose in borders about an inch deep. The silks, which are chiefly lute strings, are mostly trimmed with gauze, The gauze is tucked upon the bottom of the jacket, and edged with different coloured fringes. The petticoat is drawn up in a festoon, and tied with a true lover’s knot, two tassels hanging down from each festoon. A short gauze apron, striped or figured, cut in three scollops (sic) at the bottom, and trimmed round with a broad trimming closely plaited; the middle of the apron has three scollops reversed. The cuffs are puckered in the shape of a double pine, one in front of the arm, the other behind, but the front rather lower.”

02 1812 walking dress

“To complete this dress for summer walking, the most elegant and delicate ladies carry a long japanned walking-cane with an ivory hook head, and on the middle of the cane is fastened a silk umbrella, or what the French call a parasol, which defends them from the sun and slight showers of rain. It opens by a spring, and it is pushed up towards the head of the cane when expanded for use”:


“Hats, with the feathers spread, chiefly made of chip, covered with fancy gauze puckered, variegated artificial flowers, bell tassels, and other decorations are worn large. No alteration worth notice has taken place in gentlemen’s dress except that they increase the size of their hats, and cock it in the German military style.”

I’m afraid that there is quite a lot here that I do not understand. I suspect that many of the technical terms have been lost in the intervening 240 years. To me, for example, “sultana” is either a brown fruit or a large woman who is the wife of the sultan. Neither of them are much of a match for the front of a jacket. Anyway, I have not been able to put too many pictures in, because much of the text remains unintelligible to me. On the other hand, this is what the world of the cinema offered as their version of the informal dresses of the late eighteenth century and the Regency periods:

pridse ands prejudice film

It’s so sad, though, that they couldn’t find the eighteenth century countryside to go with it. And couldn’t they have avoided including a group of caravans when they did the filming?










Filed under History, Nottingham

19 responses to “Fashion in Nottingham in 1776

  1. This great post brings something to mind, John. I’m always spouting, All history needs to be preserved and remembered, yet I have never done a fashion post for the home front of the 1940’s. Thanks, I’m going to have make a note on that for the future.

    • In actual fact, what people looked like and what they used to wear are seldom mentioned in ordinary history books. I look forward to reading what ordinary Americans were wearing in the Second World War era!

    • Yes, it’s a great pity that that old book didn’t contain anything about men’s costumes. We’re a few years off Mr Darcy at this point, but I suspect that they may have been very similar.

    • Absolutely. Supposedly there is a van visible going down a hill in the background of the seventies film “The Go-Between” but this picture runs it close!

      • There is a web site which shows all these mistakes. Some people must have a lot of time to spare to go through a movie frame by frame. My favourite was a Roman soldier in Gladiator who had a watch on. So fleeting only a hawk could have spotted it!

  2. Dresses from this era were stunning, if not perhaps painful to wear. But ladies in ‘dishabillle’ I had to shield my eyes!

  3. Love your sense of humor, John. I couldn’t bear to wear that many clothes and I honestly don’t know how women did in those days. I find them beautiful yes, but to wear? No way! I laughed out loud at the underdress in high wind picture. Too funny!!! ❤

    • I think that the palaces and stately homes were just a lot colder then, with no central heating and only relatively small coal fires. You can add to this the colder winters than we have nowadays. In summer though, it is, I admit, rather difficult to see how they could wear so much!

      • I know what it is like to be bundled up in winter, John, but in summer (horror face) no way! The less I have on the better. And I’m not changing that philosophy just because I have a little age on me. LOL 😉

  4. This was a fun post, John! I really enjoyed it.

  5. This is such a great post! From you described it to how you bring me to the old days. I like all the fashion style in the past compare now.

  6. They all seem to have such tiny waists :)) I remember the stories by Barbara Cartland 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.