First, let's start with what year this garment is appropriate for. The next frontier for this hobby is to dress for the year - generic 18th century is so yesterday (so to speak). Take a look at the details, does my gown have robings and a stomacher or is does it close in the center front? Does it have a completely separate bodice and skirt? How large are the cuffs on my coat? What does the collar look like? How long is my waistcoat? These details will certainly help date your look. But why do I need to know that? Well, you wouldn't wear 1812 clothing to Battle Road, so why would you wear 1780's high fashion to a French and Indian event, for example? So start by determining your timeline. Look at portraiture, genre art, museum collections. But beware of the latter, unless a piece has a specific provenance or is consistent with other accurately dated examples, museum pieces are often misdated or dated to a very wide range or are remodeled pieces that are difficult to date accurately.
|CT Journal 1/11/1781|
|Hogarth's A Harlot's Progress|
|Market Basket - notice the one in the Hogarth print (lower right)|
So start somewhere, but most importantly - start! Before you know it you'll be an old pro at this.