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Day dress and cape (1)

Unknown

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Balloon-like sleeves billow out from the shoulders of this printed cotton day dress. By the 1830s sleeves had reached such exaggerated proportions that women were compared to ‘ants’ and ‘bottle spiders’ with their tiny waists and bell-shaped skirts. There were at least a dozen different patterns for day-wear sleeves with romantic names such as 'Cavalier’, ‘Donna Maria’, ‘Sultan’, ‘Medici’ and ‘Marino Faliéro’.

These are examples of ‘Gigot’ (‘leg of mutton’) sleeves. They were very full at the shoulder, diminishing in size towards the elbow and becoming tight at the wrist. They are made in two pieces and the fabric is matched on the front seam so that the join is barely visible.

Sleeves of this size had to be supported as they were often made of flimsy fabric. Some styles had stiff buckram undersleeves or hoops to give them their shape. The sleeves shown here are unlined, so the wearer probably attached a large down-filled pad to each arm just below the shoulder line to distend them. Feathers can be easily compressed so the pad could be squeezed through the narrow armhole of the dress.

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  • Title: Day dress and cape (1)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1830/1834
  • Location: Great Britain
  • Provenance: Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.
  • Medium: Printed cotton

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