The number of Canadian women in and around Fort Carillon is unknown. A large portion of French army officers and soldiers married Canadian women, especially in the later years of the French and Indian War. Some Canadian workmen at Fort Carillon may well have brought wives or families to Fort Carillon. Specific references to their number at this front line military post are unclear. Travelers from Europe compared Canadiennes to the French women with whom the observers are familiar. Languedoc regiment Lieutenant, Jean-Baptiste d’Aleyrac described Canadian habits, and the appearance of Canadian women:
Contemporary images of Canadian women, as well as women in France, commonly showed thigh or hip-length jackets with large cuffs predominate among women’s fashions. Often the silhouette was softer than English fashions of the same era, suggesting that fully bones stays are not always worn.
La Chemise (Shift)
Best: Hand-stitched in white linen or cotton (or wool, less commonly) with full sleeves gathered into narrow cuffs at the elbows. Cuffs should close with sleeve buttons, or ties threaded through buttonholes. Neck opening should be large; with a gown or jacket on, the shift should only barely be visible around the neckline.
Acceptable: Machine-stitched in white linen or cotton with elbow length sleeves.
Unacceptable: Long sleeves, obvious machine sewing, gathered neckline, major neck or sleeve ruffles.
Le Corps à Baleine/ La Corset (Stays, Jumps/Waistcoat)
Best: Hand-sewn, boned corps de baleine (stays) with worsted or linen exterior fabric, the most common colors being dark green, blue, or white. Or, a partially boned corset (similar to English jumps or women’s waistcoat). Corps de baleine should create a proper mid-century silhouette, which is to say a smooth conical torso with long waist. French corps de baleine in this period typically have straps, and often lace over stomachers. The Corset will produce a softer silhouette often seen in French paintings of this period.
Acceptable: Machine-sewn stays or jumps which produce the correct silhouette.
Unacceptable: Neither stays nor jumps (unless documented to your impression).
Les Poches (Pockets)
Worn underneath the petticoats and accessible through the pocket slits, most period pockets are quite large, and are used to store all sorts of women’s personal items. Some pockets were beautifully embroidered, but most of the time pockets will not show. Pockets should be worn beneath another layer of clothing.
Upper body garment : Le Mantelet, La Manteau de Lit
Best: Fitted jacket, hand-sewn, hip- or thigh-length. Jackets come in a variety of styles and materials. They can close over a stomacher, or at center front. Often in the first half of the century they have relatively wide sleeves, and usually have pleated cuffs. Material can be linen, wool, or silk depending on season and class. Stripes are common in French portraiture. The looser manteau-de-lit or bedgown is also common. Middle-class French women are rarely shown in gowns. Pet-en-l’air style jackets are also worn. Upper-class women commonly wore stomacher-front closing robe à la françaiseor “sack-back” gowns in silk or fine wool. All fitted upper body garments should be worn over Corps de baleine or a Corset. Printed cotton textiles should be worn only if well documented well documented for the 1750’s.
Acceptable: hand-finished fitted jacket or bedgown.
Unacceptable: Sleeveless bodices, center-front closing gowns or caraco jackets (these are both only in style later in the century).
Le Fichu (Neck Handkerchief)
Best: White linen or cotton cut in a triangle, or a square folded into a triangle, large enough to be draped around the shoulders and cover the bosom. Also black silk, checked material, colored, or printed cotton fichus. Fichus can be pinned to the front of the jacket, or tucked into the front of the jacket or bibbed apron.
Acceptable: Any sort of fichu properly worn. The vast majority of images show everyday women wearing some sort of handkerchief covering.
Unacceptable: Fichus tucked into the sides of the gown neckline, exposing the bosom.
Les Jupes (Petticoats)
Best: Hand-sewn, striped or solid wool or linen petticoats. Length should be around mid-calf. Circumference should be 2.5 to 3 yards. Petticoats should be pleated to waistbands and have pocket slits at the sides. Hems should be very small (half inch or less). Alternately, the bottom edge can be bound with wool tape in a matching or contrasting color. Ideally, the outer petticoat would be supported with one or more under petticoats.
Acceptable: One or more hand-finished petticoats of the proper length.
Unacceptable: Modern skirts, petticoats without sufficient fullness. Petticoats shorter than mid-calf, or so long that they obscure the feet. Petticoats designs other than solid colors or stripes (exception: petticoat matches a gown).
Le Tablier (Apron)
Best: Hand-sewn white, blue, or black apron. Most aprons are linen, or wool for work. Some black silk aprons are known to have been worn. A large number of French portraits from this period show women in bibbed aprons, where the bib is pinned up over the jacket or gown. Aprons should be long enough to cover a majority of the petticoat, and approximately a yard in width.
Discouraged: Very short or very narrow aprons. Wildly colored aprons. Aprons longer than the petticoats they are worn with.
La Bonnet (Cap)
Best: Caps should be small, and close to the head, hand-sewn out of fine white linen or cotton organdy. Most cap styles have a gathered or pleated ruffle around the face. Some lappet cap styles may also be appropriate for French women. Caps may be trimmed with silk ribbon. Most commonly this means a ribbon over the band of the cap, often with a bow at center front. Cap should be worn so that a small amount of hair is visible around the face.
Acceptable: Hand-finished linen or cotton caps which sit close to the head.
Unacceptable: Mob caps (circular caps consisting of one piece of material gathered to create both caul and ruffle), caps worn down over the forehead. Large late-century style caps. No cap (unless portraying an upper class woman with styled hair).
Best: Mid-century hairstyles for women are very small compared to those worn at the end of the century. Dressed close to the head, pinned up under a cap. Dressing hair with pomade and minimal powder is encouraged.
Acceptable: Hair pulled back or pinned up on top of the head and covered with a cap.
Unacceptable: Hair worn in a bun at the back of the head. Hair down, or left completely undressed. Large hairstyles or 1770’s “high hair”.
Best: Because this is a winter event where we will spend much if not most of the time inside, a hat is not necessary, though a hooded cloak is recommended. Flat, shallow-crowned straw, felt, or fabric covered hat with a diameter no more than 18” minimally trimmed with ribbon. French women are also often depicted wearing coiffes. This is a loose hood-like garment made in lightweight white linen and cotton, or black silk, and tied loosely below the chin.
Unacceptable: Bonnets, hats with flowers, multi-colored ribbon, or large poufs as decoration. Hats folded down over the ears. Hats with rounded modern crowns. Men’s hats.
Les Bas (Stockings)
Best: White or grey wool yarn or worsted stockings seamed with back seams ending above the knee. Stockings should be held up with leather or cloth tape garters. Period images generally depict women’s garters tied above the knee. Woolen mittasse leggings and chausson (moccasin liners) worn with souliersde boeuf or winter moccasins (especially for metis or native impressions).
Acceptable: White, natural, or colored stockings of wool yarn, worsted, linen or cotton.
Unacceptable: Striped stockings, polyester stockings, athletic socks, modern tights. Though stockings with decorative “clocks” were occasionally worn in the period, few modern reproductions are accurate.
Les Souliers (Shoes)
Best: Handmade colorful, fabric covered, high-heeled shoes with buckles, souliers de boeuf or winter moccasins.
Acceptable: Reproduction black, brown or red leather heeled shoes with buckles or low-heeled shoes with buckles, mules.
Uacceptable: Modern shoes, bare feet are discouraged unless documented to a specific impression.
Cloaks (capes), mantles, and hoods are all seen in period imagery. Short (hip to knee length) red cloaks predominate. Canadiennes occasionally also wore capots (blanket coats). Fingerless mitts in wool, silk, or linen can be worn to keep forearms warm, as well as layers of wool and “flag silk” handkerchiefs, and additional layers of woolen or quilted clothing. Sewn fabric mittens and muffs can also be used to keep the hands warm.
Best: Jewelry will depend largely on your impression, but generally it is good to keep it to a minimum. Ribbons (especially black) worn tied around the neck with a cross or saint’s medal were common among French women.
Unacceptable: Obvious modern jewelry, including all non-earlobe piercings
Personal objects and carrying devices
Best: Pockets (hidden)
Acceptable: market wallet or period correct basket.
Unacceptable: Haversacks, modern baskets.