18th Century Shortgown
By Thimbles and Acorns
The elaborate fashions that define 18th century style are certainly a sight to behold, but far from practical for daily life. Fabric was expensive and the complicated styles of fashionable gowns had to be made by trained seamstresses, making them far too expensive for the average woman to own. That was just as well, since the average woman would have found it rather difficult to raise her large family, tend her small farm, and help her husband with his trade while wearing a fancy gown.
The mid-18th century saw the emergence of what we now refer to as the shortgown, a casual jacket-like garment that seems to have developed from the longer bedgown worn earlier in the century. It was generally cut out of one piece of fabric and then fitted to the body with pleats, drawstrings, or a combination of the two. They required minimal sewing skills, for contrary to popular thought, not every woman from this time period was an adept seamstress. Shortgowns were usually fastened in the front with pins or drawstrings, not buttons, and an apron tied on over it helped to keep it shut. Designed for comfort and economy, shortgowns were usually made from fabrics such as wool, linen, or linsey woolsy, which was a combination of the two fibers. More well-to-do women used hand printed cotton, an expensive luxury fabric at the time, and dressed up their shortgowns with extra pleats, cuffs, and trims to make them more elegant. Loose, comfortable, and economical, shortgowns were the denim shirts of the day – workhorses with a touch of class.
This pattern is perfect for beginning seamstresses as it requires only very basic sewing experience.
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