18th Century Women’s Jackets

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

  • The Sewing School by Giacomo Ceruti, 1720s
  • Met 24.31.1, silk lined in linen, France, c. 1725-1730
  • Meg Andrews 8056, Jean Revel silver brocade jacket, 1730s
  • 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
  • V&A T.331-1985, a Brunswick, watered silk lined with silk and trimmed with silk braid, France, 1765-1775
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1962-259, block-printed cotton, France, c. 1775-1785
  • Cuisiniere nouvellement arrivée de Province (MFA 44.1308), 1778
  • Jeune Gouvernante (MFA 44.1479), 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
  • 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.

Caraco

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.)

  • Stockholms Auktionsverk Auktionsnummer 1067, brocaded silk lined with linen, Sweden, second half of the 18th century
  • Met 2000.251, printed (?) cotton, Netherlands, second half of the 18th century
  • 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
  • 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.”
  • From Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français:
    Jolie Femme en deshabillé galant (MFA 44.2183) (1778)
    Demoiselle habillée en Caracot (MFA 44.2198) (1778)
    Demoiselle en caracot de taffetas (MFA 44.1338) (1778)
  • 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
  • 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”
  • 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.

Pierrot

Casaquin

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

Polonaise

Suzanne/Figaro