18th Century Living History

The Dress of the People – Female Civilians

As well as our military members we also have several female civilian members, these represent the various women an army would come into contact with. These range from soldiers wives; although only 6 were allowed per 100 men on active services.  When representing campfollowers of a military unit these women would share the same hardships as their men and should be attired and equiped in an appropriate way to represent this.

Mid 18th Century Female Attire for the lower classes:

Shift – Linen or cotton in white or natural colours with elbow- and usually calf-length.

Stays – Any historical pattern is acceptable based, as they will be covered by either a jacket or gown.

Petticoats – Simple skirts pleated made from linen/wool etc. Linen/wool preferable.

Jackets – There are a variety of jacket styles. The most common for the lower sorts were the bedgown and the short gown both loose t-shaped coats that pinned or tied in front. The saccque back was fitted in the front & had loose pleats hanging from the shoulders. There are also a variety of fitted jackets with and without stomachers like the caraco. Production material to be linen or wool.

Gown – There are several forms of gowns. There is the single piece gown with several styles called open robe, round gown, robe anglais or francais, and the wrap gown among others.

If you are making your own gown or jacket, we suggest the JP Ryan Pattern.


 NB: Stays are underwear. One can strip down to one’s underwear when engaged in heavy labour, or in the privacy of one’s boudoir. During event hours you should always wear either a jacket or gown; this also means you won’t have to make 18th century pattern stays.

Caps – Nearly every woman wore some sort of cap on the hair at all times. Most caps were white and made of linen.

Hats – Hats were worn over caps when outdoors. Popular styles were straw or felt hats with shallow crowns. Brims were either small or large and floppy tied with ribbons.

Shoes – Period-style leather shoes with buckles or 2 whole lace up, black or brown.

Other Accessories –

Most women wore a large, square neck handkerchief folded into a triangle over the décolletage.

Campaign Gear – When representing camp followers of the army you will need to carry all of your equipment with you. As such you should have the following.

Blanket – You will be camping in the same conditions as our military members, as such you will need at least one blanket. This should be wool in a period correct colour.

Canteen – Something for carrying water in, this should be a water bottle of a none military pattern. Anything from bottles on rope, wooden casks through to leather water bottles are acceptable.

Food – On campaign you will carry any food you wish to eat. You should avoid haversacks, these are military issue. You might carry this in a basket roll, or wrapped in your blanket or a market wallet.

Carrying other items – There are various ways to carry other items. You should avoid military issue knapsacks. Possible solutions include blanket rolls, wicker hand and back-pack baskets.


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: