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Woman's Dress (Robe à la française) with Matching Stomacher and Petticoat

Artist/maker unknown, French

Made in France, Europe

c. 1755-1760

Chinese export silk-brocaded satin, silk and silk chenille looped fringe

Center Back Length: 63 inches (160 cm) Waist: 23 1/2 inches (59.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the John D. McIlhenny Fund, the John T. Morris Fund, the Elizabeth Wandell Smith Fund, and with funds contributed by Mrs. Howard H. Lewis and Marion Boulton Stroud, 1988

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18th century [x]   18th century gowns [x]   18th century women's clothing [x]   fashion [x]   flowers [x]   robe à la française [x]  

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This gown, made of delicate floral silk, epitomizes Rococo taste. The serpentine trim and silk floss fringe emphasize the front edges of the open robe, which displays a matching triangular stomacher and petticoat. The shape of the gown--with its conical torso and wide skirt--reiterates the ideal feminine form of the time. This seemingly fragile gown would have been worn over rigid, boned stays and a hoop-petticoat.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    In the eighteenth century, the art--and artificiality--of dress was used in an effort to perfect the human form. Complicated processes of dressing and deportment were masterered and refined to appear natural, and included the wearing of restrictive garments with apparent ease. This seemingly fragile gown would in fact have been supported by rigid, boned stays and a hoop-petticoat. The gown's meandering floral silk, woven in China for export and made up in France, is shown off by the elegant back pleats of the fashionable sacque, or robe à la française. The front of the robe, the stomacher, and the petticoat are trimmed with serpentive bands of gathered and padded fabric known as ruching, which is edged with fly fringe. The luminous, delicately flowered gown, with its three-dimensional trim and fluttering fringe and sleeve ruffles, imparts a frivoulous and feminine air that is the essence of Rococo taste. H. Kristina Haugland, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 84.