Heavy silk with lace pattern design woven in beige and rust on a dark brown satin ground
Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1964 (C.I.64.14)
A Spitalfields silk dress with a dome-shaped skirt conforms not only to the silhouette of the 1730s but also to the interaction between silks and laces during that time, especially evident in Spitalfields manufacture. The silk pattern is like that of lace. While such interaction seems hard to imagine between worker and pattern book, clothing is a place where the various media ultimately converge. Eighteenth-century dress, in particular, was a Gesamtkunstwerk of artisanal and dressmaking skills. While most eighteenth-century dresses have been altered in some way for subsequent use, fashion historian Janet Arnold has noted that this one shows no sign of ever having been altered and is thus in its perfect original state.