18th Century Women’s Jackets

Last updated: Jan 7, 2024

This page includes pet-en-l’air and caraco and pierrot jackets; jackets for riding habits are elsewhere. (These sections also feature links to artwork with women wearing these jackets, which is useful for understanding how and when these styles of jackets were worn.)

For less-fitted garments, see the shortgowns and bedgowns.

Miscellaneous jackets

  • National Trust 1348743, damasked and brocaded silk, c. 1700-1725
  • The Sewing School by Giacomo Ceruti, 1720s
  • National Trust 1348745, a jacket made c. 1720-1780 from a French or English damask woven in 1711
  • Met 24.31.1, silk lined in linen, France, c. 1725-1730
  • National Trust 1348757, silk brocade jacket c. 1736-1740
  • The Chocolate Girl by Jean-Étienne Liotard, c. 1744-1745
  • Jacket, 1740s-1750s
  • Arenbergkasteel, c. 1741-1760
  • Christie’s Lot 3334, Sale 4981, ensemble of yellow striped silk comprising round skirt and full skirted open-front jacket with integral waistcoat panels, the yellow silk woven with a pink-sprigged white stripe
  • V&A IS.12-1950, a chintz jacket lined with blue-and-white striped linen, c. 1750
  • MoMu MVT534, jacket made of blue cotton with design painted on (in India); the front parts are connected by three bands that close with hooks and eyes, 1750-1770
  • MoMu ST503, blue silk jacket lined in striped blue linen, Netherlands, 1750-1780
  • National Trust 1348744, made c. 1760-1790 from silk damask woven in the late 1750s
  • V&A T.331-1985, a Brunswick, watered silk lined with silk and trimmed with silk braid, France, 1765-1775
  • Met 2010.342, silk, British, 1770s
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1962-259, swallowtail jacket in block-printed cotton, France, c. 1775-1785
  • Cuisiniere nouvellement arrivée de Province, Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 1778
  • Jeune Gouvernante, Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 1780
  • Meg Andrews 8505, an herbier print caraco, 1780; “The white cotton ground hand block printed with six small flower sprays interspersed between smaller sprays, including roses, all in shades of pink, pale blue, green, mauve, bronze, black, the large scoop neck with a drawstring at the neck, three brass hooks and eyes to the front opening, short sleeves, the back with the skirt gathered into pleats central back and each side, lined with a coarse cotton.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 2000-86, a woman’s jacket made c. 1780 and altered c. 1800, block-printed cotton trimmed with silk binding and lined in linen, metal lacing rings at front
  • V&A T.219-1966, a swallowtail jacket in printed linen, France, 1780s
  • Meg Andrews 7143, brocade jacket, c. 1780-1790; compare to this painting
  • KCI AC9113 94-11-2 a redingote-inspired jacket of red and white striped silk with silver-colored buttons and a fold-back collar, France, c. 1790

Pleated-back jackets, including the Casaque and Pet-en-l’air

The English name for this type of jacket seems to have been the “short sacque” or “short sack”; the term “pet-en-l'air” seems to refer more to an outfit with this type of jacket with a petticoat, as described in A sentimental journey through France and Italy, by Mr. Yorick:

The Pet en l’ Air is once more a faſhionable dreſs among the Engliſh Ladies, and therefore requires no definition: its etymology will be ſet forth in this chapter.

Madame Pompadour riding thro’ le Cul de Sac de l’ Oratoire, the firſt day she wore this dreſs, (which was invented by her, and had not yet been chriſtened), in company with Mademoiſelle La Tour, one of her waiting-maids, or rather ſervile companions, by ſome accident gave vent to ſome confined air, according to Hudibras, the natural way. The ludicrouſneſs of the accident occaſioned her to burſt into a loud laugh, and exclaim, “That ſhall be the name of my new dreſs;” and from that time a ſhort ſack and petticoat were called a Pet en l’ Air.


Sue Felshin defines this style: “Woman’s jacket made of shaped panels, closely fitted in the upper body and flaring in the skirts, and often having no seaming at the waist.” (It also appears to be used as a generic term for a jacket, in many cases. “I realized that I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a caraco,” writes Cassidy Percoco; “I feel like I usually see it used for something that's between a jacket and a gown in length, but I'm not at all sure that that's how it was used in the late eighteenth century.”)

  • Met 2000.251, printed (?) cotton, Netherlands, second half of the 18th century
  • MoMu T12/14/B4, made in Friesland from Indian cotton chintz with a large multicolored floral design, lined in natural linen, closure with hooks and eyes, 1750-1800
  • Meg Andrews 7346, Dutch short gown or caraco, glazed linen with a deep purple print, 1770s
  • V&A T.229&A-1927, a caraco and petticoat in chintz, England, c. 1770-1780
  • Historic Deerfield 2020.17, a red figured silk caraco, probably British, c. 1775; “Probably first made in the middle of the 18th century, the garment (which may have started out as a full length gown when new) was updated perhaps two decades later, featuring the extreme pointed front and back edges at the hem, reinforced through baleen stays inserted between the fashion fabric and the lining.”
  • Met 2009.300.917a, b, a caraco and petticoat in striped silk, France, c. 1775
  • GM:7703, silk in dark and lighter blue stripes with floral pattern, lined with linen
  • Colonial Williamsburg 2006-42, a woman’s long jacket or gown with short skirt, green and salmon striped silk, c. 1775-1785; “Rounded neckline with center-front tied closure (replaced ties). Sleeves cupped over elbows with puffed self-fabric trim. Skirt has striped ribbon straps stitched to the interior, intended for hooking up in polonaise to thread eyelets stitched to the outer skirt. Bodice and sleeves lined with glazed plain-woven linen.”
  • National Trust 1348752, printed cotton caraco, c. 1775-1800
  • From Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 1778:
    Jolie Femme en deshabillé galant (1778)
    Demoiselle habillée en Caracot (1778)
    Demoiselle en caracot de taffetas (1778)
  • La Distraite … La femme de chambre en Caraco de Buras pâle (1778)
  • National Trust 1348739, striped silk caraco, c. 1780-1790
  • MoMu T12/1045AB/J137, caraco with matching petticoat in light-blue damask, closure with hooks and eyes, Netherlands, 1780-1800
  • Manchester 2003.171, c. 1780-1790; “Blue-grey silk caraco jacket, brocaded in small stylised floral sprigs on a honeycomb ground in silver, pale blue and fawn. Silk almost certainly French, and the whole garment probably a French import. Cut in a slightly oriental style with a high fitted bodice and a skirt with the fullness set to the back with 3 deep box pleats. Elbow length sleeves; low squared neck; fastening cf with 8 hooks and eyes; fully lined fawn coarse linen.”
  • Bijlokemuseum 167, silk, c. 1780-1790
  • National Trust 1348748, silk and wool brocade caraco c. 1780-1790
  • National Trust 1348751, glazed cotton caraco printed with floral design with a tartan-woven cotton lining, c. 1780-1790
  • National Trust 1348755, printed cotton caraco, Dutch, c. 1780-1800
  • Meg Andrews 6987, late 18th century; “discharge printed cotton with a stylish design of suns and ovals in ochre, beige, brown and white, the large square neck with stomacher type section to the front, the front shoulder area with seams, three central seams to the back radiating into the waist, pleats to back hip area, the three quarter sleeves with cuffs pleated at front and flaring out behind”
  • National Trust 1348750, block-printed cotton caraco, possibly Dutch, c. 1790-1800
  • National Trust 1348753, caraco in polished cotton roller-printed with a design of stripes and flowers, c. 1790-1800
  • National Trust 1348754, Dutch cotton chintz caraco, c. 1790-1800
  • MRAH, printed linen, c. 1791-1800

Around 1780, we start seeing particular styles of fashionable short jackets that are given specific names in the French fashion plates. The sections below attempt to identify jackets by those style-names.

Additional Resources

Dress diaries: fuchsias18thcdress, jennylafleur, katerina

Scroop Patterns Amalia jacket (paper or PDF)

Pattern from A History of Costume

Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute



Additional Resources

Discussions: What is a "real" polonaise; Is a Polonaise not a Polonaise?

Rocking Horse Farms 1780’s Style Jacket pattern, size Large, XL - XXL