18th Century Short Gown

18th Century Short Gown

My 18th century jacket is finally finished! Yay! I sewed the last two seams just some minutes before we took the photos! 😉 This type of 18th century jacket is called a bedgown, short gown, unlined caraco or manteau de lit. Short gowns were considered undress in the 18th century. Undress or informal wear – the everyday clothes of the 18th century – was worn around the house while doing the work.

18th Century Short Gown

I used an old bedsheet which I were gifted because I liked the washed-out color and the linen-like texture of the old, torn sheet. The bedsheet was a lovely pale shade of apricot. But, unfortunately, the middle part was very thin and badly torn. So I had to cut it away. There wasn’t much good fabric left, so I thought I’d use it as pattern-making fabric. But while making a pattern for medieval or renaissance bias-cut fabric stockings, I thought the fabric was too lovely to waste it like that.

Related: 18th Century Chintz Stays With Stomacher

18th Century Working Woman Outfit

So inspired by this 1740s painting by Chardin, this 1720s painting by Ceruti, this pretty apricot-colored, unlined, 18th c reproduction jacket, this peach striped linen reproduction round gown and this antique, late 18th century, plain, pieced shortgown, I thought I’d try if there’s still enough fabric for an 18th c caraco. Pink and flesh color was worn in the 18th century (source). Madder was used to dye fabric red or pink in the 18th century and pink fabric would’ve been cheaper than red fabric.

18th Century Bedgown Closed With Pins
18th century shortgown closed with pins at the front

Here are 1760s instructions by Garsault how to make an 18th century bedgown or shortgown: The shortgown has inverted pleats at the sides and pleats at the front like mine. This 18th century cotton caraco at the Met museum also has similar pleats at the front and sides. An 18th century shortgown can be lined or unlined (source): mine is unlined.

Related: 18th Century Hand-Plaited Straw Bergère Hat

En Fourreau Pleats
En fourreau pleats

The pleats at the back are called en fourreau pleats. I’ve never before sewn 18th century en fourreau pleats. But they were easier to make than I thought. And they are such a pretty detail! They also stiffen the back of the 18th century jacket which helps to keep the back flat. Here at the MET museum are two 1770s silk Robe à l’anglaises with en fourreau pleats: beige 1770s Robe à l’anglaise and blue 1770s Robe à l’anglaise.

18th Century Shortgown/ Bedgown In Progress
Wrong side of en fourreau pleats

I used 18th century period sewing techniques: mostly running and overcast stitches. I used butted seams where two selvedges met. And for the side seams I used flat-felled seams which were also called plain fell, felled seam, hemmed fell, run and fell seam or overhand fell – a seam which was used in the 18th century when two raw edges met.

Related: 34 Types of Seams – Historical Sewing

En fourreau back pleats close up
Close-up of en fourreau back pleats

In the 18th century, linen thread was used to sew linen or cotton clothes (source): I used half-bleached linen thread.

18th century caraco fell seam run and fell side seam
Hemmed fell

I had to piece the fabric because there wasn’t much left, and the leftover fabric wasn’t very wide – but that’s period accurate (source). But most of the piecing is hidden: The back piece is joined by a middle seam, and I had to add extra fabric for the side pleats.

Setting 18th century sleeves
Setting the sleeves

I’ve never before set sleeves the 18th century way, but here’s a great tutorial how to set in 18th century sleeves.

The bedgown fastens down the front with pins. 18th century gowns were usually closed with pins, hooks and eyes or spiral lacing.

18th Century Dress, Fichu And Cap

By the way, I forgot to pack my fichu for the photoshoot and had to use a bed sheet instead! 😀 Shhh, don’t tell anyone, lol! 😉

I wear the short gown with my 18th century linen skirt and my handsewn 18th century lappet cap.

Related: Handwoven 18th Century Stays

I like how my 18th century bedgown turned out and it’s really comfortable to wear.

16 thoughts on “18th Century Short Gown

  1. I love the tucks down the back! Do you make your own patterns, or buy vintage ones? You look so darling in this outfit! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

      1. Hello Linda,

        I want to get into historical sewing, and I have one pattern for a Short Gown. The instructions do not mention if the Short Gown is to be lined or not, and if they are lined, would it be flat or bag lined?

        Thank you,

        1. Both lined and unlined short gowns existed in the 18th century. My short gown is unlined. If you want to line it, in the 18th century the lining and outer fabric were usually treated as if it was just one fabric (flatlined). Instead of flatlining, the English stitch seam was also often used. Hope this helps! 🙂

  2. I am in awe of your sewing skills and love your explanation. I was mesmerised by the old world look and how well it suits you. The jacket is very interesting with the way it joins at the front and the please at the back. I really enjoyed this and thanks for sharing with us at The Blogger’s Pit Stop – Debbie from Deb’s World

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