18th Century Linen Clothing

Linen was commonly used for shirts, shifts, functional aprons, and the linings of many other garments (including waistcoats and gowns). Linen is also used as the ground for some embroidered garments and accessories, such as women’s pockets. Several women’s waistcoats are made of quilted and/or embroidered linen, too.

Some people recommend linen for re-enactment clothing (especially for outdoor events in hot weather), but others note the relative lack of garments specifically described as being made of linen or the lack of extant garments. See the Additional Resources on this page for some discussion and analysis of descriptions of linen clothing.

This page collects links to extant linen garments from the 18th century.

White linen clothing

Etienne Loys’ 1753 portrait of Guillaume Barcellon with a tennis racket probably shows a white linen waistcoat similar to the examples below.

  • MFA 43.672 and 43.673, white linen quilted and corded petticoats, one with a floral design, the other with a Chinoiserie-inspired design, England, early 18th century
  • National Trust 1349000, a white linen waistcoat decorated with corded quilting; retains one Dorset wheel button; 1720-1740
  • HD F.075, a white linen waistcoat that has been quilted to shape with corded designs, probably English, 1725-1750
  • National Trust 1366510.1 and 1366510.2, waistcoat fronts with floral motifs in drawn thread work, some areas with trapunto, 1730-1770
  • KM 2463, a quilted white linen shortgown from the 1740s from Sweden
  • National Trust 1349001, a sleeved waistcoat trimmed with whitework down the front and on the hems, possibly German or Scandinavian, 1740-1750
  • Augusta Auctions Nov 11 2015 Lot 239, knee breeches in white pinstripe linen, American, 1760-1770
  • National Trust 1350470, a child’s cream linen gown with the bodice and sleeves lined in heavier linen; neck and sleeves edged with narrow lace; 1770
  • Connecticut Historical Society 2001.49.6, a small boy’s waistcoat in white plain-woven linen with Dorset buttons, 1770s
  • Linen short gown, late 18th century, America
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum 1932.51.o, a cord-quilted linen pet en l'air worn by Mary McDowall of Johnstone Castle in Scotland, made c. 1780-1781
  • Connecticut Historical Society 1841.5.0, white linen waistcoat worn by Col. William Ledyard when he was killed in 1781; the linen is woven in alternating reversing twilled stripes, the buttons are linen-covered wood. Matching breeches are CHS 1962.43.7
  • Colonial Williamsburg 2008-113, a man’s double-breasted waistcoat in white linen with thread-covered white buttons, made in England c. 1780-1800
  • Henry Ford 35.596.22, a waistcoat, c. 1780-1840
  • Henry Ford, a jacket, c. 1800

Text references to white linen clothing (other than shirts, shifts, aprons, etc.)

White linen clothing with embroidered designs

Additional Resources

Of the Callico-Printer, The London Tradesman (1747)

White linen clothing with printed patterns

  • National Trust 814614.11, a doll’s gown in linen block printed in red with leaf, bird foot, and triple-dot design, 1740-1760
  • Historic New England 1998.5875, dress with blue copperplate printed floral pattern on cream ground, worn by Deborah Sampson, 1760-1790
  • KCI AC7621 92-34-2AB, robe à la française in white glazed plain-weave linen with a blue floral print, France, 1770s
  • Met 26.265.48, a quilted petticoat in linen with two different printed designs, France, late 18th century
  • Centraal Museum 14571, a jacket for an infant in printed linen, c. 1775
  • V&A T.230-1927, a gown in block-printed linen, England, 1780s

Buff or natural linen (probably undyed and unbleached) linen clothing

Solid-colored dyed linen clothing in colors other than white

Text references to linen clothing in colors other than white

Striped or checked linen clothing

Text references to striped linen clothing (other than shirts or aprons)