Welcome to the Life and Times of Hope for Charity series. In this episode, we will begin our look into the fashion of the Georgian/Regency era in which Hope for Charity, my upcoming debut Christian Historical Romance novel, is set by taking a quick look at the most common fabrics used. If you haven't seen the previous episodes in this series, you may want to start here.
Hope for Charity- Fashion/Part 1-Fabrics
In this and the following posts about fashion, I'll use several short videos to show what it would take me too long to tell regarding mid-18th-century fashion.
The four materials mainly used in making cloth during this period were Wool, Linen, Cotton, and Silk. Let's learn a little about each one today.
This first video shows the process of making cloth from wool before the Industrial Revolution. Remember, though, that before the picking, carding, spinning, warping, and weaving processes that turned wool into cloth, there had to be sheep farmers raising and shearing sheep. In Hope for Charity, Charity is a sheep farmer's daughter, and I've spent far more time researching this subject than probably necessary. 😄
Linen was used for just about everything – underwear, linings, caps, aprons, and other millinery, men’s and women’s clothing, you name it. It was cheap, readily available, and came in all sorts of weights. Unfortunately today linen is the complete opposite. Expensive, hard to find in good quality, and often too heavy, slubby, and loosely-woven.
Coarse cotton was first imported into England in the 17th century from the East India Company as a raw material for the textile industry. Before this time it wasn't considered worth the effort of exportation.
By the eighteenth century, the middle classes were seeking a fabric which would meet their demands for durability but also colour and ease of washing; cotton fitted the bill.
The invention of calico increased the demand for this new inexpensive and durable cotton because it was affordable for even the poorest and it was long lasting.
Calico, all-cotton fabric woven in plain, or tabby, weave and printed with simple designs in one or more colours. Calico originated in Calicut, India, by the 11th century, if not earlier, and in the 17th and 18th centuries calicoes were an important commodity traded between India and Europe.
18th century silks, along with polychromatic printed cottons, were the most desirable of dress textiles. Highly figured, decorative silks were expensive and displayed affluence, costing far more to purchase than the labor to make into gowns. This is one reason why silk gowns were disassembled and remade again and again for decades.
Huguenot silk weavers brought new skills to England and settled in Canterbury, Norwich and Spitalfields in London.
There were cheaply made silks available for purchase. These cheaper options made it common for middle-class women of the time to also wear silk. Below are different types of silk.
Taffeta –Lightweight and has great body. Comes in many colors, stripes, checks, and embroidered.
Figured & Faille Silk – A small dot or diamond woven in or woven “ribbed” texture.
Satin & Duchesse Satin – Heavier and drapier than taffeta, satin gives a particular glossy shimmer. It usually comes in solid colors and is extremely luxurious.
Brocade & Damask – popular throughout the 18th century, in all sorts of patterns.
Organza (“Gauze”) – This light and airy plain-woven silk fabric is stiff, with lots of body. It was very commonly used for millinery – ruffles and trimmings, caps, aprons, kerchiefs, etc.
After studying this topic, I know more about the fabric in 18th century than I do about our fabric today. 😄 What about you? Next time, we'll plan to learn about some of the clothing made from these fabrics for the working class woman. I hope you'll join me. If you aren't subscribed, make sure to hit that button below so you don't miss out.