History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

19 August 2013

Clothing of the Working Class: A Female Street Vendor

One of the things we rarely talk about in historical romance circles is the clothing of the lower classes (unless they’re servants, then we talk about it a lot). There are two very interesting sources for studying what the lamp lighters, orange girls, fish wives, and mine workers would have been wearing. The first is W. H. Pyne’s Costume of Great Britain (1805). The second is George Walker’s Costume of Yorkshire (1814). The think I find interesting about both of these is that the people shown are predominantly wearing the clothing styles of the late 18th century. I’ll post a few this week and talk about them in detail.

Here you can see a street vendor from Pyne’s 1805 work. She’s wearing brogans (simple, unisex shoes), a somewhat short petticoat (typical of a lot of working class women), a blue apron (typical of butchers), what appears to be 18th century style stays (yes, these are quite commonly worn as an outer garment by women of this class), but might also be a bedjacket (the standard poor woman’s short gown), a short jacket (that might be woman’s Pierrot jacket from the 1780s-1790s or might be a more current repurposed man’s garment), a blue handkerchief covering her neck and bosom, and a striped one over a classic 18th century style black hat.

You can see two fashionable women in more current fashions strolling in the background.


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