In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Eighteenth Century

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During this period male dress also underwent change. A combination of the eighteenth century English taste for clothes suited to an active country life, fine quality English dark wool broadcloth, and skilled tailoring led to the rise of superior English tailored male dress. This supplanted heretofore dominant French male silk and velvet fashions, suitable only for languid court life. Modern male dress has its origins in the tailored wool of this period. Fancy silk embroidered vests, such as Samuel Freeman's circa 1775-1785 vest in the MHS collection, are the most commonly surviving items of mid-eighteenth-century male dress.

Robinson pitcher, ca. 1800
Robinson pitcher, ca. 1800
Maine Historical Society

By the end of the eighteenth century fashion was international. Social elite and economically advantaged people in every European country, and in America, all followed fashion and dressed in the same style. Even in such far flung places as Maine (then thinly inhabited), the financially comfortable genteel members of its small and scattered communities kept abreast of fashion. In anticipation of a social event during her visit to the small stylish town of Wiscasset in 1800, young Eliza Southgate wrote home urging her mother to “please send my spotted muslin.” And, as the book Agreeable Situations (Brick Store Museum, 1987) records, in about 1800, transfer printed depictions of Portland’s Hannah Robinson and her daughters wearing high waist dresses appeared on a large pitcher made for Robinson in Liverpool, England.