Costumes for the 250th Celebration in 2009

Useful Information, Examples, Websites, Notes from workshop


Useful information supplied by Kelly Grant


Local Fabric stores carry a small, but good selection of historically inspired clothing patterns. The thing to look for when shopping is the cut of the garment, not the fabrics shown in the made up version on the envelope cover. These will often be polyester, and trimmed to within an inch of their historical lives. Think simplicity in style and fabrics when constructing your own clothes. Plain linens and wools will not onlybe easier to sew, but also more authentic to historical garments.


Remember that the zipper was not invented until WWII, and would not be appropriate for your is" Century clothes. This can easily be changed by sewing up the back seam where commercial patterns usually place a zip. Either hide your modern zip in a side seam, or sew the garment in a period fashion, leaving the center front open and closing it up with straight pins.


Floral fabrics should be avoided, because they are so difficult to match to historical prints. You may end up looking like your mother's sofa instead, which would not be fun after all that work! Stripes are very period to the 18th Century, as well as good plain fabrics. Don't think that you have to dress in all greys and browns. Pastel fabrics are wonderfully feminine and totally acceptable. But please, stay away from obviously modern colours such as lime green, neon orange and hot pink! ;


Suitable fabrics can often be found inexpensively at local fabric stores. Wools, wool blends, cottons and cotton-linen blends are perfect choices. It is better to avoid polyesters as you will roast in the heat ... even more than if you are dressed head to toe in wool! Natural fibers are the most comfortable to wear and are most historically appropriate.

Make do solutions: Hit second hand stores for old dresses to take apart for the fabric, buttons and such. Old trousers can be cut off at the knee and a band attached to make a quick and easy set of breeches. A plain white dress shirt can stand in for a men's shirt, as it won't be seen very much, the same goes for a cotton nightgown for an under shift.


It should be stressed that while the people you are portraying are middle to lower classes, the 18thCentury is still a very formal period in history. Shirts should be tucked in, shoes worn, underwear covered, that includes shirt and shift sleeves. Heads should be dressed, modern hairstyles can be adapted to historical fashions quite simply and covered with caps and hats, inexpensive wigs can be purchased as well. Wristwatches can be disguised with ribbon for the ladies, and tucked up under shirt cuffs on the men. Simple jewelry can also be worn, this would have been a special occasion, have the same attitude as getting dressed for church, or going out to dinner at a nice restaurant.


Most importantly, have fun!  If you aren't having fun, you're doing it wrong




The following websites may prove useful in reconstructing your impression of the 18 Century.

Koshka has many time periods that she studies, have a look through her 18th Century pages. She sometimes even has how-tos on building your own clothing.

Fabrics, patterns, notions and accessories, for those who want an authentic look and feel, or are looking for that special something to add to your impression.

High end historical patterns, complete with period construction techniques, high end accessories, books and reproductions.

TheWalmartforRe-enactors.This is your one stop place for everything you would need to step into the 18thC. The clothing is basic and machine sewn, but good quality for the money. A great place to pick up shoes, stockings and underclothes at a really good price.

The Web Gallery of Art. An online art gallery where you can find most of the images used today, as well as many more. A shopping mall sort of website, where you pick a category and browse through many websites. Run by Tara Maginnis PhD. An online fabric store where you can get linens and silks at a great price any time of year.  Everything you need to know about the footwear to match you fashion period. 



Many of Hogarth's paintings show ordinary life of this period you can see samples here.


Notes Taken at Costume Workshop November 15, 2008


Ladies wore lappets  on their head which look like a doily with two ribbon tails falling down the back of the head.


Chocolate was the drink of the 18th century much like coffee is today.


The pinafore front on an apron would be straight-pinned to the bodice of the gown.


Hair styles had no bangs and would have been tucked up under their cap.


Women wore skirts, called petticoats and the more of them the better.


Jewelry was not often worn but when it was it was of good quality.  Rings and bracelets were seldom worn and if worn were very simple.


Menís coats had self-covered buttons.


Avoid printed fabric.


Material made from natural fibre was used such as wool, linen, cotton and hemp.


From 1760 on menís hats had round crowns.


Children, both boys and girls wore dresses until they were toilet trained.


Elbows were always covered.


Black velvet ribbon around the neck was often used.


Outer garments donít get washed they were usually hung to air and then put away.


White clothes , worn next to the skin, would get washed and bleached.  Urine was often used to bleach whites and to help break down fibre such as flax in the making of linen.


In the winter mittens, wool socks, a toque and a short cape were added for warmth.


Red was a very common colour during this time period.


Bright colored wool garments were often seen as wool dyes easily and holds its color.


Menís coat hems at the bottom were called skirts and referred only to men, women wore petticoats.


Looms were always kept in the loft.


Shoes were straight lasted, meaning they had no left or right.  Both men and women would wear high heels.


Stays for hoop skirts may be made from steel packing strapping which you can find at a hardware store.


Lee Valley cable ties, the long ones are excellent for making corsets.


Dresses were always open in the front and closed with hooks and eyes or straight pins.    If your pattern has a zipper in the back, sew up the seam and open it in the front.


Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity all have patterns,  many of them in the costume section of their books.  Some of the ones recommended were:


McCalls womans pattern #5414 .  This can also be used to fashion a jacket.  Clothes were plain so most of the decoration would be omitted. 


Simplicity #4092 is also a good pattern for a womanís dress.


Simplicity #3635 has corset and hoop patterns for undergarments.


Simplicity #3637 is  very elaborate and would not be worn by the ordinary people.  More likely royalty or upper class ladies.


Butterick #3072 has good patterns for jackets, vests and coats for gentlemen.


ďLinens for LifeĒ,  carries linen material which is available for purchase.