Court Gown, c. 1760
Silver tissue woven with multi-colored foil flowers and trimmed with gold lace
Gift of Mrs. Sybil Harrington, in memory of Sally Harrington Goldwater 1979.c.482.A-B
“The art of French dress had become so luxurious that by the eighteenth-century all of the European courts adopted French styles—even the staunchest enemies of France. In 1756 an English commentator noted, “The French designers are at present esteemed the most happy in their inventions. The natural freeness of composition is really admirable, and suited to the purpose intended for without crowding things together, but display them with a careless air, beauty and delicacy, and no wonder that all the rest of the European nations take the French fashion of ornaments, for their rule and pattern to imitate.”
The character of eighteenth-century dress comes from its exaggerated scale— of fabrics, ornamentation, accessories, hairstyles—and limitations of movement imposed by this aesthetic. When leading members of European society attended court functions, the metallic threads and ornamentation of these garments glimmered in the candlelit, mirrored, and gilded rooms of the palaces.
This court robe à la française is actually fitted close to the body all around but appears to be corseted only in the front. An inner lining made of linen laces down the center back and holds the bodice front close to the body while allowing the generously pleated back to flow away from the body in pleats from the shoulder.
Louis XIV’s encouragement of French industry resulted in the production of luxurious silks with rich, flowing patterns that were shown to full advantage by hoop petticoats or panniers. These undersupports reached their widest at the middle of the eighteenth-century, by the end of the century, they were worn exclusively at court. ”
Sorry it’s such a long thing to read but I couldn’t cut it because it was so wonderfully written!