Historic Valley Forge

Women's Clothing

Q.What did the women wear during Valley Forge?
Linda, Los Angeles

A.We don't have much documentation of women's roles at Valley Forge, but proper clothing of any kind was in short supply. We do know what women in general would have worn in the 18th Century:

  • Stays: an undergarment worn around the waist and bustline
  • Caraco Jacket: was worn over stays (if the woman was wearing them!) and a dress. It would be like a coat and tails, only more feminine.
  • Cape: Could be of various designs...short, long, short with long wraps worn around the shoulders; hooded, non-hooded; lacy, dressy, serviceable...
  • Polonaise Dress: usually a scooped neckline with various lengthes of sleeves, often 3/4 length; long skirt with full hips worn over petticoats or form of hoop
  • French Bodice: like a shirt, often with a frill at the neckline or sleeves
  • Drawstring Skirt/Petticoat: worn one at a time or over another
  • Bedjacket: loose fitting, usually worn by working women — laundress, cook, etc., would be worn in place of an outer bodice or jacket.
  • English Bodice: Laces in front to close; long-style; sleeveless
  • Shortgown: loose fitting sleeved jacket
  • Apron: tie-around waist; bibbed; many different versions
  • Pockets: worn under the skirt (usually) that could be accessed through the skirt side openings
  • Chemise/Shift: worn night and day; it would be like a nitegown of today, only when the women woke up, they would usually just put on the rest of their clothing over top and then do the same thing over again the next day with the same chemise on. (bathing didn't happen as often as today)