Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Double pocket, 1775-1790 England, Winterthur Museum
There’s something very charming about these. They’re folksy without being that tacky country kitsch style of awful.
Portrait of Mlle Fabre, Later Baroness de la Houze by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle, 1760’s-70’s France, Winterthur Museum
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.
Gown from silk made by Anna Maria Garthwaite (1690-1763), 1740’s England, altered 1780’s (fabric made in Spitalfields, London), the Victoria & Albert Museum
Originally, the gown was probably a sack back, with loose box pleats at the back to allow for maximum display of the silk pattern. The gown would have been open down the front, with folded-back robings and rectangular cuffs at each elbow. The last conversion in the 1780s to the style of that time was quite clumsily executed, suggesting that perhaps the gown had been handed down to a maid.
Design & Designing
The design is brocaded in coloured silks on oyster-coloured satin. Two large sprays of flowers fill the width of the repeat, linked by upward and downward trails of bright pink berries and rose buds. Among the identifiable flowers are roses, morning glory and auricula. From both sprays the flowers on upward stems are brocaded in shades of pink, fawn, lilac, white and black, while those hanging down are in shades of blue, yellow and red. A variety of greens colour the stems and leaves, and the flowers are shaded naturalistically by the weaving technique.
The freelance textile designer Anna Maria Garthwaite (1690-1763) received at least 40 commissions for silk designs from a Spitalfields master weaver called Mr Gregory. The design for this silk was one of them. There were a number of members of the Weavers’ Company with the name Gregory, so we do not know his exact identity, but the designs she produced for him are some of Garthwaite’s prettiest and most fashionable, and include patterns for brocaded lustrings, damasks, tissues and satins.
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.
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.
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.
Robe, ca 1797 England, the Victoria & Albert Museum
Cashmere shawls were prized imports from India during the late 18th century. British manufacturers soon began making shawls in similar styles. Not only were they worn with the newly fashionable Neo-classical gowns, the shawls were also made into gowns. In this example of the late 1790s, the shawl was cut in half and then sewn together to form the front and back of the gown. Sleeves of cream satin and a collar and over-sleeves of green silk fabric were then added. The waistline is very high, sitting just below the bust line.