Sparkly, sexy, and loosely historical, Netflix and Shonda Rhimes’ 2020 release: “Bridgerton” took the internet by storm. Three years later, the much-anticipated prequel series “Queen Charlotte” portrayed the fictionalized love story of Queen Charlotte and King George III of England with similar glitz. Known for its design, the prequel series delivered on the promise for glitter and flash, but while the Hollywood-ization of the Eighteenth Century setting may have awed the audience, the costuming took its liberties with the styles of the period.
For those who spent the runtime of “Queen Charlotte” wondering whether the Queen really wore ensembles so tightlaced and jewel-encrusted that she feared for her life, this guide offers insight into the reality of the popular dress during the reign of King George III. Utilizing a variety of resources from print to museum collections, researchers will be able to view images of extant garments from the era, including breakdowns of their construction and materials. The most hardcore fans - of either the show or the era - can also find resources to take this knowledge of fashion history and translate it into recreating their own versions of 18th-century clothing, using the accompanying links to patterning and fabric sources.
Eighteenth Century (alternatively: 18th Century, 1700s, 18th Cen.)
Hannah Greig studies the role of aesthetic in eighteenth-century London, what she describes as “the world's first fashion-obsessed society.” Her account of the role of extravagance as social marker and political tool offers an explanation of the type of world that Queen Charlotte married into. The book also emphasizes the role of wives - as curators of aesthetic and social capital - in supporting the political maneuvering of their husbands.
Greig, Hannah. (2013). The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian London. Oxford University Press.
The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America by Kate Haulman
Publication Date: 2011-08-01
Fashion is a political tool. The role of dress as a status marker comes into play in episode 1 when Charlotte and the King's mother, Princess Augusta, argue about which wedding dress she will wear: the one she commissioned for the occasion or the one provided by the English crown to fit their own sensibilities of luxury. Similarly, in the America of this era, a fledgling colony taking its cues from English society, clothing style and quality demonstrated the class and wealth of the wearer.
Haulman, Kate. (2011). The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America. The University of North Carolina Press. https://doi.org/10.5149/9780807869291_haulman
A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion in the Age of Enlightenment by Peter McNeil (Editor)
Publication Date: 2018-11-01
Adding a layter to the political context for fashion in the Eighteenth Century, this book points to the ascension of a “puritan middle class” in inspiring a more austere style as a reaction to the sumptuousness of court dress. Pulling from a variety of primary source, the authors connect the self-actualization of the Age of Enlightenment to the increased social awareness of fashion and the “emerging concept of taste.”
McNeil, Peter. (2018). A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion in the Age of Enlightenment (Vol. 4). Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards
Publication Date: 2021-11-18
Spanning not just the 18th Century but five centuries of fashion this book details the ways that style changes, updates, and cycles throughout history. It also connects the role of social and political change on modes of dress. The breadth of the subject places the 1760s fashion of “Queen Charlotte” within a broader context, making clear the influences that led to the silhouettes of the era as well as the later fashion inspired by it.
Edwards, Lydia. (2021). How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 21st Century. Bloomsbury Visual Arts.
An Elegant Art by Edward Maeder (Editor)
Publication Date: 1983-03-01
This book catalogs over 400 pieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, an institution credited with maintaining one of the world's best collections of 18th Century clothing and textiles. The book details not only the modes of dress found in the era but the particulars of the creation of extravagant fabrics, lace, and trims that made them shine.
Maeder, Edward. (1983). An Elegant Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art. https://archive.org/details/elegantartfashio0000losa/page/n1/mode/2up
18th-Century Fashion in Detail (Victoria and Albert Museum) by Susan North
Publication Date: 2018-06-19
A study of the Victoria and Albert museum’s collection of clothing from the 18th Century, this book not only details the surface level beauty of the pieces, but dissects them using line drawings and photographs of the inside and linings to explain their construction. This book is a wealth of information usually reserved for those few preservationists lucky enough to handle the historic pieces, themselves. While not a manual for constructing reproduction pieces, the intimate views of extant garments help tie the finished pieces to the pattern pieces found in other sources, while the beautiful details of the exteriors will inspire their design.
North, Susan. (2018). 18th Century Fashion in Detail. Thames & Hudson.
The Art of Dress by Aileen Ribeiro
Publication Date: 1995-08-30
In the time before photography, art - and especially portraiture - represented the primary method of visual memory. Therefore, the fashion depicted in this art provides a view of the deliberate self-expression of the subjects. The years from 1750-1820 saw fashion, and therefore the fashion in art, change rapidly and dramatically. Using the depictions of royal dress from portraits and other art produced during the Georgian Era, this book ties the changing styles in England and France to the changing social and political landscapes of the two world powers.
Ribeiro, Aileen. (1995). The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France, 1750-1820. Yale University Press.
One of the treasures of the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum in Los Angeles is an 18th-century bodice documented as being worn by Lady Mary Douglas as a train-bearer to Queen Charlotte at the coronation of King George III. This piece offers the most specific comparison point between the show “Queen Charlotte” and the real material history of the monarch.
This article focuses on one crucial but often overlooked piece of fashion history: the shoe. Using surviving period shoes, the author identifies the ways that everything from the manufacture to the patterns of wear can teach viewers about the Eighteenth Century. The work focuses on period social life, material culture, and the economics of consumerism, tying all three spheres of life together with the single product.
Though Queen Charlotte likely had the luxury to avoid re-using and altering garments, this case study follows the long life of Gertrude Savile’s green damask ensemble. Through her meticulously detailed household records, the same green damask gown is seen “retrimmed and made over multiple times” while the leftover fabric from the gown’s construction was repurposed into accessories including a pair of shoes. In a study of the excesses of the most wealthy and opulent dressers in the era - the English crown - this work instead studies a household of slightly less means. While the popular styles changed rapidly during the era, these changes meant that wealthy gentlewomen such as Ms. Savile felt pressured to maintain the popular look without overspending.
Dowdell, Carolyn. (2017). Gertrude Savile’s green damask: A case study of clothing reuse and alteration in eighteenth-century England. Clothing Cultures, 4(1), 29–44. https://doi.org/10.1386/cc.4.1.29_1
Taking a scientific approach to material culture and preservation, this article studies the minute detail of an eighteenth-century gown (robe à la française) in the collections of the Netherlands’ Kunstmuseum Den Haag (KMDH). Using a variety of analytical techniques, the researchers identified the material makeup of the fabric and coloring, with the intention of using this information to better guide preservation efforts. The detailed explanation of the contents of this extant garments offers an insight into the minutia of clothing construction from the period.
Rodríguez Salinas, C. Proaño Gaibor, A., & Ferrazza, L. (2020). Interdisciplinary research into the materials and degradation processes of an eighteenth-century robe à la française. Journal of the Institute of Conservation, 43(3), 242–257. https://doi.org/10.1080/19455224.2020.1810090
This article studies a specific garment: an unfinished embriodered waistcoat made by Elizabeth Cook for her husband, Captain James Cook, and seeks through this study too create a replica using the closest reproduction of the materials and style as is possible. The study explains the embroidery techniques and materials - including silk and metallic thread, Tahitian tapa cloth, and silver-plated spangles - available and in use among households like the Cooks during the Eighteenth Century.
As a museum dedicated to costume history and preservation in Paris, the Palais Galliera maintains a world-renound collection of eighteenth-century clothing. The gems of this particular collection are multiple pieces understood to have been owned and worn by the Dauphin Louis XVII and Marie Antoinette. Though England and France did not always ally in this era, the upper upper echelon of royalty in Europe would approach their fashion from similarly sumptuous positions.
Famous for its costume department and collections, the MET offers a wealth of preserved Eighteenth Century garments. This article is pulled from the museums collection of essays explaining the context and contents of the collections. The descriptions contained within not only reference materials and other essays created by the museum, but those references are hyperlinked to the text, itself, rather than listed separately. The related writing or specific piece from the museum archive being discussed are viewable simply by hovering over the included accession number, making it easy to find the examples being referenced.
The detail of the Fashion History Timeline - especially in its division into specific decades rather than centuries - provides an incredibly specific understanding of the dress in the exact era being portrayed. In this case, the timeline section for the 1760s will explain the minute differences between dress in the period of Queen Charlotte’s marriage and coronation compared to the rest of the century. The timeline is rich with sources including art, material culture, and text descriptions; all of which are cited and many of which link to the museum page for each piece.
A brief introduction to the fashion of the Eighteenth Century, this page covers the basics of dress for both men and women throughout the century from underwear to hair. The real gem of the page is the sidebar linking to the relevant artifacts from the extensive material collections in the Victoria and Albert Musuem. With detailed descriptions and crisp close-up photography, the extant waistcoats, shoes, and dresses in the V&A are beloved by fashion historians and historic costumers.
A cornerstone of the historic costuming literature, Arnold’s work provides drawings and patterns for Englishwomen’s dresses based on 48 extant garments. This work then emphasizes the details in their construction, guiding the reader through the process of not just patterning but assembly.
Arnold, Janet. (2005). Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction C. 1660-1860. Drama Publishers.
The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Lauren Stowell
Publication Date: 2017-11-21
American Dutchess is known worldwide for their historic reproduction and historically-inspired shoes. This work expands their knowledge into a textbook for the creation of hand-sewn 18th-century dresses in the original style and construction techniques. The authors also expand the instructions to offer guidance on how to wear the garments once the outfit is constructed.
Stowell, L. and Cox, A. (2017) The American Dutchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking: How to Hand Sew Georgian Gowns and Wear Them with Style. Page Street Publishing.
Costume Close-Up by Linda Baumgarten
Publication Date: 1999-12-01
Created in conjunction with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, this work examines the construction details visible in the pieces held by the museum, as well as the social conventions of dress from the period (answering, for example, the question of what underwear the founding fathers of the US likely wore). The book also highlights the techniques of fabric construction and wear, offering insights like the process of glazing wool.
Baumgarten, L. Watson, J. and Carr, F. (1999). Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Whatever Shall I Wear? A Guide to Assembling a Woman's Basic 18th C. Wardrobe by Mara Riley
Publication Date: 2002-08-21
In a brief 50 pages, this guide directs readers through the absolute essentials of constructing an 18th-century women’s wardrobe. From the shift (base layer) to jewelry and hairstyle, the book outlines all the components of a fashionable period wardrobe with strict brevity. Though this leaves the decorative details that make a queen’s wardrobe magnificent, the guide is a fantastic first stop to lay the groundwork while the other resources listed will expand into the addition of ornament.
Riley, Mara. (2002). Whatever Shall I Wear? A Guide to Assembling a Woman’s Basic 18th C. Wardrobe. Graphics/Fine Arts Press.