Women's Fashion of the 18th Century

Part Four

La toilette by François Boucher, 1742

La toilette by François Boucher, 1742

This painting is IMHO one of the most valuable documents of costume history. The gallantry and coquettery of the 18th century has made it possible that a peek at someone's underclothes was recorderd for future generations. By the way, novels and fake diaries often also divulged details that were considered juicy - the 18th century is probably the best documented era in the underwear department.

The lady to the right presents us with a nice view of the Watteau pleats of her contouche which she wears in the casual style: caught up in loops of cord fixed to the inside of the skirt or pulled through the pocket slits. Below, the relatively narrow low-level petticoat (or decency skirt) is visible. On top of it, she might have put on small paniers.

The left lady gives even more interesting insights: We see that her stocking, probably made of knitted silk, is tied with a ribbon just above the knee. These ribbons were popular trophies among the gentlemen. On top of a white petticoat with a flounce, she wears a blue jupe and obviously even a robe the bodice of which is protected from the makeup by a negligé jacket. Where it opens we can see the front-laced corset. The black dot on the temple is a mouche.