Information, Suggestions, and Guidelines for Jacobite
Living History Participants



Includes Children's Clothing


In the mid 18th Century most women in Scotland wore what women in the lowlands, England and the rest of Western Europe were wearing.  Often the only difference in their dress was the occasional use of tartan for head scarfs, modesty cloths, or petticoats.
Women wore a simple white shift (also known by the names chemise or sark,) covered by striped, solid, (or less commonly) tartan or printed petticoats (skirts.)  Be very careful with prints as few are historically accurate.  Petticoats and aprons were not made with drawstring waists, they were fitted and sewn to a tape.  Women did not wear kilts/belted plaids.  Shifts did not have draw string necks and did not hang off the shoulders. Over her shift a women wore a set of stays or jumps/jupps covered by a sleeved garment like a day jacket, bed gown, casaquin, or short gown (depending upon class.)  A shift is also a nightgown and stays are a foundation garment, both are underwear.  In public a sleeved garment is necessary over underwear.  A modesty cloth, sometimes held closed by a broach, was often worn around the shoulders and over (or tucked in at) the bosom.  Aprons were commonly worn, also sewn to a tape.  Aprons sometimes pinned up to cover the front of the jacket or gown as well.  Pockets (flat cloth bags on a string) were tied around a women’s waist and worn under her petticoats or apron. Pockets are accessed through the slits in petticoats.
The so-called English or French “bodices” are ersatz stays.  Although often seen at some levels of living history events, the “bodice” is not an authentic garment as designed, nor was it worn in this time period.   Do not wear these in public.  A vaguely similar item might have been used by very old women or nursing mothers as lightly-boned stays, or was quilted and worn under the other clothes for warmth.  Even then it must be covered by a coat, jacket or gown in public.
Some classes of women wore sack gowns, mantuas or other full gowns.  A few women from western isles Clans (looked upon as Gaelic and behind the times) may still have wrapped their entire ensembles, head to toe, in a white tartan arisaid (an outer garment which could completely cover all other clothes.)
Appropriate head covering is needed for all but young, unmarried girls.  Many kinds of white linen (or cotton) caps and kertches were worn. Hats or shawls were worn over a cap.  Women did not wear men’s Highland bonnets.  Typical 18th Century women’s straw hats were not seen regularly on Highland women, and they did not wear their hair with bangs.  There was little time to fard, and make-up was rare outside certain classes or professions.
Shoes for Highland women were either leather or wooden, and usually worn with long stockings and garters.  Many women went barefoot in all but winter, or wore open gillies with or without socks.  Better quality shoes tied or had buckles.  Like with men, shoes varied greatly with class.  Many women only wore shoes in church, putting them on at the door.
Jewelry was not common to most Highland women.  Broaches were usually plain, round, and worn for function (clothing closure and attachment) not fashion.  Women did not wear decorative daggers protruding from their bosom.  Large numbers of necklaces, bracelets, and rings, were unknown.

The clothing of upper class women was of much better quality, more varied, and the form followed the function (riding habits to ride, bed gowns for your chambers, ball gowns for parties.)  Middle class women tried to keep up with style, poor women wore what was most easily made. Girls also wore clothing of a style appropriate to their social status.
Clothing was often an indicator of a woman’s place in society. Out of her own home or yard a woman kept her stays and shift (underwear) covered all the time.  If you are portraying a prostitute, slattern or hoyden, you might well dress for the part in uncovered stays.  Recognize that, by the standard of the day, you will be treated and addressed like the 18th Century woman that you portray.  Girls as young as 13 also worked in camp, and all of these guidelines apply to them as well.  Parents, please think about how your daughters dress and what message it sends about their avocation.  Women, like men, should be appropriately dressed when presented to His Royal Highness, or admitted to Royal functions.

 Small children, boys and girls, wore shifts and not small versions of adult clothes. [Think about the uncommonality of diapers, the lack of indoor plumbing, the amount of time spent outdoors, no safety pins, and the infrequency of doing laundry]. Many pictures show even the wealthiest boys and girls dressed in shifts and/or gowns.  Children were barefoot most of the time.  Older children wore clothing like their parents, often handed down and taken-in.  Small children often wore ‘puddin or “bump” caps like a stuffed cloth version of a real early football helmet. 

<- Previous section

Return to MacFarlanes Company home

Next section ->

Return to Jacobite Guidelines Index

Copyright 2001 MacFarlanes Company. Revised 3/2003.
Information on this page may be used by non-profit organizations for research and education purposes only, for all other use contact Elliot MacFarlane.
Last updated: 4/17/03
For more information on MacFarlanes Company, contact Elliot MacFarlane: