This design was created by an artist signing themselves Taubin, possibly for Charles Frederick Worth. It shows a woman in an elaborate lilac-coloured dress based directly upon fashions of the 1770s and 1780s. The skirt of the dress is drawn up and puffed over the hips in a polonaise-style manner, and the dress is lavishly trimmed with frills, lace and artificial flowers. This costume may represent an individual such as Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, or a generic eighteenth century lady.
During the 1860s, Empress Eugenie of France threw a number of extravagant masquerade balls which required the guests to wear elaborate and inventive costumes that were made up by Worth and other Paris dressmakers. Worth, a relative newcomer, became the Empress's favoured couturier at the end of the 1850s. This made him extremely fashionable, and the rest of the ladies of Eugenie's court also bought gowns from him - and so too did their husbands' mistresses, and anyone wealthy enough to afford Worth's very high prices. As a result, Worth was under great pressure to produce vast numbers of unique, one of a kind costumes and gowns, often at very short notice. This is one of a large number of similar designs and sketches that were given to the V&A as part of the archive and reference collection of the House of Worth, making it extremely likely that it was originally designed for a guest to wear to one of the Empress's magnificent balls.