Between the 1750s and the late 19th century, rural Englishmen wore voluminous smocks when working outdoors. Usually made of rough homespun, most smocks had long, full sleeves and ended at mid-calf. Though entirely functional, smocks often featured decorative embroidery around the cuffs, bodice or neckline. Called smocking, it was more than mere decorative embellishment. Because smocking consisted of stitches passed over areas of gathered fabric, it created stretch in an otherwise non-stretch garment, allowing for more freedom of movement. This was important for those living in rural areas, as manual labor was an undeniable fact of life.
In what could be considered an early example of work-wear influencing fashion, both smocks and smocking became an important part of fashionable dress beginning in the 1870s. Smocks were adopted by those artists and bohemians interested in alternative styles of dress. Decorative smocking appeared on garments worn by women and children, such as the young girl's day dress of pink silk seen below. Here, smocking stitches create the bodice, peaked waistline and fitted cuffs.