The formal gowns of the years before the French Revolution evidenced a level of prodigal luxury unparalleled before or since. Beneath their intricate and powdered coiffures, fashionable women were fantastic spectacles of silk and color glittering in the candlelight. It can be very difficult to spontaneously describe such outfits in a manner that does justice to their decadently extravagant beauty. Using the following tables (especially in conjunction with “Random Generation of Late Eighteenth Century Hairstyles” and “Random Scents for 18th Century Aristocrats”) lets the Presenter extemporaneously evoke the delirious sensory overload of a noblewoman’s presence.
The kind of gown created by these tables is one an aristocratic lady might wear to the opera, a ball, or a formal dinner party. However, even the haughtiest lady wouldn’t spend all day in a gown of figured silk trimmed with gold embroidery, fur, and tassels! There was a definite distinction made between the simpler morning dress and evening wear, and wealthy women would have a second toilette when they would change into their more formal evening outfits.
Naturally, Ghastly Affair Players can also use these table to design the gowns their characters will wear to the next event in High Society. Since cross-dressing (en travesti) was common at the frequent masquerade balls of the Ghastly Age, even players of male characters might find the tables useful. If random results create a monstrosity of clashing colors and designs, roll again – or keep the results to demonstrate the bad taste of a character who ought to know better!
Tables for extemporaneously detailing gentlemen’s outfits, as well as the shoes, fans, and jewelry of aristocratic ladies, will appear in the future “Ghastly Companion to High Society”.
Layers of Dress Worn by Late 18th Century Ladies
Stockings – Shaving one’s legs was a chancy endeavor at the time, so 18th century women always wore opaque stockings that were held up by garters just above the knee.
Shoes – The shoes worn by aristocratic women had heels about 2 or 3 inches high, pointed toes, and were made of leather, wood, and expensive fabrics. They would often be as richly ornamented as a formal gown.
Chemise – A simple dress of white linen worn next to the skin. The cleanliness of the chemise was of paramount importance.
Stays – A conical corset stiffened with whalebone, designed to give shape to the dress. 18th century stays squeeze the breasts upward, and force the back into an upright posture. They might lace in the front or back, and generally have shoulder straps. Stays were worn over the chemise. Stays do not have metal eyelets, and cannot be drawn as tight as Victorian-era corsets.
Panniers (only required at court, and on the most formal occasions) – A framework that extends the skirt up to 3 feet outwards on each side, but not in the front or back. Panniers were generally constructed to collapse upwards when required. Even when panniers aren’t worn, fabric rolls and pads might be worn to make the skirt extend out further.
Petticoat – More than one petticoat may be worn under the skirt for warmth, and to give fullness to the skirt above. It is a common for the skirt of the gown to open in the front to show the front of a decorative petticoat.
Pockets – A pair of pouches attached to a cord or ribbon tied around the waist.
Engageantes – Circles of lace worn underneath the sleeves, making ruffles that project past the cuffs.
Gown – Composed of bodice and skirt. They may be a single piece, or separate. The skirt will usually have a pair of slits in it that give access to the pockets worn underneath. Skirts are often gathered up into swags and flounces, à la Polonaise.
Fichu – A kind of triangular shawl, often made of lace, which wraps around the neck and shoulders. A fichu covers the decolletage, and can be worn for modesty or warmth.
Gloves – Women always wear gloves in formal situations. Women’s gloves in the period before the French Revolution usually extend to about mid-forearm. And of course, no woman of quality would venture out without her hand fan and jewelry!
Because it was considered indecent to show the full arm (or armpit), outfits were never sleeveless. Revealing the breasts, however, was considered merely naughty. Fashionable dresses often featured necklines low enough to be considered very daring (or even unacceptable) today. Showing one’s legs, however was seriously suggestive and scandalous. Drawers did not exist yet, which is why the gowns needed to be long. Anything like modern panties would have been considered both unfeminine and unhygienic. Even when drawers begin to be worn in the early 19th century, they were open at the crotch. The young man gazing upward in Fragonard’s famous“Les Hasards heureux de l’escarpolette” is thus being treated to a view of much more than the lady’s underwear.
Table 1: Gown Style (d20)
1 – 2 | Robe à la Francaise. The bodice is close in the front, but loose and sack-like in the back.
3 – 4| Robe à la Francaise, with the skirt opening in front to show the petticoat.
5 – 6 | Robe à l’Anglaise. The bodice is closely fitted all around.
7 – 10 | Robe à l’Anglaise, with the skirt opening to show the front of the petticoat.
11 – 14 | Robe à la Polonaise. Closely-fitted bodice, with the skirt gathered into voluminous swags and flounces.
15 – 16 | Robe à la Polonaise, with the skirt opening in front to show the petticoat.
17 | Robe à la Turque: A trailing, robe-like gown open in front. The petticoat is visible.
18 | Robe à la Circassian: A robe-like gown open in front, lacking a train, and with a visible petticoat.
19 – 20 | Chemise à la Reine (Queen’s style chemise): A gown comprised of layers of muslin (usually white), resembling the chemise otherwise worn as underwear. Popularized by Queen Marie-Antoinette. [Roll again if before 1783]
Dresses for court will be worn with wide panniers. Panniers may also be worn for formal dinners, and attending the opera or theater.
Table 2: Gown Fabric (d20)
1 | Brocaded Silk (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
2 | Camlet (fabric of mixed silk, wool and cotton) (Solid Color). [Roll on Table 4]
3 | Chiné Silk (with a faintly visible pattern printed on the threads of the warp) [Roll on Table 5]
4 | Cotton (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
5 | Cotton Chintz (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
6 | Damask (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
7 | Figured Silk (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
8 | Linen (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
9 | Linen (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
10 | Shot Silk (Two solid colors that show from different angles) [Roll twice on Table 4]
11 | Silk Crêpe (Solid Color, with a textured surface) [Roll on Table 4]
12 – 13 | Silk Satin (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
14 – 15 | Silk Taffeta (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
16 | Quilted Silk Satin (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
17 | Velvet (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
18 | Velvet (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
19 | Watered Silk (Single Color, but with a rippling, wavy pattern) [Roll on Table 4]
20 | Worsted Wool (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
Muslin is used for underwear and the Chemise à la Reine. Simple, high-waisted dresses of muslin become fashionable after 1794. Linsey-woolsey is too rough to be used for fine dresses and gowns.
Table 3: Petticoat Fabric (if visible) (d20)
1 – 2 | Calamanco (Glossy woolen cloth) (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
3 | Chiné Silk (with a faintly visible pattern printed on the threads of the warp)
4 – 5 | Cotton (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
6 – 7 | Cotton Chintz (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
8 | Figured Silk (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
9 | Linen (Patterned) [Roll on Table 5]
10 | Linen (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
11 – 12 | Quilted Calamanco (Glossy woolen cloth) (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
13 – 15 | Quilted Silk Satin (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
16 | Silk Crêpe (Solid Color, with a textured surface) [Roll on Table 4]
17 – 18 | Silk Satin (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
19 | Silk Taffeta (Solid Color) [Roll on Table 4]
20 | Watered Silk (Single Color, but with a rippling, wavy pattern) [Roll on Table 4]
Table 4: Solid Colors for Fabrics (d20)
1 | Blue
2 | Blue-Green
3 | Cream
4 | Deep Indigo Blue
5 | Forest Green
6 | Gray
7 | Gray-violet
8 | Lavender
9 | Pale Blue
10 | Pale Blue-Green
11 | Pale Green
12 | Peach
13 | Pink
14 | Puce
15 | Purple (very expensive)
16 | Red-Orange
17 | Scarlet
18 | Tan
19 | White
20 | Yellow
Black is usually only worn for mourning.
Table 5: Patterned Fabrics (d100)
1 | Blue, with a white floral pattern.
2 | Blue, with white vertical stripes, and rosettes of pink flowers
3 | Blue, with red-orange poppies
4 | Blue, with tan and yellow fruits and flowers.
5 | Blue-Green, with small silver roses widely dispersed.
6 | Blue-Green, with a silver floral pattern
7 | Blue-Green, with a comprehensive floral design in a paler blue-green.
8 | Cream, with curving vines of orange and green from which spring white and blue flowers.
9 | Cream, with red and blue flowers
10 | Cream, with vertical stripes of blue, and red roses interspersed
11 | Cream, with vertical stripes of brown, and dashed lines of red, orange, and white.
12 | Cream, with vertical stripes of orange, from which project green foliage that shades to brown
13 | Cream, with small, widely interspersed red roses.
14 | Cream, with undulating bands of blue.
15 | Deep indigo blue, with cream foliage.
16 | Deep indigo blue, with a covering silver floral pattern
17 | Deep indigo blue, with curving floral bands of ivory enclosing red-orange flowers.
18 | Deep indigo blue, with a comprehensive arabesque design of paler blue.
19 | Forest green, with saw-toothed stripes of cream and gold undulating vertically.
20 | Forest green, with a comprehensive cream floral design.
21 | Forest green, with white roses and pale green leaves in a regular pattern.
22 | Forest green, with a comprehensive floral design in pale green.
23 | Gray, with a silver floral design.
24 | Gray, with large, polychromatic flowers and foliage.
25 | Gray, with a Chinoiserie pattern of pagodas and palm trees in gold.
26 | Gray-violet, with an arabesque floral pattern of silver.
27 | Gray-violet, with a comprehensive arabesque design in white.
28 | Gray-violet, with white vertical stripes, and small rosettes of silver.
29 | Gray-violet, with roses of the palest pink.
30 | Lavender, with an arabesque floral pattern of silver.
31 | Lavender, with vertical stripes of purple and white, and small rosettes of pale blue.
32 | Lavender, with small, dove gray flowers widely dispersed.
33 | Lavender, with a comprehensive arabesque design of white.
34 | Pale Blue, with white and orange flowers, and green foliage.
35 | Pale Blue, with gold and silver flowers interspersed with silver rosettes.
36 | Pale Blue, with a comprehensive, Indienne design of yellow leaves and deep blue flowers.
37 | Pale Blue, with red-orange roses.
38 | Pale Blue-Green, with vertical stripes of cream and red, and white roses between the stripes.
39 | Pale Blue-Green, with a white pattern of stylized sea shells.
40 | Pale Blue-Green, with small, widely dispersed silver flowers.
41 | Pale Blue-Green, with a comprehensive, arabesque design in white.
42 | Pale Green, with undulating vertical bands of white foliage.
43 | Pale Green, with a comprehensive floral design in cream.
44 | Pale Green, with Chinoiserie palm trees in tan.
45 | Pale puce, with thick bands of darker puce foliage creating a pattern of repeating lozenges. In the lozenges are depicted trees, deer, and small cottages.
46 | Peach, with vertical stripes of gold and cream.
47 | Pink, with wide vertical stripes of white, and thin vertical lines of green-blue.
48 | Pink, with thin white vertical stripes, and small flowers of red and blue with green foliage
49 | Pink, with a Chinoiserie floral pattern in gold.
50 | Pink, with curving green foliage from which spring large flowers of red and blue.
51 | Pink, with a comprehensive arabesque pattern in gold.
52 | Puce, with a pattern of white and yellow flowers.
53 | Puce, with thin vertical stripes of white.
54 | Puce, with pale pink flowers.
55 | Puce, with a comprehensive arabesque design in white.
56 | Purple, with red and blue flowers.
57 | Purple, with wide horizontal stripes of yellow.
58 | Purple, with a lavender and gold floral design.
59 | Red-orange, with white and blue flowers.
60 | Red-orange, with a polychrome, Indienne design of stylized flowers.
61 | Red-orange, with a comprehensive arabesque design.
62 | Red, with thin vertical stripes of cream.
63 | Red, with white roses and foliage.
64 | Red, with a polychrome Indienne design of stylized flowers.
65 | Scarlet, cream, and white tartan.
66 | Scarlet, with a Chinoiserie design of pagodas and palm trees in cream.
67 | Tan, with a polychrome Indienne design of peacocks and foliage.
68 | Tan, with flowers and small diamonds of gray.
69 | Tan, with blue, pink and yellow flowers, and green foliage.
70 | Tan, with an arabesque design in cream.
71 | Tan, with an indigo blue floral design.
72 | Vertical stripes of pale blue and cream, with vertical garlands of white flowers.
73 | Vertical stripes of white and palest gray, with a pale floral pattern over all.
74 | Vertical stripes of white and purple.
75 | Vertical stripes of white, purple, and blue.
76 | Vertical stripes of red, blue, and gold.
77 | Vertical stripes of puce and white.
78 | Vertical stripes of pink and white.
79 | Vertical stripes of green and cream.
80 | Vertical stripes of indigo blue and white.
81 | Vertical stripes of scarlet and cream.
82 | Vertical stripes of pink and pale blue.
83 | White with black vertical stripes, accented by occasional sprigs of green foliage and pink flowers.
84 | White, with crossing vines forming a pattern of repeating diamonds, and a small purple flower in the middle of each lozenge.
85 | White, with a repeating pattern of thistles, linked by pale green foliage forming lozenge patterns. In the center of each lozenge is a blue thistle.
86 | White, with occasional red roses
87 | White, with pink roses.
88 | White, with small leaf-like spots of red.
89 | White, with thin brown vines.
90 | White, with a Chinoiserie design of pagodas, flowers, pomegranates, and roosters
91 | White, with an Indienne design of flowers and floral shapes in red and blue.
92 | White, with a silver floral design
93 | White, with a gold arabesque floral design.
94 | Wide vertical stripes of white and red, with a green vine in the middle of each white stripe , and ermine-like spots of white accenting the red.
95 | White, with chevrons of pale purple and blue.
96 | White, with stylized pastoral scenes rendered in blue.
97 | Yellow, with a white arabesque floral design.
98 | Yellow, with a Chinoiserie design of pagodas and phoenixes.
99 | Yellow, with a gold and white arabesque pattern
100 | Yellow, with pale blue and pink flowers.
“Indienne” refers to pattern inspired by East Indian textiles. “Chinoiserie” indicates designs suggestive of Chinese art.
Table 6: Bodice Neckline (d20)
1 | High (completely covers breasts).
2 | High, and wearing a fichu.
3 – 5 | Moderate (halfway down breasts)
6 – 11 | Moderate, and wearing a fichu.
12– 13 | Low (to just above nipples).
14 – 15 | Low, and wearing a fichu
16– 17 | Extremely Low (upper half of nipples exposed).
18 – 19 | Extremely Low, and wearing a lace fichu.
20 | Low, and the dress is deliberately constructed so the wearer’s breasts will occasionally fall out in a way that seems accidental. Anybody wearing such a dress will not spoil the effect with a fichu.
Table 7: Sleeves (d12)
1 | Straight along the arm to the wrist.
2 | Strait to the elbow.
3 | Strait to the elbow, then flaring to a bell.
4 | Straight, with bows at the elbow.
5 | Strait to the elbow, then flaring to a bell accented with bows.
6 | Double puffed to the elbow, with the cuff accented by bows.
7 | Double puffed, flaring to a bell at the elbow.
8 | Double puffed on upper arm, then straight along the forearm to the wrist.
9 | Triple puffed on the upper arm, with the cuff at the elbow.
10 | Triple puffed on the upper arm, flaring to a bell at the elbow.
11 | Flounces of lace, with a cuff at the elbow.
12 | Flounces of lace ending in a flaring bell at the elbow
Engageantes will almost always be worn to create ruffles of lace that project past the actual cuffs of the dress.
Table 8: Fancy Decorations and Passamentarie (d100, 1d8 times)
1 – 8 | A large bow at the neckline of the bodice. [Roll on Table 4 or 5]
9 – 10 | A large bow in front, with numerous small bows about the skirt. [Roll on Table 4 or 5]
11 – 12 | A large bow with hanging ribbons in back of the bodice, where it meets the skirt. [Roll on Table 4 or 5]
13 – 14 | A line of small bows down the front of the bodice.
15 – 16 | A single large bow in front of the skirt. [Roll on Table 4 or 5]
17 – 19 | A wide horizontal ruffle of a contrasting fabric across the front of the skirt.
20 | Beaver fur edging on skirt and bodice.
21 – 21 | Braided gold edging on the skirt and bodice.
23 – 22 | Colored gems sewn into the skirt and bodice.
25 – 26 | Edged of braided cord on skirt and bodice. [Roll on Table 4]
27 – 28 | Edged with puffed swags of the dress’s fabric.
29 – 30 | Edged with braided silver cord on skirt and bodice. [Roll on Table 4]
31 – 32 | Edged with ornamentally knotted cording on the skirt and bodice. [Roll on Table 4]
33 – 34 | Edged with pearls on the skirt and bodice.
35 – 37 | Embroidered trim on skirt and bodice. [Roll on Table 4]
38 | Ermine fur edging on skirt and bodice.
39 – 40 | Foliage and vines of green silk on the skirt.
41 – 42 | Gold embroidery on bodice.
43 – 44 | Gold embroidery on bodice, accented with pearls.
45 – 46 | Gold embroidery on bodice and skirt.
47 | Gray fox fur edging on skirt and bodice.
49 – 50 | Hem of the skirt has a scalloped edge.
50 – 56 | Lacing of wide silk ribbons on the bodice. [Roll on Table 4]
57 – 58 | Large buttons down the front of the bodice.
59 – 60 | Long, ruffled lace edging on the bodice and skirt.
61 – 62 | Mink edging on skirt and bodice.
63 – 65 | Numerous small bows in a line down the front of the skirt [Roll on Table 4 or 5]
66 – 68 | Pearls sewn at intervals on the skirt.
69– 70 | Pearls sewn at intervals onto the bodice.
71 – 73 | Pearls wrapped around the sleeves.
74 – 75 | Quilted puffs like scallop shells, arranged in two wavy vertical lines.
76 – 77 | Ruffled ribbons sewn in undulating lines around skirt.
78 | Sable fur edging on skirt and bodice.
79 – 80 | Sash of a contrasting color around waist. [Roll on Table 4].
81 – 8 | Short, ruffled lace edging on the bodice and skirt.
83 – 84 | Silk roses down the front of the skirt.
85 – 86 | Silver embroidery on bodice.
87 – 88 | Silver embroidery on bodice, accented with pearls.
89 – 90 | Silver embroidery on bodice and skirt, accented with pearls.
91 – 92 | Small silk flowers on the skirt.
93 – 94 | Swags of a contrasting fabric bound at intervals with pearls. [Roll on Table 4 or 5]
95 – 96 | Tassels hanging from bows on the skirt. [Roll on Table 4]
97 – 99 | Tassels hanging from pearl clusters on the skirt. [Roll on Table 4]
100 | Undulating lines of cording like vines, with hanging bells of lace on the skirt.