Thursday, October 20, 2016

18TH CENTURY: Prints & Color Combinations

I've been binging Outlander whilst making 18th Century stays and talking to several long-standing costumers on the 18th Century Sewing page on Facebook (who are knowledgeable in this period). Most of my acumen has been the 16th Century and Victorian, so dipping my creative brush into the 18th Century has been an exciting endeavor, as it is actually my favorite era, aside from bustle dresses! *swoon*

One of the things I recently learned, as I am planning my OWN 18th Century ensemble - A caraco a la Pierrot and petticoat styled like the picture to the left - is that prints were pricey and more than likely not available to the poorer or working classes. But unlike the 16th Century where the most expensive fabrics were often reserved for sleeves and foreparts and worn under the over skirt, for the 18th Century these pricey chintz prints were worn predominantly as outer garments rather than petticoats and such.  Good thing I learned that, because I was mulling over making a print petticoat to go with a solid bodice/jacket!  

Since the the first season of Outlander, the working class worn by Clair when she first arrived in 1743 Scotland, have become popular. Of course, wool - especially authentic Scottish tartan - is very expensive and can run upwards to $70 or $90 a yard/meter!  Crikey! I did find a nice Donegal tweed for $35 a yard, and I am using it for a client's "Lady Broch Turach" ensemble in the coming weeks. 
If you're concerned with historical accuracy, and your character is part of the working class, you can never go wrong with Linen! 

But if you're wanting something for the upper middling/merchant or upper class, a polished cotton chintz is a more affordable option as silk brocades will be much more expensive. 


The following examples of print motifs will assist those who wish their fabric to be as Historically Accurate as possible in 21st Century fabrics. Examine the type of prints for each decade and you can find something similar. 

1790s Caraco a la Pierrot

A nice quality polished cotton chintz can run about $20 + a yard, so those who might not be able to afford 10 to 12 yards, can pair a print Caraco or a Pierrot jacket with a linen or lightweight wool in a solid color.


Quilted petticoats were also in vogue.  This is a bustled 18th Century Polanaise gown worn over a quilted petticoat, but they were also worn with Caraco Jackets. The caraco and the Pierrot jacket (Pierrot Jackets were predominantly popular 1785 to 1790s) were worn by all different classes.

In the 1770s, Dutch Fashion finds the use of mixed prints in vogue. They would mix up to three different prints for the jacket, petticoat, and apron.

While you can find this trend in other countries, it was more prevalent in Holland, as that was where many of these cotton chintz prints were produced. 


One of the questions I faced whilst planning my ensemble was color palate. As a designer, I'm accustomed to using a color wheel to pair up different colors, rather than using the main color in your fabric and "matching" it with a solid skirt in that same hue. Instead of "matchy-matchy" stretch a little out of your comfort zone and get creative!  Pull a secondary color out of your fabric and use that instead. 


Here are some color combinations to play with! 

I found this trapunto (Italian for quilted) fabric at JoAnns Fabrics in the home decor section. It makes a great quilted petticoat. 

I also have this rustic cotton weave. I love it. Pink is one of my long standing favorites, second only to purple. 

 My plan is to make a Caraco jacket out of the pink and cream fabric, but what color do I make the linen skirt? - - I decided on a light aqua blue:

I purchased this gorgeous chintz on Ebay (below). I snagged the last two yards, but it is 54 inches wide so that is more than enough for the swallow-tail Pierrot I plan to make.  The color most might be tempted to pick would be lilac, but the pale aqua blue above is the color I'm choosing. That way, I can mix and match it with the pink and ivory jacket, as well as pair the chintz with the ivory quilted cream petticoat.

Have fun with your fabric and color choices. Pair Stripes with floral prints!  A striped petticoat with a floral chintz is a nice look. But don't be afraid of color!  Bright colors were common during this time period. 

Example:  Pair a red and white print with a bright apple green! 

There are plenty of ideas to draw from on Pinterest. 


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this! The modified color wheel is especially useful. How did you come up with those combinations? Or is it a modern set of color combos? Thanks :)