I love the backs of 18th c. gowns. The drapery, the pleats, the tapered, tailored waists above extravagant poufs of gleaming silk: can there be any more graceful or figure-flattering style? Seeing these gowns on the ladies of Colonial Williamsburg shows how just as much care was lavished on the back of gown as on the front – a viewpoint not often seen in portraits or fashion plates of the time. Also interesting, too, is how clearly the stiff, conical shape of a lady's stays shows through the bodice of the gowns.
The orange and green gown, lower left, is a mantua in the style of the late 17th-early 18th c., while the other three are all fashionable for the 1770s. The two gowns to the right have their skirts caught up with buttoned loops a la Polonaise.
The grey silk sack gown with the flowing pleats, upper left, is now often called a Watteau gown, because of being so frequently painted by the French painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). The CW lady, standing here in the milliner's shop, does remind me very much of another lady shopping in Watteau's painting, lower right, of the gallery of the Parisian art dealer Gersaint. (Here's a link, since blogger is being testy, and refusing to enlarge the picture today. )Even off in the provincial backwater/tidewater of 18th c. Virginia, Paris set the fashion.