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Casaquins & Caracos

Please Note: This information may change as the result of ongoing research.

Caracos and Casaquins
are two kinds of jackets worn first in the 18th century by the working class and later adopted by the upper class. From my reading, the difference between the two was determined by whether the pleats at the back were loose like the robe à la française [caraco] or stitched like the robe à l'anglaise [casaquin]. At different times during the 18th century the jacket was either thigh-length all around or short in the front with a basque at the back. Some believe the difference in the two jackets is the length, that the caraco is the thigh-length jacket and the casaquin is the shorter jacket. 

One of my favourite examples of a caraco gown is at the Victoria & Albert: a woman's jacket and matching petticoat of cotton fabric, resist- and mordant-dyed chintz. It's featured in Avril Hart and Susan Norths', 'Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th centuries', London, V&A, p.94 (detail and line drawing). 

Below is a late 17th century casaquin of Italian origin at the Kyoto Costume Institute. White cotton/linen with polychrome wool embroidery; floral motif; sabot sleeves; with peplum. Inv. AC9176 94-40-3AB

There is a caraco at the Met Museum that has caught my interest because it uses block printed fabric similar to that available from Heritage Trading on Ebay. Finding suitable printed fabric is not easy when reproducing this period - Heritage Trading use Indian Cotton, which seems lighter than this fabric.

of white cotton printed with a brown leaf meander, with charming kick-pleated skirts and elegantly shaped sleeves

Above: Pierrot

Patterns to use when reproducing caracos and casaquins can be found in books and from pattern sellers.
Books of use when researching this period:

Artwork References

William Hogarth: The Distressed Poet
1736 Barthelemi Hubner: La Pharmacie Rustique
1775 Jean-Etienne Liotard: The Chocolate Girl
1745 Henry Singleton: The Ale-House Door, c.1790

To view and make your own casaquin, a special viewing of an antique 18th Century casaquin is scheduled for May 2011 in Canberra, Australia as part of a special workshop to make your own in the period manner, to be run by Aylwen Gardiner-Garden, Historical Seamstress from the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy.

 Stitches used to make this garment:
  • Backstitch: used to reinforce areas prone to stress, typically at the waist and armholes
  • Front Stitch: a single or running stitch
  • Overcast Stitch: for raw edges
  • Top Stitch: used to keep seam allowance in place
  • Underhand Hem Stitch: used at the garment edge to attach the lining to the self fabric. It shows as a small topstitch on the outside and as a whip stitch on the inside of the garment.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
This is interesting to know. I made Ryan's caraco but didn't like the thigh high length on my short body, so I shortened it. I guess I need to start calling it a casaquin. Thanks! As soon as I'm done with my 1845 teal plaid gown I'm making for our Dickens Fair next month, I have to finish my alteration on my one "caraco" and hopefully cut out and make a second so I have two different ones to go with my red petti that I'm wearing to the W'burg symposium.
Dec. 26th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC)
I've got to get my outfit done as well as an 1860s outfit for the conference I'm attending beforehand. I've got a 1x 23kg suitcase limit so hope all my outfits can fit!
Magdalena Hammar
Jan. 30th, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
Thank you for a wonderful post, I would only like to point out that a caraco jacket is a jacket tightly fitted to the back, either with pleats or with separate pattern pieces. It is also snug around the waist, and of knee/mid thigh length. It is worn with either pocket hoops or a bumroll.
A jacket with the "watteau" box pleated back, (a shortened Robe á la Francaise, so to say) is called a "pet en l'air" or as you say, a "Casaquin".
A jacket such as the last one in this post is not a Caraco, but a "Pierrot". A very short style with tight, long sleeves (Contrary to the Caraco that almost always had 3/4 sleeves) that was in fashion towards the later years of the 18th century :)
Feb. 13th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
Thank you for this :) Its quite a bit to get used to!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )