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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Culture:textile: French or Dutch
Title:gown (robe à la française): robe and petticoat
Date Made:1765-1770
Materials:textile: blue and white brocade weave silk (paduasoy?); bleached plain weave linen lining; silk knotted fringe
Place Made:France or Holland
Accession Number:  HD F.355
Credit Line:Mr. Henry N. Flynt

Elaborate gown with robe and petticoat in blue brocade on cream color made to accomodate large panniers, or side hoops worn underneath the petticoat. This dramatically wide gown was supported by frames known as panniers (“baskets”) worn around the waist, under the gown. While panniers had ceased to be fashionable for everyday dress by the time of this garment’s creation, they remained an essential aspect of court dress until the 19th century. The fabric, an elaborate patterned silk known as a brocade, was possibly woven in Lyon or Tours, France, the two center of silk weaving in 18th-century France. However, the extreme selvage width of the silk (about 28.25") cold also suggest it was woven in China for the export market. The box pleating of fabric at the neckline in back, known as a robe à la française or sack back dress, allowed for the expensive brocaded fabric to conform to the human figure without being cut, thereby extending the life of the fabric for future reuse. Inside a linen bodice lining it snugly to the wearer’s stays, or corset. Taken with the stylistic features of the dress and its fabric, this gown was worn for court. From about 1710-1790, decorative petticoats were fashionable for wearing under an "open robe," a style of dress that is open across the center front of the skirt. The petticoat could be made to match the dress fabric, embroidered, or made of a contrasting solid color.

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