Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WIP Wednesday - 18th Century Servant's Clothing


Today I thought I would talk about servant's clothing.

The Chocolate Girl - Jean-√Čtienne Liotard 1745


This image is a bit before the time I usually
focus on here, but I thought it was a great example of the way servants were expected to dress. Her simple
Caraco and skirt are covered by an apron.
Her hair is covered with a bonnet (mob
cap) which is her only decoration, and
she's wearing a serviceable fichu.
Nothing in her appearance is particularly
ornate.




Henry Robert Morland – late 18th century woman servant






Henry Robert Morland painted a number of images of servants. You can see here that his 18th century servant woman is wearing a fairly plain dress. The bow on her cap is the only decoration. 




Highly visible male servants were the exception. Footmen, the butler, and other highly visible male servants were expected to dress in fancy livery as a show of the estate's wealth.
Colonial Williamsburg

While they were expected to dress well, in accordance with their employer's status, servants who wore clothing considered too ornate or above their station were scorned by the upper classes.  This came to a head toward the end of the 18th century, when the industrial revolution made luxuries more affordable. Soon, servant uniforms began gaining popularity as a mark of the separation of the classes within an estate.
This dichotomy can be seen in this panting, and yo can read more about it, and servants in general here. I also have a link to The Complete Servant (free on google books) under the For Writers tab at the top of the page.

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