Artist/maker unknown, American
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the arts in Europe and America were dominated by references to the classical past. Statues from ancient Greece inspired feminine fashion; to imitate their clinging drapery, waistlines rose and soft, sheer white cotton was favored. This fine fabric, often imported from India, could be enhanced with whitework embroidery, as seen in this example. These semitransparent dresses were worn over a petticoat by all but the most daring women; as they were not well suited to European or American winters, shawls-often imported from the East and quite expensive-were much appreciated for warmth as well as effect.