Date: 1799–1800

Culture: American

Medium: linen, cotton

Credit Line: Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1988

Accession Number: 1988.242.4


The radically different silhouette of the last years of the eighteenth century was intended as an imitation of classical Greek and Roman dress. Basically, a soft, thin chemise of cotton or linen that almost fully revealed the breasts, the Empire gown was not universally embraced, if this uncharitable 1790s evaluation is to be believed: "The bosom, which Nature planted at the bottom of her chest, is pushed up by means of wadding and whalebone to a station so near her chin that in a very full nature that feature is sometimes lost between invading mounds. … were it not for the fine apparel of our ladies we should be at a loss … whether they were nurses or cooks."