17th & 18th Century Costume Quotes




If a hundred ladies arrive one after the other, everybody present gets up as often to welcome them in a procession.... Everybody is dressed up nicely and wears valuable jewels... I was astonished to see a number of young ladies wearing eyeglasses that were fixed at the ears.

Madame d'Aulnoy about late 17th century Spanish fashion.
Glasses were thought to give the wearer an appearance of dignity

Es badet beiderlei Geschlecht ohne Unterschied zu gleicher Zeit und an einem Ort, weil man besondere Badebekleidungen hat, die alles bedecken. Das Frauenzimmer ist wohl coiffiret und hat alle Röcke untenher mit Blei eingefaßt, damit die Schwere sie niederhalte.

Both sexes bathe at the same time in the same place because they have special bathing costumes that cover everything. The lady's hair is well dressed and she has lined the hems of all skirts with lead so that the weight keeps them down.

George Keißler about a spa near Vienna, early 18th century

On parfile pour parfiler, et aussi pour faire sur son parfilage des bénéfices de cent Louis par an.

You unravel for unraveling and also to make 100 Louis a year by it.


Vive le parfilage!
Plus de plaisir sans lui,
Cet important ouvrage
Chasse partout l'ennui.
Tandis que l'on déchire
Et galons et rubans,
L'ont peut encore médir
Et déchirer les gens.

Three cheers for unravelling!
There is no fun without it,
This important work
Drives away boredom.
While you rend
Ribbons and borders,
You can also gossip
And rend people.

Mme du Deffand about a pastime of the late 18th century French upperclass

C'était une coiffure dans laquelle on introduisait les personnes ou les choses q'on préférait. Ainsi les portraits des ses enfants, de ses amis, l'image de son chien, de son serin, tout cela garni des cheveux de son père ou d'un amant de cur.

It was a hairstyle into which one introduced persons or things one liked, such as portraits of one's children or friends, the picture of one's dog, of one's bird, all framed with one's father's or lover's hair.

Mme de Oberkirch about the French 1770s hairstyle "pouf à sentiment"

On a des gilets à la douzaine, à la centaine, magnifiquement brodés avec des boutons large comme des écus de 6 livres, contentants des précieux portraits en miniature.

They have waistcoats by the dozen, nay hundred, magnigficently embroidered, with buttons the size of 6 livres coins containing precious minitature portraits.

French country nobleman about the Parisians, 1787

Wie ein Stern ging er in Weimar auf, er hatte noch die Werthermontierung an und alle Welt mußte bald im Wertherfrack gehen, in welchen sich auch der Herzog kleidete und wer sich keinen schaffen konnte, dem ließ der Herzog einen machen.

He rose like a star in Weimar, still with the Werther costume on, and soon all the world had to wear the Werther coat, which even the duke wore, and if someone couldn't afford one, the duke had one made for him.

Knebel about Goethe's arrival in Weimar in 1775 and the Werther fad

Le dame, in muletto, busto e cotolin corto che galoppano su la piazza.

The ladies, in mules, low-necked bodices and short skirts, galloped in the square.

Ballarini about the Venetian carnival

... alles waß ich sage und thue,... daß admiriren die hoffleütte auch dermaßen, daß, wie ich mich jetzt bei dießer Kälte bedacht, meinen alten zobel anzuthun, umb wärmer auff dem halß zu haben, so lest jetzt jedermann auch einen auff dieß patron machen und es ist jetzt die gröste mode; welches mich woll lachen macht, denn eben dießelben, so jetzt dieße mode admiriren undt selber tragen, haben mich vor 5 jahren dermaßen ausgelacht und so sehr mitt meinem zobel beschrieen, daß ich ihn seiderdem nicht mehr hab anthun dörffen. So gehts hir bey dießem hoffe zu, wen die courtissans sich einbilden, daß einer in faveur ist, so mag einer auch thun was man will, so kann man doch versichert sein, daß man apropirt werden wirdt...

Whatever I say or do, the courtiers admire it so much that, when I now in this cold wear my old sable to have it warmer around the neck, everyone also has one made after the same pattern and it is now the greatest fashion, which makes me laugh because the very same people who now admire this fashion and wear it have 5 years ago laughed at me so much because of my sable that I couldn't wear it since then. This is how it goes at this court, if the courtiers believe you to be in favour, you can do whatever you want and be sure that you will be copied...

Elisabeth Charlotte Duchess of Orléans, about the French court, Nov. 1677

... aber alle tag setzt man sich höher auff; ich glaube, daß man endlich wird gezwungen sein, die thüren höher zu machen, ... Wenn die weiber in cornetten sein, sehen sie eben auß wie Melusine... mich deucht, ihr schweiff ahm rock wirdt endlich auch zur schlangen werden...

... but every day they build themselves up higher; I believe that eventually one will be forced to make the doors higher... When the women wear bonnets, they look just like Melusine... I think the tail on their skirt will eventually become a snake...

Elisabeth Charlotte Duchess of Orléans, about hairstyles and trains, Oct. 1688

Es waren zwölf Knöpfe und zwölf Knopflöcher von Diamanten, wie es damals Mode war, an den Ärmeln zu tragen; die kleine Herzogin von Chartres trug ebensolche.

It was twelve buttons and twelve buttonholes of diamonds as were then fashionable to wear on the sleeves; the little Duchess of Chartres wore the same.

Sophie von Hannover about a present bythe Duke of Orléans to her daughter, 1670s

Die Herzogin von Enghien erhob sich aus ihrem Bett und nahme einen weiten Sackmantel von Goldbrokat um, der vorn von oben bis unten mit breitem, feuerrotem Band zugebunden war, was mir gewöhlich erschien. Dazu setzte sie eine schwarze Mütze auf ihre weiße, sehr vernachlässigte Haube, und in diesem Aufzug ließ sich sich in einem Stuhl zu der Komödie tragen...

The Duchess of Enghien rose from her bed and donned a wide sack coat of gold brocade that was closed all down the front with wide red ribbons, which struck me as ordinary. She put a black cap on her white, very neglected bonnet and thus garbed had herself carried to the comedy...

Sophie von Hannover about a visit with her sick niece, 1670s


Der manteau ist auch ebenso bald angekommen, als Sie es haben vermeint, und man hat ihn gar artig zur kleinen Trauer gefunden... Die Fasson hat man auch gar gut gefunden obschon nicht auf französisch; die Ärmel habe ich etwas länger müssen hinunterlassen; möchte wissen, was sie für Spitzenärmel dabei tragen, wann sie so kurz sein.

The manteau did arrive as early as you thought and was thought proper for half-mourning... the fashion was also found quite good, although not French; I had to let the sleeves down more; I'd like to know what kind of lace sleeves you wear with them as they are so short.

Sophie von Hannover to her niece Countess Luise, Aug. 1697

Von hier ist nichts zu sagen, als daß die gute Frau von Ilten das Gesicht, Hals und Hände verbrannt hat; die Fontange ist angangen, darüber sie sich erschreckt hat, ist gefallen, hat die Resolution nicht gehabt, es abzuwefen, wie ich pflege zu tun...

There is no news here but that good Mrs von Ilten has burnt neck, face and hands; her fontange caught fire, she stared and fell and did not think to throw it off as I use to do...

Sophie von Hannover about an apparently common accident, Nov. 1711


... an gave me head-dresses and linen and gloves, and I went very neat...
The ladies also gave me clothes frequently of their own or their children's; some stockings, some petticoats, some gowns...

Moll as orphan girl - Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders, 1720


... and then he tells them a long story of two fine neckcloths he had bid money for, and he wanted to have me go and make an errand to buy a neck to that turn-over that he showed...
I had no dress other than before, except that I had a hood, a mask, a fan, and a pair of gloves in my pocket...

Moll as maid in a rich family - Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders


... I had hold of the watch, and holding it the right way, the start she gave drew the hook out, and she never felt it.

Moll as apprentice pickpocket - Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders


There was a good quantity of Flanders lace lodged in a private house..., and Flanders lace being prohibited, it was a good booty...

Moll as accomplished thief - Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders


I had dressed myself up in a very mean habit... I was now in an ordinary stuff gown, a blue apron, and a straw hat...
.... I pulled of my blue apron and wrapt the bundle in it, which was made of printed calico...
There was no money, plate, or jewels in it, but a very good suit of Indian damask, a gown and petticoat, a laced head and ruffles of very good Flanders lace...

Another of Moll's booties - Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders



...her cap fell off in the struggle, and her hair being too short to reach her shouders, erected itself on her head; her stays likewise, which were laced through one single hole at the bottom, burst open...

Henry Fielding: Tom Jones, 1749


... hes cast his eyes on stays, gowns, petticoats, caps, ribbons, stockings, garters, shoes, clogs, etc, all which lay i a distordered manner on the floor.

Henry Fielding: Tom Jones, 1749

His lordship sat down near her, with the bag of his wig hanging over one of his shoulders, the rest of his dress being somewhat disordered, and rather a greater proportion of linen than is usual appearing at his bosom.

Henry Fielding: Tom Jones, 1749






Content, layout and images of this page 
and any sub-page of the domains marquise.de, contouche.de, lumieres.de, manteau.de and costumebase.org are copyright (c) 1997-2022 by Alexa Bender. All rights reserved. See Copyright Page. GDPO

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.