I decided to continue my series on Staring at Fashion Plates to Learn Vocabulary when I found some polonaise caracos, and I realized that I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a caraco in-period. I feel like I usually see it used for something that's between a jacket and a gown in length, but I'm not at all sure that that's how it was used in the late eighteenth century.
Pretty dancer dressed in a pleated caraco of bronze Italian taffeta with georgette on the low neckline, with a sprigged linen apron trimmed similar to the caraco; the knots, rosettes, and ribbons are of pink.
Woman in a pleated caraco of changeable taffeta in "pigeon throat", the trim in transparent poufs of gauze, the hat also trimmed in poufs.
Lady of a certain society walking with a cane in hand, dressed in a pouf-trimmed taffeta caraco.
Pretty woman in a new peasant bonnet, with a gallant caraco of taffeta in the color of green apples, trimmed in Italian gauze like the petticoat.
THE DISTRACTED WOMAN. This woman,
after being completely dressed, remembers that she hasn't washed her
feet, and has her chambermaid bring her a basin. Her dress is of
grape-grey gourgouran [a type of silk], trimmed in the same, the ribbon which reigns
the length of the trim is sky blue, knotted at intervals with little
flowers. The chambermaid is dressed in a caraco of pale buras.
Apparently, a caraco is simply a jacket with a somewhat substantial but short skirt. What's most interesting to me here is that they seem to be mostly pleated in the back - similar to what is usually called a pet-en-l'air in costuming parlance, but without pleats in the front. It does seem to be important, as it often is with the polonaise, for the petticoat to match.
The Caraco à la Polonaise
Polonaise caraco trimmed in gauze, a colored ribbon on top of the trim: Devonshire or Spa hat.
Young lady dressed in a polonaise caraco of vermicelli cloth (linen?), bordered with a narrow band: the petticoat bordered in a large band of stuff with a light background and garlands of flowers.
Young lady studying music; she is dressed in a [short?] polonaise caraco. Her headdress is a milkmaid bonnet.
Young lady holding her child in her arms: she is dressed in a polonaise caraco with bands and veins in another color: the bands are surrounded in thin blonde lace. She is wearing a pretty straw hat bordered in ribbon with gauze trim in the shape of a mushroom, and a round ribbon.
Again, the caraco seems to have matched its petticoat. Unlike the ordinary caraco, it is fitted in a similar way to the polonaise gown - three seams terminating in pleats, with a front edge that curves into the bottom and no waist seam. However, there is no attempt to pull up the skirt into the poufs of the polonaise gown, which indicates that the method of constructing the bodice was probably about as important to the "polonaise-ness" of a gown as the treatment of the skirt.