Traveling for ladies in the 18thc - whether a week-long journey by stage or sloop, or a quick call ten minutes away in a private chaise - was not easy in Great Britain, and even more difficult in the American colonies. Even the most luxurious carriage would have been without heat, and a journey in the winter would often have been made in an open sleigh across the snow. Special clothing was required: stylish, yet also practical. Some ladies wore riding habits of a sturdy wool, while others chose a silk petticoat (skirt) and hooded jacket like this one called a Brunswick.
Characters in my recent historical novels have worn their Brunswicks: Eliza Schuyler Hamilton in I, Eliza Hamilton and Theodosia Prevost Burr in The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr. Both were women of the elite classes who could afford an outfit exclusively made for traveling. More ordinary women - like Theodosia’s servant Mary Emmons - would simply have worn their everyday woolen cloak over an extra shawl or two.
The Brunswick jacket and petticoat were usually made of matching fabric, and often decorated with pleated or ruffled trim. The flounces at the elbows mimicked fashionable gowns with their elbow-length sleeves, but here an additional inner sleeve continued to the wrist for warmth. The hood could have been pulled up, or folded back over the shoulders, and beginning in the 1770s, the hood would have been cut more amply to accommodate the taller hairstyles of the day. The young woman with her dog, right, wears an elaborate Brunswick of pale lavender silk; all those ruffles must have rustled most beguilingly as she walked.
As this video showed, then, as now, the secret to keeping warm would have been layering. A thick extra petticoat or two and heavier stockings, gloves, a cloak, and a muff could also have been worn, and on especially cold days a lady could have tucked a footwarmer containing hot coals beneath her feet.
This is the latest “Getting Dressed” video by CrowsEyeProductions; some of you might recall earlier videos in the series from my old Two Nerdy History Girls blog. Many thanks to Pauline Loven for sharing this new video with me so I could in turn share it with you!
Right: Detail, Portrait of a Young Girl Holding a Spaniel by Alexander Roslin, c1765, private collection.
My next historical novel, The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr, will be published by Kensington Books on September 24, 2019. Pre-order now here.