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Plate 37 The Leech Finders 1814 (1966.82)
plate 47 welsh woman 1986.232
I63.jpg
doll 1922.101

When countrywomen were depicted in contemporary prints and illustrations, they were invariably wearing short jackets made of striped or checked cotton or linen, known as bedgowns or bedjackets. Plates from two different books are shown here, both published in 1814: the "welsh woman" in the main picture is from "Dresses and Manners of the English", and is washing her laundry in a stream wearing a checked cotton bedgown over her red wool skirt and with a yellow kerchief. In the first print below, from George Walker's "Costumes of Yorkshire", the group of leech finders working in a river are also wearing neckerchieves, caps, thick skirts and bedgowns fastened at the waist with aprons. In the satyrical caricature, "Farmer Giles' Establishment", the housewife serving Christmas dinner at table has her bedgown too.

The cotton sufficient to make a bedgown was not cheap, or indeed were ready-made gowns, even though they were not fashionable garments. For example, in 1779 Sarah Earnshaw, a household servant, earned only 1 shilling and 6 pence a week (7p) as a household servant, and she had to spend 2 shillings (10p) on purchasing enough cotton for a bedgown. However gowns were hardwearing, robust and easily washable, lasting for a number of years, which explains why they remained perennially popular.

Full item descriptions:

"Picturesque Representations of the Dress and Manners of the English" [1986.232], Murray, Mr John, W. Bulmer & Co.
"The Costume of Yorkshire" [1966.82], Walker, George
"doll (Yorkshire Dales Knitter)" [1922.101]

Related Themes:

18th Century Women's Fashion