18th Century Women’s Bedgowns and Manteaus-de-Lit

It is unclear what the difference between a “bed gown” and “short gown” actually is; while there seems to be some sort of distinction between the two, in terms of 18th century garment-names, the actual difference between the two is unclear. (I’ve posted information about shortgowns on a separate page.)

  • Winterthur 1969.4671, made in England or France, block-printed mordant-style cotton, c. 1715-1725; made from textiles printed in England c. 1720
  • MoL, 1731-1740; “Bedgown of ivory silk twill, lined with silk. The garment is quilted in ivory silk thread in an all over diamond pattern with a scroll pattern border. It is hip length and constructed of a simple t-shape open down at the centre front.”
  • Met C.I.37.2, a coat in a printed linen, America, third quarter of the 18th century
  • Manchester 1972.110, c. 1760-1780; “Bedgown of white plain-weave linen, printed in indigo using China blue block printing. A formal pattern of dots and trailing flowers. Two weaves of white/dark blue checked linen used, one for lining back, one for lining gown fronts. Short gore at each side of sideseam for fitting over skirt (hence female garment). fronts not meeting by 4cm. Shoulder line slashed for 7cm at each side neck. Short sleeve sections extended by long unshaped rectangular piece, and lining stopping short by 12cms, allowing for turning up of cuffs.”
  • National Maritime Museum ZBA4677, a bedgown belonging to Sophia Maskelyne

18th century depictions of women in bedgowns

Descriptions in runaway advertisements

These descriptions are useful for understanding how bed gowns would have looked; they are taken from descriptions of runaway slaves and indentured servants, published in newspaper advertisements.