The humble plain seam shown in yesterday’s post belongs to this lovely circa 1760s robe la francaise.
The wide pleats, cascading from neckline to hem at the back of the gown, were ideal for displaying the sumptuous silks produced by both England and France’s best textiles houses. The quality of the textiles was exceptional, and the silk faille used to make this this gown is still is strong and lustrous even though the gown is around 250 years old.
Approximately 28 yards of 19 inch wide fabric were needed to construct this robe a la francaise, with additional fabric required for decoration. Gowns of the 1750-70s were embellished with self fabric trim, manipulated into ruffles and puffs and often finished with fly fringe.
These gowns consisted of three pieces: petticoat, robe, and stomacher. The petticoat was worn as a skirt, with the robe wrapped around the body and secured to the separate stomacher with pins. The robe could also be stitched in place on the wearer. The edges of the bodice did not meet at the front of the body, exposing the stomacher and offering another opportunity to display ornament.
Unfortunately the original stomacher belonging to this gown did not survive, so a new one was constructed for display.
This cheerful yellow gown will be on display as part of the Timeline exhibit, which opens Friday, June 29, 2012.
Joanne Arnett, Curatorial Assistant