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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1730-1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, hand-sewn

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Women’s underwear served two purposes in the 18th century. The first function, carried out by the shift or smock, was to protect the clothing from the body, in an age when daily bathing was not customary. Made of very fine linen, the shift was the first garment put on when dressing. Over the shift went the linen stays, heavily reinforced with strips of whalebone. Their purpose was to mould the torso to the fashionable shape and provide a rigid form on which the gown could be arranged and fastened. The hoops were also made of linen and stiffened with whalebone or cane. They shaped the petticoat of the gown to the appropriate silhouette. At various times in the 18th century this profile varied from round, to square and flat, to fan-shaped.

Physical description

Shift of fine linen, hand-sewn. With a low round neck and straight-cut sleeves set with a gore beneath. They are elbow-length, gathered and pleated into an arm-band with worked eyelet holes. The shift reaches to below the knees and is flared in the front, and with triangular gores inserted at each side of the back.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1730-1760 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, hand-sewn

Marks and inscriptions

'4 SH'
Worked in red cross stitch in the centre of the neck

Descriptive line

Shift of fine linen, England, 1730-1760


Women's clothes; Underwear; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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