This yellow striped silk gown was the newest thing from Paris in the 1780s. New dyes and the availability of silk featured bright colors such as pink, orange, purple, often used together in the same garment. Silk was the investment in a dress of a lifetime. Polite society did not require a lady to be dressed until 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon. The mornings were free to write letters or entertain in her boudoir. The new style sparked new construction techniques. This gown has a front fall opening with the front portion of the skirt pleated onto a band that ties around the waist. The bodice is laced together. The neckline is edged with a falling Vandyke collar.
The gown is worn over stays and a false rump or bustle pad stuffed with wool or cork which was tied around the waist. During the 1780s, the style changed from a side to side silhouette to a front back emphasis. Foundation garments helped achieve the proper form.
At a cost of $24 per yard, a silk gauze apron was an immediate indicator of status in 1778; only the “better sort” could afford the sheerest of silks for an apron. Wigs were styled high with hats perched on top. Accessories include a chatelaine, long purse, and fan.
The gown was worn over a pair of stays which forced the woman to stand with elegant carriage. Shoulders were forced back with the arm curving gently away from the torso. A lady lightly rested her hands palms up one on top of the other. The hands were turned slightly in toward the body at the front point of the bodice. The sleeves are constructed to reinforce this curved arm stance. As soon as a little girl could walk, she was put into training stays which disciplined her young body to develop the correct and elegant posture. The hair was piled high with hats perched on top of a large mob cap. Ribbon and lace is tied around the neck, thence the term necklace used today. The purse contains milady’s necessities such as a nose cloth and a snuff bottle. A little snuff was placed in the hollow between the thumb and first finger, then sniffed up each nostril, which would be followed by a sneeze and a sneeze.
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