OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing

Here's a selection of pictures and links related to 18th century clothing.  I hope you enjoy them!

1) Here's a video showing how people dressed in Colonial Virginia, featuring re-enactors from the Claude Moore Colonial Farm.

2) The picture above shows an authentic set of stays (women's undergarments) from 1750-60. I like to think they're similar to the ones Claire wore:
I turned my back gratefully to him. With expertise born of long experience, he had the lacing of my stays undone in seconds. I sighed deeply as they loosened and fell. He plucked the shift away from my body, massaging my ribs where the boning had pressed the damp fabric into my skin.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, Chapter 5 ("James Fraser, Indian Agent"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here is an article explaining how to put on stays by yourself, if you don't happen to have someone else nearby to help. (Thanks very much to Jo M. for the link!)

3) Whenever I see these pictures of ladies' shoes from the 18th century, I'm reminded of how Claire seems to take every opportunity she can to remove her shoes when she's at a party, a fancy-dress ball, etc. (Photo credit belongs to the Bata Shoe Museum.)

4) The painting above, by Pieter de Hooch (1658), illustrates the use of "leading strings", strips of fabric sewn into the clothing of young children. Remember the scene in FIERY CROSS when the buffalo appears at the Big House?
Jemmy was on the ground nearby, his leading-strings securely tied to the paddock fence.  He certainly didn't need them to help him stay upright, but they did keep him from escaping while his mother was busy.

(From THE FIERY CROSS, Chapter 91 ("Domestic Management"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) Here's an example of French court fashion from around the same time that Jamie and Claire were in Paris in DRAGONFLY. This is a portrait of Madame Pompadour (mistress of Louis XV), dated 1748-1755, by Maurice Quentin de la Tour. 

6) The gentleman shown above is wearing a banyan -- a loose dressing-gown. Lord John Grey often wears a banyan in the evenings at home. (Portrait of Nicholas Boylston, painted by John Singleton Copley, 1767)

7) The portrait above shows John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (painted by Joshua Reynolds, 1765), wearing the uniform of one of the Highland Regiments. This was during the period when the Diskilting Act barred Highlanders--with the exception of those in the Highland Regiments--from wearing their native dress.

8) I can't resist including this 1749 painting by William Mosman, featuring two young Scottish boys (Sir James MacDonald and Sir Alexander MacDonald).  Every time I look at it, I think of Ellen's portrait of Jamie and Willie.

9) I think the mobcap shown above looks just like the one that Claire received from Grannie Bacon in FIERY CROSS.  To modern eyes, it's pretty hideous, and I have no trouble understanding why Claire got upset.
"Grannie Bacon's sent ye a present," she explained proudly, as I unfolded the material, which proved to be an enormous mobcap, liberally embellished with lace and trimmed with lavender ribbons.  "She couldna come to the Gathering this year, but she said as we must bring ye this, and give ye her thanks for the medicine ye sent for her...roo-mah-tics."  She pronounced the word carefully, her face screwed up in concentration, then relaxed, beaming in pride at having gotten it out properly.

"Why, thank you. How lovely!" I held the cap up to admire, privately thinking a few choice things about Grannie Bacon.

(From THE FIERY CROSS, Chapter 10 ("Grannie Bacon's Gifts"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

10) Additional Resources

For more examples of 18th century clothing, take a look at Jas. Townsend & Son, Inc..This site has a large variety of 18th century colonial items for sale, including clothing, shoes, and accessories, for all ages.; I like to browse through their online catalog, just looking at the pictures.

I also like the Colonial Williamsburg site very much. Lots of interesting information there, on women's clothing, men's clothing, and much more!

If you find these links interesting, check out my previous "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs
OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology
OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry
OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events
OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine
OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones
OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife
OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces
OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans
OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish
OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina
OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden
What Do These Things Look Like?


Unknown said...

Excellent post. I really enjoyed it.


Juliazun said...

Wow, Karen - that is a terrific post; I learned so much! It definitely enhances anyone's reading of the Outlander series. Thank you so much for putting all that together, you did a great job.

Karen Henry said...

Thanks to both of you! I always have fun putting these "OUTLANDER Links" posts together, and I've been wanting to do one on 18th century clothing for a long time. Really glad you enjoyed it!


Cari said...

Thanks for providing the visuals to enhance the Outlander experience, Karen! Since moving to Virginia and experiencing the hot, humid summers here, I've often thought about Jamie and Claire and what it would have been like for them. I can't even imagine wearing all of those layers (especially the stays!) when it's so hot and muggy!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this post. i love learning more about that period of history.

Nic said...

Very nicely done Karen! Thanks!

Lisa said...

I'm always amazing how you can take your blog and consistently make it better! When the blog first was created I anxiously watched to see what kinds of things you would post about, and you do an excellent job at being a supplement to the books!

CONGRATS! And this is one of my favourite posts of yours as I adore anything from that time period and really appreciate a visual for some of the things described in the books!

Karen Henry said...


Thank you SO much for the kind words!! I really enjoy putting together these "OUTLANDER Links" posts, because I have always been fascinated to see what the things in the books really looked like.

I'm approaching the three-year anniversary of this blog, by the way. I'll have to think of something special to do to celebrate. :-)


Jo M said...

I thought you would enjoy this link: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-to-lace-your-stays-by-yourself-c.html

And thank goodness we don't have to wear stays anymore!!

Karen Henry said...


Thanks so much! That's an amazingly timely article, very informative, with great pictures. :-) I added the link to my post above so that others will be sure to see it.

I agree, it's a very good thing that we don't have to wear stays anymore!


Anonymous said...

Fascinating! These types of posts really do help bring the series to life for me. Thanks :-)

Unknown said...


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