Robe à la Française

Date: 1775–1800

Culture: French

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1961

Accession Number: C.I.61.13.1a, b


This robe à la française shows the silhouette most associated with eighteenth-century dress. The conical bodice and the rectangular skirts both function as vehicles for the display of the dressmaker's art in that era. Decorating the skirts are self-fabric embellishments and fly fringe trim which suggest an opening curtain. The ribbons on the bodice serve to emphasize its triangular shape as it intersects with the rectangular skirts. This silhouette was made possible through the use of the underpinnings of stays and panniers. Despite or perhaps because of its grandiosity, this silhouette was a subject of satire, as in this verse from a mid-eighteenth-century song: "I cannot compare this new mode of the town,/ To nothing more like, tho' I know they will frown,/ Than to a large hog-tub, that's turned up-side down;/ Large hoop'd petticoats, monstrous petticoats, bouncing hoop'd petticoats, maids."