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In the early years of the nineteeth century, the high-waisted Empire-style dress was rendered more solid through the use of heavier fabrics and more trimmings. The circa 1820 dress in the front of this image reveals the impulse toward embellishment of the simple chemise of the 1800s. Embroidery in lime green gives more weight to the skirt while the satin spencer provides a base for ribbons and ruffles. Behind this, the 1812–14 dress (1985.222.2a, b) is also more solid, made of silk and trimmed with silk lace. The puffed sleeves are made more substantial through the addition of cording. The weight of fabric and trimming negates the body-conscious line of the earlier sheer cotton and linen dresses. Into the 1820s, plain gowns such as these would be accented with more and more applied decoration.

Dress, silk, British

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