Robe à la Française

Date: ca. 1770

Culture: French

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1961

Accession Number: C.I.61.34a, b


Gowns in the eighteenth century were supported by rounded side hoops of different extension and depth. A wider dress would have been narrower in profile. In the instance of a gown of less width, the depth of the hoops and the robe à la française construction would have consumed as much fabric as the planar version. In both instances, a woman so garbed had to pass sideways through a doorway. This gown has an ingenious drawstring arrangement at the sides that adjusts either to fit over a small pannier, or, when fully released, to accommodate one about four feet across, creating the illusion of a tiny waist.