A Closer Look at an 18th-Century Gown

We just completed photography of several of the pieces in our “Fashion Timeline” exhibition, and this dressed photographed so beautifully (well, because it is so beautiful) that I felt it deserved a blog post of its own.

Robe à la française, German, ca. 1750s, KSUM 2002.35.7 ab.

Robe à la française, German, ca. 1750s, KSUM 2002.35.7 ab.

This dress is made from a luxurious textile which has a striped ground with beautiful ombré blue stripes on the cream. There is then a pattern woven with a supplementary warp so that the figures are in twill weave while the ground weave is satin. The resulting textile has a subtle variation of color and texture. The peach or salmon color has faded over the years and is darker and brighter in the folds, but this does not diminish its beauty.

Obviously this gown was intended as a showcase for this stunning fabric, which cascades uninterrupted from neck to hem in the back. The fabric has been carefully laid out so that the stripes fall down along the center of the Watteau pleats. The fabric that has been pleated into the ruched trim, however, is arranged so that the stripes run horizontally. These decoratively pleated pieces are edged with braid that carefully coordinates with the fabric of the robe.

The robe is paired with a quilted petticoat of cream satin which was part of the same donation. The information from the donor of the dress suggests that the dress was German. One interesting aspect of the dress is the neckline. In the more usual cut of a robe à la française, the trim (or robings) run straight down the front of the opening at the bodice then down the skirt. You can see this construction in this yellow robe à la française.  However, the trim at the neckline on this piece curves around form a 90 degree angle from the neck to the front opening.

This piece is currently on exhibit at the Kent State University Museum in the “Fashion Timeline,” which is an permanent installation featuring a survey of historical pieces from our collection covering 200 years from 1750 to 1950. The pieces are rotated out regularly and this robe à la française will remain on view through summer 2014.

This robe à la française is on view in the exhibition, "Fashion Timeline."

This robe à la française is on view in the exhibition, “Fashion Timeline.”

Sara Hume, Curator

Gallery

A Closer Look at an 18th-Century Suit

This gallery contains 10 photos.

This magnificent red silk velvet suit from the 1770s had been in our Fashion Timeline exhibition for the past several months but, we recently took it off exhibit. The textile is a remarkable textured velvet and it is  trimmed with … Continue reading

Gallery

Researching and mounting a Czech folk costume

This gallery contains 11 photos.

The Kent State University Museum includes a collection of European folk costumes, with a significant number of Czech, Slovak, and Romanian pieces. However, many of these pieces come with very little identifying information. For our most recent exhibition, Pretty Pleats, … Continue reading

A Peek Inside an 1880 Bodice

While considering this ensemble from 1880 for inclusion in our Fashion Timeline exhibition we were impressed by the exquisite workmanship inside the bodice. The finishing on the interior is exceptional.

1995.49.1.Sm

This bodice (KSUM 1995.49.1a) is just as beautiful inside as out.

The interior also reveals the woman’s secrets as it is generously padded around the chest. While dress shields from this period are usually soiled and unsightly, these are nearly pristine and are carefully attached.

The underarms are carefully shielded to protect from perspiration, but this bodice also has discrete padding in the chest.

The underarms are carefully shielded to protect from perspiration, but this bodice also has discrete padding in the chest.

The label in the bodice indicates that it was made by Mrs. E. Donigan of New York. This is not a dressmaker that I was familiar with but her skills are evident in her work.

1995.49.1.LabelSm

The label indicates this dress was made by Mrs. E. Donigan of New York

Unfortunately while the bodice is in excellent condition, the skirt seemed to be missing a layer. Skirts from this period would have abundantly draped sections; however, this skirt seemed to lack its overskirt. We decided not to include this ensemble in the exhibition, but we still wanted to share the exceptional craftsmanship of the bodice.

Postscript: In response to a request for photos of the outside of the bodice, I did a little digging and discovered we have a photograph of the whole ensemble dressed. For some reason the photograph had never been entered into our catalogue and I hadn’t thought to look through our other files.

Here is the complete outfit showing the outside of the bodice and the incomplete skirt.

Here is the complete outfit showing the outside of the bodice and the incomplete skirt.

You can judge for yourself whether you think the skirt is missing something.

Sara Hume, Curator

Gallery

Installing “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity”

This gallery contains 16 photos.

The exhibition, “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” has just opened at the Art Institute of Chicago and I had the honor and pleasure of participating in the installation as a courier. I have already posted  about the preparation of the loans … Continue reading

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Packing for “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity”

This gallery contains 8 photos.

After photographing the two pieces selected to be in “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity,” the next step was to complete a condition report and pack them. As curator and courier for the loan, I took part in both of these steps. … Continue reading

Gallery

Photography for “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity”

This gallery contains 14 photos.

After our two pieces, the blue taffeta walking dress and the man’s suit, were chosen for the “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity” exhibition, we had to photograph them for the catalogue. (To see more about the selection process see this post). … Continue reading