A Paper Doll Robe à la Française from 1770

An 18th century paper doll dress based on a 1770 Robe à la Française with a hat and matching shoes in black and white or color.

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Since yesterday, I shared Alice in her 18th century undies, it seemed only fitting to share an 18th century paper doll dress today. 

In the 18th century, there were two major dress styles (along with countless variations, but these are the two biggies). They were the Robe à la Française and the Robe à l’Anglaise. Both styles consisted of an open robe with a petticoat. The stomacher, used to fill in the upper part of the robe, and petticoat could either match the dress or be in a contrasting style. The two styles are distinguished by the backs of the dresses. The Robe à la Française has pleats in the back that fall loose from the shoulders (see this example) while the Robe à l’Anglaise has those pleats stitched down into a more fitted style (see this example). The Robe à la Française was also called the a sack back or sacque back gown.

As fashion tends to do, the Robe à la Française began it’s early existence as an informal lose garment and became increasingly complex as the years went on. Today’s 18th century paper doll dress is a Robe à la Française based on this example from the Met Museum circa 1770. The original is made from scrumptious white on white imported Chinese silk. But, given the constraints of my art style, I decided to go with a rich deep red instead for today’s 18th century paper doll dress.

The hat is earlier than the dress dating from 1760. It is based on this one. Her shoes, or mules, are based on this pair from LACMA. Those wooden soles look really uncomfortable to me. I have no idea if it was at all likely to have your garters match your shoes, but since I could I thought, ‘why not?’

This gown is designed to fit over 18th Century Alice’s underwear and hoops. I would recommend adding a floating tab to the back of the skirt if needed, as it is very wide.

There’s a blue based color scheme for my Patreons on the Patreon page.

Need a doll to wear today’s paper doll? All the A Pose Dolls & Clothing

Alice Goes to the 18th Century

A paper doll with 18th century underwear including a shift, stays, pocket, hoops and shoes. She's free to print in black and white or in color from paperthinpersonas.com. Great for homeschooling history lessons about women's fashion through time.

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I love costume history  and the 18th century is a favorite era of mine. I wanted to design an 18th century paper doll and I chose Alice as the model. Because of the paper doll’s historic underwear, she won’t be able to wear all the A Pose clothing. I made the decision that I was more concerned with having period underwear than with having versatility. 

So, what underwear is she wearing? Well, Alice is wearing a shift, a strapless set of stays (like these or these) and has a pocket tied around her waist (like this or this). She also has a separate set of hoops. I based them on this set of hoops from LACMA. Hoops were only worn with the most formal of gowns in the 18th century, so they won’t fit under all the 18th century paper doll gowns I ever draw.

If you look at enough pairs of mid-18th century shoes, they do start to flow together at after a while. I could literally link to dozens that are in the same basic style as Alice’s brown shoes, her red shoes and blue shoes with pattens. Here is one example, here is another and here is another. The differences come from the shape of the toe and the heel.

By the 1780s, other styles were coming into fashion. So, her brocade shoes are based on this pair from 1785 from Historic New England. By the 1790s, shoes that look more like modern kitten heels had taken over like this pair.

Her blue shoes have attached pattens, which were leather and wood oversoles meant to protect the shoes from the muck and mud. This set was my main inspiration, but here is another example of the same idea.

Historic hairstyles are a challenge for me every time. I’m still learning enough to illustrate them properly, but for today’s 18th century paper doll I really wanted to draw something that was as not too over the top. I used my historic hair style books and portraits, including this one, this one and this one. I could have gone gray with her hair, but I just didn’t really like how it looked.

Wednesday, there will be a gown for today’s 18th century paper doll version of Alice.

Need a clothing for today’s paper doll? All the A Pose Dolls & Clothing

Mini-Maidens Visit the 1770s

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Today’s Printable Paper Doll Inspirations: This Dress From the 1770s, This Dress from 1775-1780 and This dress from the 1770s
A paper doll dress based on the designs of the 1770s. The dress has matching shoes and stockings. It is black and white for coloring and fits the Mini-Maiden paper dolls.
Today’s Mini-Maiden paper doll dress should have maybe been posted on the 4th of July since that is Independence Day, but I decided to hold off on it. I’m not sure why exactly, but I did. So now, I am posting it on the 19th of July for really no reason, except that I really love 18th century clothing.

Often when I created historical pieces, there is a specific piece I am recreating. I choose a dress that I love and then I draw it. That was the case with my 1820s morning dress for example, but today’s 1770s gown is much more an expression of several gowns from the era. This dress, this one and one more all from the 1770s are some of the source images that I combined. Check out my 18th century pinterest board for way way more examples of clothing from this era.

Because I did not use just one dress, there is a a lot of room for error. It is highly possible that someone from the 18th century would look at this dress and think it was way off for reasons I can never know.

Clothing is full of tiny nuanced rules. Most of these are never written down and are now lost to us on the whims of time. Mostly, I’ve come to accept this as part of the creative process. I’m never going to be perfect.

Perfect, I am fond of saying, is the enemy of good.

I can however been well researched. In the interest of that, I wanted to mention that Dover has just reprinted the book, Eighteenth-Century French Fashion Plates in Full Color edited by Stella Blum. This is a great book that I have been wanting for a while. So, I just ordered my copy and while I get no benefit from the link above, I wanted to mention it in case anyone else has been wanting this book.

Should I do more 18th century stuff? I have been thinking about maybe a riding habit. Thoughts?

Need a Mini-Maiden paper doll to wear today’s outfit? Pick a Mini-Maiden Paper Doll Here.

Sprites In Some 18th Century Clothing Options

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Today’s Printable Paper Doll Inspirations: 18th Century Merchant Class Clothing
18th century clothing for paper dolls including a round-gown and a tricorn hat. Free to print in color or black and white from paperthinpersonas.com.

18th Century paper doll clothing in black and white

This 18th century clothing for the Sprites paper dolls are meant to represent the Merchant Class. On the left, for the men, we have a jacket and vest worn over a shirt. His breeches, stockings and shoes are all mid-18th century. On the right, for the lady, we have a round-gown, defined by the lack of a stomacher. A handkerchief fills her low neckline and she has a matching cap, stockings and shoes.

In the United States in the 18th century, there were four social classes. You could be wealthy, merchant class, lower class or in some for of bondage, such as enslaved or indentured. In England, these classes were defined by birth. So, it was entirely possible to be a Merchant and make more money than a Lord, but you were still in the middle class. Unless you could marry off your son or daughter into a higher social status and then… Well, we have the plot of one of a million 18th century romances.

I should add that the merchant class didn’t just include merchants. Anyone involved in a trade like lawyers, doctors and clergy were considered middle-class. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that Barbers were separate from Doctors.

If you’re interested in learning more about 18th century clothing, you can check out my 18th Century Pixies series. I talk a lot in there about the ladies clothing of the era.

Alternatively, one of my favorite 18th century costume history books is What Clothes Reveal. I used it a lot for these, because it shows what “middle-class” people wore, rather than just what those with lots of cash wore. Colonial Williamsburg also has a decent overview of 18th century clothing. If you’re not sure where to start, start there.

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Looking for some Sprite paper dolls to wear these outfits? Pick out Sprite paper dolls here.

Calash Bonnets & Chemise a la Reine: Late 18th Century Paper Doll Dresses

logo-late-18th-centLate 18th Century gowns before the waist begin to rise at the turn of the century are often defined by simpler lines. You can see in some of them the beginings of the aesthetic and gave rise to the Greek inspired looks of the Empire period in France and the Regency period in England.

Working left to right, as is my usual practice, she has a caraco jacket with a peticoat based on this caraco and quilted petticoat from the Museum of Antwerp and this outfit circa 1785-1790 from the V&A.

The middle dress is based on a robe à l’anglaise from the Kyoto Costume Institute that is dated to the 1780s. I have seen very few other examples of this style of gown in museums, though I would be curious to know how wide spread the style was. The belt is particularly distinct in these gowns and I can only recall having seen one other.

On the far right,there is a gaulle, or chemise a la reine. This radical style was introduced by Marie Antoinette in the early 1780s. I based my version of this iconic garment off a portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife from 1788. To understand the shock such a garment would have induced in the 18th century, consider the reaction people might have if the First Lady of the US suddenly started talking around in her bra and panties in public, rather than chic clothing. Never the less, as is often the case with fashion, the simple lines of the gown caught on and it wasn’t long before all sorts of women were being painted in elegant and simple versions of the chemise a la reine. In fact, this gown could be seen as a direct predecessor to the simpler styles of the Regency and Empire periods. Very few of these gowns seem to have survived from the 18th century, but here is one example from the Manchester Art Gallery.


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There are two distinct hats to go with today’s paper doll gowns. The first hat is a formal hat and comes from a portrait of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard from 1785 held at the Met. Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was an accomplished female painter in 18th century France. She was inducted into the French Académie Royale in 1783. Also, she clearly had excellent taste in hats.

The other hat is what was called a Calash. Calashes were a type of bonnet that was boned and could fold down for storage (and also was tall enough to get over the crazy high hairstyles of the century.) Calashes can be found easily in museums. Here are a few examples of them- one, two, three from the Met and one from the MFA in Boston. The Calash isn’t just an 18th century thing, either, these bonnets can be found in the 19th century as well.

The shoes are fairly standard 18th century style and aren’t based on anything specifically. I just thought my three paper dolls might need another pair of shoes.


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The color selections were all dictated by the original garments colors, except for the caraco jacket ensemble on the left. The one I wanted to do in warm autumnal colors since the chemise a la reine always seems a summer or spring sort of style to me.

This brings us to the end of this little series. If you missed any, check out the entire 18th Century Pixie series.

Hope: A Late 18th Century Paper Doll Set

logo-hope-1700sHope is based on the styles at the end of the 18th century. So, something major happened around the 1789 in France. It was, for those who weren’t asleep in high school history class, the French Revolution. To say that “everthing changed” wouldn’t be an understatement and the ripples of the events in France spread across Europe in dramatic ways. It is tempting when looking at the end of the 18th century to simply assume that after 1789 everyone just jumped into Empire styles and that was the end of it, but the reality is that there was a very slow evolution to the high waisted gowns we think of as “empire” or “Regency” dress.

So, I was less interested in worrying about the Empire look and much more interested in the every transitional styles that are easily forgotten and often ignored.

This all brings us rather neatly to Hope. Hope is our paper doll model for the later part of the 1700s. Her dresses will never get up the high waisted styles that characterized the transition into Empire. Rather, I think of her as being a woman of means right before everything gets radicalized. And, for her sake, let us assume she lives in England which was always behind on the fashions a bit anyway and a much safer place to be than France at the end of the 18th century. They don’t call it the Reign of Terror for nothing, after all.


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Hope’s hair is done up in a style known as coiffure à l’enfant. This was a style popularized by Marie-Antoinette in the early 1780s. The style is a frizzy halo of hair with several longer strands curled, braided or left straight. Here is a portrait that shows off the hair style from the Met and here is a fashion plate featuring it from the V&A. I have to confess that I am not totally pleased with her hair. I fear that it looks a little bit too “mad scientist” for my comfort.


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Moving away from her hair for a moment, Hope has undergarments, of course, and then a gown known as a Redingote. Redingote’s started their lives as actual riding coats, but eventually transformed into women’s gowns which were coat like and then cut away to reveal the petticoat underneath. The word “redingote” is believed to be a French transliteration of the English term “riding coat”. Hope’s redingote was based on this gown from LACMA circa 1790. The term “redingote” sticks around into the early 20th century as a term of long coats.

Her hat is from this hat from the MINT circa 1770. Her shoes are based on this pair from the Met from 1780. Her muff and her mitts are both from Colonial Williamsburg.

I think that’s all the sources I need to list for Hope. I might have forgotten something, but I think that’s everything. Next Friday, there will be the last set of outfits for the 18th Century Pixie Series all from the later part of the 18th century.

Round Gown, Court Gowns and a Caraco Jacket: 18th Century Paper Doll Dresses

logo-18th-cent-3Four more 18th century dresses for the Pixie paper dolls today. So, by now I think I’ve already covered the various sorts of gowns women wore in the 18th century with a fair bit of detail.

On the left, we have a caraco jacket and a square hooped court gown. The caraco jacket was inspired by this gown from LACMA. The court gown was based on this gown in style and this gown in color scheme. Square hooped court gowns like this one were the most formal of a ladies wardrobe and, like court gowns generally seem too, stayed in style even after square hoops were disappearing else where.

Moving to the right, we have a dress based on this gown from the MFA in Boston and a round gown from the Met. Round gowns were the least formal of all these gowns.


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Most of my color choices here came from the source gowns above. My favorite of the gowns, the caraco jacket with petticoat on the upper-left was the most painful to color. Those detailed floral patterns get my every time, but I just love the way they look. There is something about 18th century sprawling viney florals that I can’t get enough of. Even in my own house, I have an apron in that style of pattern that I wear while baking and simply adore.


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I should say, I think, word about her hat. There are small dotted lines along the outside edges of the ribbon and you will need to clip those if she is going to wear her hat, as well as cut out the white area. That is best done with a sharp blade, like an exacto knife. I don’t usually use an exacto knife in my paper doll cutting (I am clumsy with those things), but for some things it really is the most effective option.

If you’ve missed any parts of the 18th Century Pixie Series, they all can be found here.

Polinanise and Stomachers: 18th Century Gowns for Paper Dolls

logo-18th-cent-2In my first page of gowns for my 18th century paper doll series, I talked a lot about different styles of gowns. I did not, however, talk about stomachers. So, a stomacher was a triangular shaped piece of cloth that was pinned or sewn in place to fill in the bodice of gowns. Most gowns had either an actual separate stomacher or something that looked like a stomacher. In today’s collection of gowns, they all have stomachers, except the polianse gown which is front fastening.

On the left side, the first gown is a polinase style based on this gown at the V&A. The lower gown was my rather poor attempt at capturing looped silk fringe which was very much in style in the 18th century. I believe this was the gown I started from, but I’m not totally pleased with the resulting outcome.

The first gown on the right was my attempt at the caraco jacket sort of garment with a stomacher. This example from the Met is a similar style. The gown on the bottom-right is based on this gown where the stomacher extends below the closure of the coat like bodice.

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When it came time to color these gowns, I knew I was going to color the polinase gown the same way as the source gown which made things quite simple. The gown below it was inspired by the green in the stripes of the original. I chose brown for the top right gown to match the more casual nature of the caraco jacket style. While the bottom right gown is based a vibrantly colored gown, I chose a white and pastel gown from the 1770s as my color inspiration.

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The two different sized caps on the page are needed to accommodate the difference in hairstyles between Joy and Faith. There will be a third Pixie doll for this series, but she won’t be up for a while. After this there is another page of gowns, I think. I have four pages of gowns and three pages of dolls, so you can see there’s a little bit of a challenge as far as going doll, gowns, doll…

If you’ve missed any of this collection, here’s the 18th century Pixie series thus far.

Joy: An 18th Century Historical Paper Doll Set

logo-joy-1700sToday’s 18th century paper dolls is my second of three. Joy, all of these paper dolls will have virtue names, is from between the 1760s though 1780s. She has underwear and a gown in the polonaise style. Poloniase gowns had a skirt that is raised up and bunched over the petticoat. Usually a gown could be worn either with the skirt looped up in the polonaise or with the skirt down- offering some versatility to the 18th century silhouette. The polonaise gown sticks around into the 19th century and is sometimes mistaken for a bustle.

Joy’s gown was based on this pink silk gown circa 1770-1780 housed at the LACMA. Her shoes are based on this fashion plate from 1778. Her undergarments are based off a set held by the V&A museum dated to 1778.

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As with the rest of this series, I based her color scheme off my 18th century color pallet which I introduced in the first part of this series. After seeing this gown from MFA in Boston I knew I wanted to do something in a rich red color. Despite myself, I tend to think of the 18th century as being muted in colors, but nothing could be further from the truth.

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It has been so much fun to share this paper doll series over the last few weeks. We have four more pages with one more doll and three more sets of gowns. The whole collection, so far, can be seen here.

Since we’re talking the 18th century, I thought I would call attention to a cool project I discovered this week. The University of Michigan has begun to translate and make available online the Encyclopédie edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert in the 18th century. The section of primary interest to those of us obsessed with dress is the plates on the Tailor of Suits and Bodices, but I’ve used the Encyclopédie to show students furniture manufacture and paper making circa 1790. I love this book and can get lost in it for hours.

18th Century Gowns: Round-Gown, Brunswick, and Sack-Back Gown

logo-18th-centToday, we have out first set of 18th century gowns for the paper dolls, including a round gown, a brunswick and a robe à la française.

Until the introduction of high-waisted dresses at the very end of the 18th century, most women’s garments consisted of a skirt or petticoat and a bodice. In garments like round gowns, less formal and/or worn by the middle classes, the bodice would fasten in the front and there would be a separate skirt. The far left paper doll costume is a round-gown, based on this round gown from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Sometimes, the bodice would come down partly over the skirt creating a jacket like affect. These mid-thigh length bodices were called caraco jackets. Here, for example, is an extant caraco jacket from the LACMA. Later in this series, there will be caraco jackets, but our middle gown is not a caraco jacket, but rather a brunswick. Brunswicks were traveling garments, often hooded, that had long sleeves. Though relatively practical, they were made of fine fabrics like silk- which makes one wonder about the whole “traveling” thing. Anyway, you often see Brunswick’s in art, but the V&A has a rare extant version which would have had removable sleeves. I based my Brunswick’s on two portraits- Lady Mary Fox and Alexander Roslin’s Portrait of the Girl Holding a Spaniel.

If the bodice and skirt were attached to each other in the 18th century, the skirt would be open in the front to reveal the petticoat underneath. This style of gown was called a robe à l’anglaise, closed bodied gown or an English gown if the pleats in the back of the bodice were stitched down. However, if the pleats were allowed to fall open and loose than the gown became sack-back gown or robe à la française. In modern times, this gown has been called a Watteau back or Watteau gown, after a painter who painted a lot of this style. The dress to the far right of today’s paper doll set is a sack-back gown, but I think the style is easier to see through extant examples like this robe à l’anglaise and robe à la française, both from the Met’s collection.

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Along with the gowns, today’s set includes a pair of slippers with overshoes based on this set from the Powerhouse Museum Collection. Over shoes were worn to protect the shoe from mud and muck, though I wonder how much protection a brocade and leather pair could have granted. I’ve also included several different styles of hats. My goal with the hats in this paper doll series is less to match specific dresses, but rather to provide enough variety for there to be plenty of choices. Women did not always wear their hair covered, but usually did.

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My color choices for these gowns were taken from my 18th century color pallet which I showed off in last week’s paper doll post. I chose pale blue for the round gown, since the source gown is blue striped, bright yellow for the brunswick, and a rich teal-blue color for my first robe à la française. That is certainly the most formal of the gowns from today’s set. The shoes were done in a neutral light brown color to go with any of the dresses.

In case you missed part one of this series, here is the entire collection so far. Next week, we will have our second paper doll- Joy.