Sunday, April 29, 2018

A c1785 Striped Dress for Walking in a French Garden

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Susan reporting,

There are two pink striped dresses in the Visitors to Versailles: 1682-1789 exhibition (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through July 29, 2018.) Yet while these two dresses are nearly contemporary, together they show the two very different styles in French women's fashion in the 1770s.  I've already written about this lavish robe à la Française, a gown from the 1770s that would have been worn to the most formal events at the palace; consider it a wealthy 18thc French lady's "red carpet look."

The dress shown here dates from about a decade later, 1785-87. This style was called a robe à l'Anglaise, or a dress in the English manner. The robe à l'Anglaise was inspired by British tailoring. Unlike the softly flowing back pleats of the  robe à la Française, worn over hoops for sideways volume. the robe à l'Anglaise featured a closely fitted bodice and long sleeves, and a skirt with volume gathered to the back over a false rump or hip pads.

The pinked edges of the ruffled and gathered trim along the skirt offered a feminine contrast to the close-fitting bodice. They would also have drew attention to the wearer's feet with each step - important for a stylish walking-gown.

The fabric is a crisp striped silk with a more tailored air than the floral damask of the earlier dress. The stripes accentuate the seaming and pleats, and also displayed the mantua-maker's skill at neatly mitering those stripes into sharply geometric angles. I also appreciated how the dress was exhibited next to a painting of the gardens at Versailles, juxtaposing the fanning paths of the gardens with the stripes of the dress.

robe à l'Anglaise like this one would have been worn for day, and the exhibition suggested that it would be perfect for strolling the expansive gardens at Versailles. The shorter skirt would facilitate walking, too, and also show off a stylish pair of heeled silk shoes. A sheer white kerchief of fine muslin or silk would have been tied over the neckline, and an oversized hat or cap and perhaps a parasol would have completed the look. Any of the hats from the painting I shared last week would have been perfect.

Are you ready to go for a stroll?

This dress was also included in an earlier exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the now-legendary Dangerous Liaisons in 2006. The strikingly photographed catalogue is considered one of the very best costume books to feature 18thc clothing; although long out of print, it's available to read or download for free here on the museum's website.

Above: Robe à l'Anglaise, maker unknown, France, 1785-1787, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photographs ©2018 by Susan Holloway Scott.


Lucy said...

What a lovely dress! Thank you for posting that last link, too: I had no idea the Met made publications like that available for free download.

Diane said...

Getting ready to go for a walk soon in yoga pants sneakers and a sweatshirt......guess I’m glad it’s not 1770!
I am waaaaay more comfortable!!!

Anna Morris said...

I really enjoy these posts!

Is that a copy or an original? Silk is notorious for degrading over the years. If it is original, how/where was it kept in such perfect condition?

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Anna, the dress is indeed silk, and it is in amazing condition. How this dress has survived where so many others haven't is probably mostly a matter of luck over time, and now careful conservation/preservation. Here's the Met's page for the dress, FYI. No extra info listed about provenance, etc., however:*&offset=100

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