Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Fashion doll with accessories, 1755-60 England, the Victoria & Albert Museum
This is most likely to be a fashion doll, or a pandora. Pandoras were used from the 14th century to convey the latest fashion among the courts of Europe. By the 18th century this practice had become more common, and these three-dimensional fashion plates were sent all over Europe and America to a much wider clientele by dress makers to promote their wares. By the end of the 18th century the pandoras had given way in importance to fashion magazines. The figures were not designed as toys, but, after they had served their original purpose they may been given to children to play with.
This wooden figure is dressed in a silk sack back robe with matching petticoat and stomacher. She wears all the accessories and underpinnings of a fashionable lady of the late 1750s. The original headed pins suggest that the garments have remained in position since the 18th century and the figure may never have been played with.
Sack back gown, 1760-65 London (made of Chinese silk), the Victoria & Albert Museum
There is a green ribbon trimming which was added in the last quarter of the 19th century, but I don’t see it in any of the pictures.
This elegant robe and petticoat are fine examples of a woman’s formal daywear in the early 1760s. In cut, fabric and design they were the height of fashion.
Materials & Making
The pattern on the silk is hand-painted. The fabric was first sized with alum to make the paint adhere. Next the design was drawn freehand in ink or silverpoint. A variety of pigments were used, including white lead or a chalk ground for the highlights. The robe and petticoat are hand sewn with silk thread and trimmed with gathered strips of the hand-painted silk.
The style and design of this ensemble exemplify the Rococo fashion in dress. The pale yellow silk painted in a variety of bright colours reflects the Rococo palette, while the scalloped sleeve cuffs and gathered robings create a decorative surface pattern. The robe is a sack back (a style of gown with the fabric at the back arranged in box pleats at the shoulders and falling loose to the floor with a slight train), and would have been worn with a wide square hoop under the petticoat.
The silk was woven and painted in China. The width of the fabric and the use of coloured threads in the selvedge (the cloth edge) differ from European silks. The floral pattern shows the influence of Western design, indicating that it was made expressly for the European market.
Dress, ca 1745 (restyled ca 1760) England, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Yellow silk brocaded with polychrome silks in floral motifs. Robe: neck and front lines with matching bands of ruching; sack (Watteau) back with stitched-down pleats; short fitted sleeves with double asymmetrical ruffles; panier accomodating skirt with slits at hipline, fullness knife-pleated into waistline; linen bodice lining. Underskirt: fullness pleated into tie-tape waistband; scallped ruffle and ruching in ribbon motif applied to front.
Robe à la française, ca 1760-65 France or England, LACMA
Robe à la française, ca 1760 (textile ca 1750) France, LACMA
Suit, ca 1760 UK, the Met Museum
All three pieces of the British suit were typically made up of the same colors, unlike their more extravagant French counterparts.