Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

French DressFrench Dress

French Dress (Robe à la Française), ca. 1775. Pink ribbed silk with white linear silk vine motif and multicolored silk floral brocade with passementerie and scalloped fly fringe trim. Isabel Shults Fund, 2005 (2005.61a, b).

This gown first came to the Museum’s attention when it was lent for the exhibition “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century.” Set among The Costume Institute’s most lavish court gowns in a vignette representing a ladies’ “withdrawing room,” this dress stood out because of its exceptional brilliance and the freshness of its color. Found in a perfect state with no alterations, it is a masterpiece of the French textile maker’s art. As with other gowns of this form, the elaborately brocaded fabric has been woven with an accompanying passementerie trim. The trim not only matches the colors of the fabric but also repeats, in abstracted form, the little sprigged floral bouquets that appear as the textile’s primary motif.

For all its conformity to the decorous sartorial requirements of the time, the button-closing front of the bodice is a development of the last half of the eighteenth century. Previously, the overgown did not close over the corset. The part of corset that was left exposed was concealed by an inverted triangle of fabric called the “stomacher”. Pinned in, it conveyed the impression of an overdress with matching underbodice and petticoat. This gown, like the blue gown, has the innovation of a compiegne, or vestlike stomacher, which is sewn onto the overdress and either pinned or, as in the case of these two gowns, buttoned closed at center front. Typically, the covered boxwood buttons repeat a detail taken from the design of the gown’s textile.

Comments (43)

  1. Aximili Says:

    I think I could hide in all those ruffles!

  2. Diana Says:

    To find this dress, and not need any alterations, is amazing. A true wonder.

    Funny that this dress didn’t have a stomacher, that was so common to the times. A stomacher also allowed some flexibility in changing the look of the bodice, which was so important in those times. Many woman owned about a handful of dresses, and being able to change bit and pieces of the outfits to make them look new or different was important of the times.

    My absolute favorite thing about this dress is the sack back. I love those backings on dresses. I think they can appear so regal and gorgeous.

  3. Lulu Says:

    That would be soooo fun to wear!!

  4. Fabulous Fiona Says:

    I love this dress! I wish I could be Marrie Antoinette. I love the colos and the exotic patteren.

  5. Laurie Aron Says:

    Fascinating! So this gown is an example of both a development in tailoring as well as of the incredible interdependence of so many specialized trades in the making of fine clothing.

  6. Mr. Person Says:

    very intresting……yessss..quite

  7. melissa greenspoon Says:

    I love lots of dresses and shous

  8. melissa greenspoon Says:

    I love this place and I’m really into shopping here.

  9. Liz Kavanagh Says:

    This is so pretty I love that dress I want it now

  10. jbeth Says:

    spotted these right away! much much better than any neat tricks in a children’s book….don’t put me in the zoo….put me in these boots!

  11. meimi1995529 Says:

    oooh… i really dont like the size of the dress and especially not the ruffles. in conclusion: ewww

  12. nikky Says:

    why is it called that?

  13. corinne leigh Says:

    i wish i could dress like that everyday.

  14. kk Says:

    i love that dress and all dressess like it. Wuld nt u love to be her well fashion wise.

  15. Beth Says:

    Pink and green are my favorite colors. This dress is so feminine! It shows off a small waistline and hides big hips, etc. I’d love to wear it to a costume party.

  16. maxine Says:

    OMG this dress is fab!!!

  17. Kat Says:

    The hand work and stitch work is great on the garment. I think it would be very uncomfortable and heavy to wear though. I also think there is to much going on. It is classy but very eingopatch.

  18. carro Says:

    che bellissima

  19. scarnyc Says:

    platforms still, in in in!
    you rock vw!
    balance, shmalence.

  20. Morgan Mc. Says:

    oh i wish we still wore dresses like these!!!! i would so wear one if i could.

  21. Krysta Says:

    I love the material. It makes the dress have an elegant tea in the garden or bal;l at the king and queens house look to it. With a hair-do that was put up and a light pink fan anything is possible in this.

  22. biene maja Says:

    it is cool

  23. LOSER Says:

    well, to me the title happens to be the best. let them eat cake. well what if they get cake on the dress. that would take awhile to get out. i think its also a tad out of style. i don’t think i’ll be wearing that dress to the highschool dance.

  24. tashy washy Says:

    Absolutely incredible. If only people still wore dressed like this one!!!!!!

  25. Ruthy Says:

    this dress is couture back in the day.. and if i were living in this time periodw i would so wear this to a party or ball of some sort! this would be a great costume to wear for maybe a renaissance faire or medival festival of some sort!!
    *i do not use the two words “some sort” this much on a regular basis***

  26. Natasha Says:

    I can picture her in this dress!!! Its well put together and looks FABULOUS and but of course it also looks FIERCE!

  27. Marieke Says:

    Amazing! Strait from Marie Antoinnette’s closet;)

    (The Netherlands)

  28. Brenda Says:

    Fabulous dress! I would love to try it on. So feminine and elegant!

  29. Caroline Says:

    This dress is very pretty I love it!! I hope they come back in style someday!.!

  30. michaela Says:

    EEEEEEEEEEP! i love this style sooo much its the only reason why i j’ador marie antoinnette. i would <3 to wear this to a costume party <3 u marie!

  31. beth anne Says:

    This dress is Soooooo feirce. I love it. it would look so cute on Marie Antoinnette. this dress makes me feel like i am back in the calonial days cooking some pi:):):):):) i love pi

  32. victorian/elizabethen Says:

    let them eat cake is a great title for this dress because it shows the extravagante way the upper class dressed.when marie anttonet was told that her people were so poor they couldn’t afford to eat bread, she said let them eat cake.i love this amazing dress and wish that we still would wear things like this today.the craftmanship is mind blowing.

  33. Long Island Pulse magazine Says:

    I was so fascinated and intrigued by the dresses from the 1600’s and 1700’s on display. It is amazing to see the attention to detail and craftsmanship; the fabrics are so rich, with detailing that is delicate (and in beautiful condition!). And I couldn’t help but notice the tiny waistlines in all of these pieces–particularly this one, because it creates such a drastic change with the hips.

  34. Amanda Lindeman Says:

    This dress is absolutley amazing. The shape and lines in this dress are stunning. Your body doesn’t make that shape by itself, the line also adds that pleated structural design to it. The color of this dress is beautiful, it is a color you really don’t see all that often. The texture also adds to this dress, the texture is almost like its own piece, it is a work of art.

  35. Darby Says:

    I have always wanted one of those dresses!
    I think they look gorgeous!!!!!

  36. Janelizabeth Says:

    Somehow, when I used to look at dresses like these, I would think, that looks really uncomfortable, but still revere it because of its history or location in a museum, or the detail of the embroidery or sheer amount of fabric. Looking at this and then looking at some of the modern fashions that I scoff at as being “impractical” or “ridiculous” make me see this dress in a whole new light. What did people think when this style first came out?

  37. missmamei Says:

    They managed to construct a dress that teaches you how to carry yourself in society. A true investment in a time when status was everything.

  38. samiam108a Says:

    I <333 this dress!!! It is awsome!

    I wish we still dressed like this…. We would be a lot more lady like!

    I always wanted one of those dresses!! They are magninificent!

  39. bri colleen cara Says:

    This dress is sooo cute, we wish that people would still dress this way…it’s fabulous!!!

  40. Lena Says:

    Marie Antoinette herself would be proud of this gown. It is reminscent of a richly decorated cake, delightful to the eyes

  41. Mellissa Jane Says:

    This dress is certainly a beauty. I would love to see it paired up with a narrative pouf…

  42. Jamie Says:

    This dress looks delicious…but it has too much poof! Pie :)

  43. K. Says:

    This is such an amazing dress. The blue one they have here is also just as beautiful. I love the pattern, and the attention to detail is unbelievable. I love to imagine myself wearing such a work of art on a daily basis.

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