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.
Afternoon dress, ca 1785 England, the Victoria & Albert Museum
In the 1770s and 1780s printed cotton fabrics began to replace silk in popularity for women’s gowns. The material of this gown has a dotted ground and is printed in a repeating pattern of floral sprays. The gown has a fitted back and open front below the waist, revealing a petticoat of the same fabric. The lack of decoration and use of cotton instead of silk indicates that this gown was probably worn during summer afternoons for card games and tea parties, rather than for evening dress.
Madame de Saint-Huberty in the Role of Dido by Anne Vallayer-Coster, 1785 France, National Museum of Women in the Arts
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.
“Aussi brillante que Vénus la belle Dorine s’occupe … sa robe est à la Marlborough …” François Louis Joseph Watteau, Gallerie des Modes, 1785; engraving on paper
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 44.1619; The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection
The description “à la Marlborough” is relatively frequent in eighteenth century fashion, compared to the others shown in this series, but it is usually applied to hats. According to Caroline Weber in Queen of Fashion, Marie Antoinette was obsessed with “Marlborough goes off to War,” a folk song that was sung to her son by his wet nurse, and “the Marlborough mode” was reflected across French fashion. A gown could be striped à la Marlborough, and a certain style of large hat was also given the name. It is difficult to define exactly what the term refers to in this fashion plate; the back seems to be somewhat unfitted, so perhaps it is something like a Lévite but with shorter sleeves.
I have a love-hate relationship with those giant late 18th century caps.
Robe à l’anglaise, ca 1785 France, KCI
This looks like something Francisco de Goya would have painted.