Thursday, May 3, 2012
The Caraco, Pt II
In my previous post on the caraco, I discovered that all of the French fashion plates labeled caraco in the Boston MFA depicted short jackets. However, more research was needed, as French and English terms do not always or often line up. This time, I decided to look at English sources.
These are the two most explicit references I can find, and both refer to caracos as jackets.
This selection describes a caraco with lozenge-shaped skirts. I'm not entirely sure what that would look like - checking the French fashion plates from my earlier post, I don't see anything I would describe that way - but I can't see how the traditional "caraco" could be described as having lozenge-shaped skirts, either.
It should also be noted that the third and fourth selections describe a garment worn over a stomacher, even as late as 1789 when those were no longer worn with gowns, while the few extant examples used to justify the garment (as well as the patterns) have built in false stomachers, or close at the center front.
There is also the issue that the earliest references I can find to the caraco in English are in the late 1780s, and there the term is defined, as though it was not known previously. This makes it unlikely that women were wearing any garment they called a caraco during the Revolutionary War period.
I am not entirely opposed to the item of clothing called a caraco in reenactor parlance. I have not yet found an image of an American (or English) woman wearing a knee-length fitted gown, but this may mean I just haven't found one yet. If you know of one, please tell me where it is! I am simply opposing the use of the term "caraco" to describe it, because there doesn't seem to be any evidence that it was used that way. Even the Colonial Williamsburg Collection's database refers to their (apparently) single example of this type of clothing (2006-42) as a "long jacket or gown with short skirt" - and, it should be noted, it is labeled "European".