1. This loose-fitting, quilted morning gown from 1778 would have been ideal maternity wear for a stylish 18th century woman late in pregnancy.
I love the sunny yellow color!

    This loose-fitting, quilted morning gown from 1778 would have been ideal maternity wear for a stylish 18th century woman late in pregnancy.

    I love the sunny yellow color!

  2. Waistcoats and riding jackets were popular maternity wear for women in the 18th century. Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia, shown in this 1776 portrait by Alexander Roslin, wears a fashionably altered waistcoat and open gown to accommodate her pregnancy.
The following excerpt, from a 1735 letter Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough wrote to her granddaughter, describes the struggle of an 18th century woman to find suitable clothing for late pregnancy…
I remember when I was within three months of my reckoning I could never endure any bodice [corset] at all; but wore a warm waistcoat wrapped around me like a man’s and tied my petticoats on top of it. And from that time never went abroad but with a long black scarf to hide me I was so prodigeous big.

    Waistcoats and riding jackets were popular maternity wear for women in the 18th century. Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia, shown in this 1776 portrait by Alexander Roslin, wears a fashionably altered waistcoat and open gown to accommodate her pregnancy.

    The following excerpt, from a 1735 letter Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough wrote to her granddaughter, describes the struggle of an 18th century woman to find suitable clothing for late pregnancy…

    I remember when I was within three months of my reckoning I could never endure any bodice [corset] at all; but wore a warm waistcoat wrapped around me like a man’s and tied my petticoats on top of it. And from that time never went abroad but with a long black scarf to hide me I was so prodigeous big.

  3. Women of the 18th century continued to wear stays (corsets) throughout the majority of pregnancy.

    This may seem impractical and rather extreme our modern sensibilities, but stays were considered a basic and essential undergarment and part of everyday life. The suggestion of eliminating the use of stays during pregnancy would likely make no more sense to an 18th century woman than the suggestion of eliminating bras during pregnancy would to a 21st century woman.

    Tailleur d’habits et tailleur de corps, a fascinating 1771 on tailoring (which can be viewed in its entirety here if you’re interested) has a design for a pair of stays patterned especially for pregnancy. These stays (shown above left) lace up the sides in addition to the traditional lacing up the back, allowing them to expand with a pregnant woman’s growing stomach.

    The photo on the right shows what these stays would look like constructed.

  4. Despite their apparently rigid construction, 18th century bodices were actually fairly malleable when it came to accommodating pregnancy. The use of stomachers left the front of the bodice open allowing pregnant women to either use larger stomachers or forgo them entirely and fasten to bodice with ties.
You can see with this quilted robe à la française from circa 1750, how widely the bodice could be expanded with the use of ties.

    Despite their apparently rigid construction, 18th century bodices were actually fairly malleable when it came to accommodating pregnancy. The use of stomachers left the front of the bodice open allowing pregnant women to either use larger stomachers or forgo them entirely and fasten to bodice with ties.

    You can see with this quilted robe à la française from circa 1750, how widely the bodice could be expanded with the use of ties.

  5. The early 18th century arrival of the loose-fitting robe volante into mainstream formal fashion (it had previously been worn only as very informal wear or negligee) must have been a boon to women seeking fashionable maternity wear.
This gorgeous extant example is from the Kyoto Costume Institute and dates to circa 1720.

    The early 18th century arrival of the loose-fitting robe volante into mainstream formal fashion (it had previously been worn only as very informal wear or negligee) must have been a boon to women seeking fashionable maternity wear.

    This gorgeous extant example is from the Kyoto Costume Institute and dates to circa 1720.

  6. A 1771 engraving of a masquerade at the Pantheon, Oxford Street in London shows how intricate costumes had become by the late 18th century. Grotesque masks and large props were the norm and characters continued to become increasingly elaborate and bizarre.

    A 1771 engraving of a masquerade at the Pantheon, Oxford Street in London shows how intricate costumes had become by the late 18th century. Grotesque masks and large props were the norm and characters continued to become increasingly elaborate and bizarre.

  7. A 1771 engraving from Oxford Magazine depicts the “Remarkable Characters at Mrs. Cornely’s Masquerade”.

    A 1771 engraving from Oxford Magazine depicts the “Remarkable Characters at Mrs. Cornely’s Masquerade”.

  8. Sir Joshua Reynolds painted Mrs. Trecothick in ‘Turkish’ masquerade dress in 1770-1771.

    Sir Joshua Reynolds painted Mrs. Trecothick in ‘Turkish’ masquerade dress in 1770-1771.

  9. A print from The Gentleman’s Magazine shows the wide variety of costumes and characters in attendance at a masquerade in London in 1768.

    A print from The Gentleman’s Magazine shows the wide variety of costumes and characters in attendance at a masquerade in London in 1768.

  10. Dressing up children in elaborate and cutesy costumes was already a pastime of the rich and powerful by the mid-18th century.
Here Queen Charlotte of Britain poses with her two eldest sons, the future George IV and Frederick, Duke of York, who are dressed as a roman soldier and an Ottoman nobleman. The portrait was painted by Johann Zoffany in 1765.

    Dressing up children in elaborate and cutesy costumes was already a pastime of the rich and powerful by the mid-18th century.

    Here Queen Charlotte of Britain poses with her two eldest sons, the future George IV and Frederick, Duke of York, who are dressed as a roman soldier and an Ottoman nobleman. The portrait was painted by Johann Zoffany in 1765.