We’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you make a historically accurate late-eighteenth century look for your 18-inch doll, focusing specifically on the period between 1770-1790s! Whether you’re creating a formal look (which in colonial times was referred to as “dress”) or a more working-class look (referred to as “undress”), you’ll be sure to find something to make for your doll from our pattern selection. Colonial womenswear had several key components: the undergarments, the gown, the shoes, the cloak, and the accessories. In the 1770s, girls started dressing like women as early as age five, so these components will add up to a great look for any age of colonial-clad doll.
Bonus Giveaway: After reading this post, scroll down to the bottom to leave a comment telling us which colonial outfit element is your favorite! Enter to win a $50 aleksandrajones Gift Card too, details below!
Colonial undergarments consisted of several different elements. The shift was the first layer worn and was a long shirt made from white linen that was worn down to the knees. The second layer after the shift were called stays. Stays were basically a type of corset that were filled with a stiff material (most often wood or sometimes even bone) which would help the colonial ladies maintain perfect posture. The petticoats were worn over the stays. These were large underskirts that would often be visible through the center of the gown. During the winter, extra petticoats (made from wool) would have been added to help the colonial lady stay warm. Occasionally, in the aristocracy, hoopskirts were worn to give the outfit more volume as well. A final undergarment worn by colonial women would have been a pair of woolen stockings that were worn up to over the knee.
(*Pictured above is the Thimbles & Acorns 18th Century Underpinnings.)
A colonial-style gown was the primary focus of the outfit. Because of the lack of ability to mass produce clothing, each gown was fairly unique and fitted perfectly to the wearer. In the lower classes, gowns (and other types of clothing) would have most likely been made either by the wearer or a close member of the wearer’s family (i.e., a mother or a sister). In the upper classes garments may have been outsourced to a tailor. Gowns were most commonly made of natural materials like wool, cotton, or silk (for those who could afford it). Most gowns were fairly plain with minimal decorations, but upper-class ladies would often embellish their clothing more. Gowns would be fastened by laces in the front and feature a slit that would expose the petticoats. The sleeves of the gown would usually extend down towards the elbows and sometimes featured ruffles to dress it up.
(* Pictured above is the Thimbles & Acorns Enfourreau Gown)
No outfit would be complete without the perfect pair of shoes, and a colonial outfit was no exception! Shoes during the colonial period tended to be very basic and made of woven materials or leather. Fancier shoes were made with silk and featured embellishments but were only available to the upper classes.
Cloaks were the outerwear of choice for colonial women. They were made of heavy wool and worn during the winter months. Cloaks went over the shoulders and would extend down to the waist, or more likely, down to the ground. They would clasp at the neck and sometimes feature a hood as well.
The final component to the colonial outfit would have been accessories. These accessories might have included an apron, a cap (or a mob cap), a hat, a fan, gloves, and/or jewelry. Aprons were usually made of linen and were worn by the working class as a protective layer over their gowns. A cap was made of linen or cotton and was used to manage a lady’s hair and to keep it clean. A mob cap was a type of bonnet that had a more decorative flair than the basic cap. Hats were worn with wide brims to protect colonial ladies from the sun. They were made of straw, silk, or felt and were often decorated with things such as flowers, ribbons, and feathers. A fan was typically carried by upper class ladies. Gloves were worn in all types of weather and spanned from the elbows down but exposed the fingers. Jewelry could have been as simple as a ribbon tied around a lady’s neck but as decadent as a string of pearls or a silver hair pin.
Colonial Colors and Prints
Common colors for the late 1700s included ones of the raw materials or ones that were produced easily from natural dies (for more information about natural dyes you can take our Natural Fabric Dyes Master Class Video Course here). The color black was symbolic for humility and was easy to produce naturally in wool from black sheep. Blue and grey were often worn by servants because they were sourced from cheaper dyes. The colors orange, red, and brown were all produced from madder root. Orange and red were symbolic for courage, whereas brown was symbolic for humility. Green was easily sourced from lichen and vegetables. Yellow was made from weld and symbolized hope. Common prints used for colonial clothing would have been very organic like flowers or vines and occasionally more geometric prints like plaids or stripes. You can take a look at the links below for our suggested fabric choices!
The Colonial Time Period Pattern Collection for 18-inch Dolls
aleksandrajones offers a wide variety of eighteenth century-inspired patterns but to start check out these patterns below! You can also learn more at our past blog post on Betsy Ross here for information on this amazing colonial hero.
We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment and tell us which colonial element is your favorite!
Katie & The aleksandrajones Team
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We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and tell us, Which colonial element is your favorite?
--The aleksandrajones Team