Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Robe, 1780-85 France, the Victoria & Albert Museum
This gown demonstrates the fashionable styles in women’s formal dress of the 1780s. The hoop has changed from the square shape of earlier decades to a round profile. A stomacher is no longer needed, because the gown now meets in the front. The cream silk is adorned only at the edges with an embroidered band, ribbon and a stencilled fringe. This restraint in decoration illustrates the growing influence of the Neo-classical style in textile design.
Princess Élisabeth of France by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, ca 1782 France, Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon
Elizabeth, Countess of Warwick by Sir Joshua Reynolds, ca 1780 England, the Frick Collection
Ballgown, 1780-85 France, Musée des Tissus de Lyon
This dress, also called “robe parée”, is a ball dress. The skirt is worn over a pannier which, early 1780, was less ample than the one used under the dress “à la française”. The decoration consists of appliqué painted flowers, gauze flounces and extremely refined embroideries. It exemplifies the dresses Rose Bertin, Marie-Antoinette’s dressmaker, used to create for the queen.
Riding habit, ca 1780 Venice, LACMA
Robe à la polonaise, ca 1780 France, KCI
Fashionable men and women of the late rococo era loved all things rustic. Their version of rustic, anyway. A popular form of portraiture in this era was the pastoral portrait, where the female sitter was dressed as a “shepherdess” who looked like she had never worked a day in her life. Likewise, the polonaise was an idealized imitation of “rustic” country dress. Working women would tuck their skirt up through their pockets to keep it out of the mud.
Robe retroussée dans les poches, ca 1780 France, KCI
In accordance with the English custom of walks in the countryside and relaxing in the open air, it became popular to dress up in clothes derived from the work clothes and townwear of ordinary people, who, by their nature, put great importance on freedom of movement. One of these so inspired style is the “retroussée dans les poches”, as seen here. The gown’s hem is pulled out from slits in either side, and draped on the back. The red and white contrasting pekin stripes also heighten the folds’ effect.
“Pekin” stripes are textiles originally made in China of equal-width striped patterns of differing colors and weaving methods. Along with the expansion of interest in chinoiserie, around 1760, Peking striped fabric was even produced in France and became popular. As Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin(1699–1779) painted (“The Morning Toilette”, c.1741, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) , women of the rich bourgeoisie often wore this kind of striped pattern.
I don’t care how many times I post this.
Robe à la française, ca 1780 France, KCI
The mannequin displays a hairstyle that was often the subject of ridicule in contemporary fashion caricatures. A similar hairstyle, possibly the one that inspired this stylist, was called the “Coiffure de l’indépendance ou Le triomphe de la liberté” (Hairstyle of Independence, or The Triumph of Freedom), which was worn by Marie-Antoinette to celebrate France’s first naval victory over Britain during the American Revolutionary War.
The famous engraving showing the hairstyle: