Furbelows, Fly Fringe, Fall Cuffs & French!

References used in dating this Sack Back gown:

  • 'Costume in Detail 1730-1930' Nancy Bradfield, 1968 George G Harrap & Co Ltd.
  • 'Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail 1700-1915' Sharon Sadako Takeda & Kaye Durland Spilker, 2010. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
  • 'Fashion, History from the 18th to the 20th Century; Vol 1' Kyoto Costume Institute. 2005. Taschen
  • 'Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860' Janet Arnold. MacMillan 1972.

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I am delighted to share this wonderfully detailed gown with you, dated to 1760-65. I have been able to date it quite closely due to the references and images listed above, the details of which I will include in this brief description.

Please note that I have gone to some lengths to describe all the details and the faults in my Blog dated 22nd Spetember, 2019 and you can find this on the right hand side of the header bar of Poppies Cottage. Simply click the link to find it.

 

The dress comes with a little provenance shown above. We have a letter from Christies providing reserve prices to place on the dress plus two other antique garments. There is also a newspaper article on antique clothing sales at Christies, telling us that this major international Auction House only began to sell antique clothes and textiles in the 1960's and marvelling at the 18th Century costume. The reserve placed on this dress was £80! While we all wish we were buying 18th Century clothes in the '60's, I have done a little maths [given that I was a teenager at the time] and the £80 reserve is equal to £1000 today, so not much cheaper than it costs today. A Regency gown reserve was £20! But that was a lot of money at that time.

This dress has everything we could wish for and it would have belonged to a wealthy woman. It is completely original, not at all changed, and the design matches beautifully so the fabric was never used for anything but this gown.

It is made in the late Rococo period, and being French, has all the hallmarks of Rococo fashion, with much sophistication and decoration.

The gown is similar to those of the period 1755 - 1775, A Robe a la Francaise

with sack back pleating that falls freely from centre back neck to the floor. The dating is also confirmed by the shape of the fall cuffs and the shaping for panniers to be worn underneath. Arnold gives us a lovely visual timeline of dress shapes on page 20. Arnold also provides a template for cutting reproduction 3 layered fall cuffs of this period on page 35.

However, it is Bradfield that confirms the far narrower date for us, in one single comment. On pages 35-6 she examines a sack back gown that she dates 1766-75, and she writes this important phrase: 'By this time the back pleats were sewn in position, where previously they had hung loose.....' Her corresponding sketches on the same pages show how the sack-back pleating begins at the back neck as in our dress, but then there is a row of horizontal stitching going through the top fabric and the lining that stitches the pleats down flat, around 7-8" down from the neckline. So crucially we know, from a lady who examining so many 18th Century gowns, that pre-1765 the sack back pleats hung loose. As with our gown!

But it is the Kyoto Costume Institute book that gives us a wealth of similar gowns to enjoy. All their gowns dating to 1760 are most similar to this one; see pages 40-43. And the one closest in style is on page 33/34.

Then on page 62, they actually show us a gown we can actually see the stitched down sack backs, dating to 1770-75. We have dated this dress!

Just for confirmation, go to Takeda & Spilker, page 137, to see a lovely dress made of crewel work fabric and also dated 1760.

To other detail now:

The robings that begin quite narrow around the neck and down the centre front to short front waist seams, thus marking the point where a matching stomacher would end and petticoat would begin. The robings then continue from waist to floor and becoming far wider, edged in fly fringing and with diagonal pattern furbelows to the centre, creating a 3-D effect. You can find glorious close ups of furbelows in Kyoto pages 64-65.

The sleeves are elbow length and gently pleated at the shoulder, leading narrowly down to three layered fall cuffs of graduating size, topped with a band to match the robings and finished with bows, all trimmed with fly fringe to match. To see sleeve bows and fly fringe in glorious detail see again Takeda & Spilker, page 175, as well as Kyoto page 66 [fall cuffs with bows as with our dress]

At the side waists, the dress is heavily pleated to create width for medium sized panniers to be worn below. A single tie remains [very exciting] which shows how these heavily pleated area's of fabric would have been attached to the pannier foundation garment. Within the side seams of the fabric and hidden within the pannier pleats, we find a pocket slit to each side.

Although the sack back gown gave the appearance of reasonable comfort, the lady would be tightly bound underneath it with boned stays to force her upper trunk upright, and the panniers [one to each side by this date] to make it extremely difficult to sit down!

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Royal Mail tracked and signed for international service only includes insurance up to a maximum of £250.00. If you want full insurance the shipping price will be significantly higher than quoted here. Please contact me for a quote. 

  • CONDITION REPORT & NOTES

    Please note that I have used my own pannier undergarments that are not included in the sale. They span 26" in width.

    My taller mannequin had to be used to show the full length of the sack-back pleating, but she is too big for the dress, which has a narrow back. Ladies were trapped into very tight stays in the 18th Century and these had the effect of squeezing the back in. To display her, you would be best with a mannequin of around a modern size 8, with a 32" chest. The waist is not too small, at around 26".

    I have gone into the condition of the gown in great detail in the Blog mentioned above, so it is absolutely essential to read the Blog and ask any questions before you buy. She is 260 years old and fragile, but presents beautifully with very fresh decoration. Some work is needed to remove unsightly tacking stitches and replace with something tidier!

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